Hiking, biking, skiing, fishing… if you’re looking for a more active lifestyle, you’ll never be short of options in the Mammoth Lakes, California community. Set in the Sierra Nevada range in western California at 7,880 feet, Mammoth Lakes is surrounded by mountains, threaded with rivers and streams, and dotted with lakes. Pleasantly cool in the summer, providing relief for vacationers from the lower lands, and snowy in the winter, outdoor activities can, therefore, be enjoyed year-round. Plus, after a busy day on the trails or slopes, relax in a naturally sourced hot spring bath, a result of the geothermal activity in the area. Whether active outdoor living is already your thing or you’re looking for a healthy lifestyle change in 2019, Mammoth Lakes is the place to do it.
With miles of hiking trails providing views of enormous granite peaks, sparkling lakes and streams, flower-strewn meadows, and dense forest, Mammoth Lakes is a hiker’s dream throughout theyear. There are trails to suit all levels of experience and fitness, from short walks for families with young kids, to more rugged and challenging multi-day treks (Mammoth Lakes trails can be connected to the famous long-distance Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail). Snow arrives early in the fall at this altitude, but the fall colors mixed with snow are a beautiful sight, and there are many easy short hikes to enjoy from spring to autumn, as well as a few winter hiking options too.
Cyclists of all levels of experience can enjoy both mountain biking and road biking in the Mammoth Lakes area. The mountain biking trails at Inyo National Forest (part of which falls in the Mammoth Lakes area) are a great option for experienced cyclists, while keen road cyclists shouldn’t miss traveling on sections of the US-395 highway that connects Mammoth Lakes with Reno, NV (and beyond), said to be one of the most spectacular roads in the U.S.A. For shorter cycle trips and jaunts about town, bikes can be rented, including pedal-assist e-bikes, which are a great way for novice cyclists to join in the fun.
Whatever snow sport you’re into–from slope skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing to ice skating and sledding–it’s possible in the Mammoth Lakes area. Mammoth Lakes’ Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is California’s highest ski resort, at over 11,000 feet. The Mammoth Ice Rink is open late November through February and offers beautiful mountain views while you skate. Families will want to check out Woolly’s Tube Park & Snow Play, where you can take a lift to the top of the hill and then zoom down the slopes on a bouncy tube. Plus, there are almost endless opportunities to grab your own sled and find a nice slope in some parkland, for some spontaneous fun.
Boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding
With ‘lakes’ in its name, it should come as no surprise that boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding are major outdoor recreational activities in the Mammoth Lakes area. June Lake, Lake Mary, and Mono Lake are just a few of the many lakes in the area. As well as the physical challenge and joy of paddle boating, it’s a great way to experience the nature and wildlife surrounding the lakes. MonoLake alone hosts over 300 bird species and is a popular spot among birdwatchers. Jet skiing and waterskiing can be done at Crowley Lake and Grant Lake (although you’ll need to bring your own, as there are no rental facilities). Beginners can even try stand-up paddleboarding (SUPing), as boards can be rented around the area. Favorite SUPing sports are Horseshoe Lake, with its gorgeous beaches and mountain views. For a more relaxed boating adventure, jump on a motorized boat for a sightseeing tour.
Keen fisherfolk come to Mammoth Lakes for the trout fishing, with an abundance of various kinds of trout. There are spots for both catch-and-keep and catch-and-release fishing fun, on both the rivers and lakes and opportunities to try out different kinds of fishing technique. The official fishing season runs April to November, and at some lower-elevation areas, it’s even possible to fish in the winter. Come well prepared for the cold temperatures, though. Gear rentals, as well as guided fishing trips, are available. Anglers older than 16 need a license from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Day trip to Reno, Nevada
Around three hours’ drive away is Reno, Nevada, a great destination for a day or overnight trip. Drive there on the spectacular 395 highway through the mountains, or take a convenient coach service. There are lots to see and do in Reno, from the famous casinos to more family-friendly activities like museums, galleries, animal attractions, the Truckee River Riverwalk, and some excellent food, drink, and entertainment venues. It’s also a base for Lake Tahoe, for visitors who want to stay a bit longer.
Written by Jeremy Alderman