You, like many people, probably moved to Mammoth Lakes with one goal in mind: outdoor adventure. And who could blame you? Mammoth Lakes is well known as winter sports spot. Mammoth Mountain, the alpine ski resort, ranks among the nation’s most-visited ski destinations, with over a million visitors every year. The area even boasts some celebrity–plenty of Olympians have made Mammoth Lakes their home year-round due to its prime training conditions. Ice skating, snowboarding and snowmobiling–there’s all the wintry activities one could think of that the alpine town has to offer, and the Mountain itself lives up to its name, reaching an altitude of over 11,000 feet.
However, for the summer visitor, or the year-round Mammoth Lakes native, there’s much more to the cozy resort town than what the snowbirds might have you believe. There’s plenty to do on Mammoth Mountain, of course. But you’ll find much more than just the ski resort. From roads off the beaten path, scenic hikes, biking, camping and, yes, skiing, we’ve got a few ideas to keep you living large–or better yet, Mammoth–in California’s great outdoors.
Things to Know
Mammoth Lakes averages almost 400 inches of snow a year. It’s a great thing for Olympians, winter sport fanatics and more generally, anyone who enjoys a snowy evening, but wintry conditions can be tough on your house and car (especially since the area’s altitude means snowy weather can occasionally stretch until July). When you’re hitting the road, be it to ski the slopes or hike the trails, you’ll want to invest in a car that can stand tougher conditions, even some off-roading.
You’ll also want to keep up with maintenance for your house and vehicle to ensure they’re all-weather-ready, all year round. Mammoth Lakes is still a small town with a population that caps out at less than 10,000 people, but it’s still a well-tread destination. It’s important to keep that in mind when planning trips to the mechanic (or even trips to the grocery store—you’ll want to skip the holiday and peak season lines).
Things to Do
Mammoth Lakes is a weekend town you’ll never want to leave, though careful–you may be adventured-out by the end of each season.
In winter, you’ll want to stop by the Mammoth Mountain or June Mountain ski areas. Both resorts offer skiing and winter sports galore, but for the full Mammoth Lakes experience, you’ll undoubtedly start at Mammoth Mountain. The ski area is a trailblazer in the sheer variety of trails and pipes it offers, not to mention a variety of slopes from beginner to expert. The resort offers around 3,500 acres of skiable land, with 28 lifts to access trails. For skiers looking to take a break from the slopes, the resort even provides a scenic gondola lift that extends up to the mountain’s 11,059 foot summit. For more family friendly slopes, Mammoth Mountain’s sister resort June Mountain offers plenty—the mountain’s smaller setting is perfect for novice skiers looking for a lesson, and great for families looking for less challenging slopes.
For adventure seekers looking to see more of the area’s gorgeous sights (and take a little walk on the wild side) cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in Mammoth Lakes’ many public forests lands might be just the sort of excitement you’re looking for. And of course, for the most thrill-seeking individuals, you’d be remiss in skipping out on ice climbing through the town’s long winter. Dig into the side of a frozen waterfall with a local mountaineering outfit, and ski or snowboard back down again for the ultimate adventure.
And you won’t have any trouble finding things to do come summer, either. Once Mammoth Lakes’ waters start to thaw, you might find you’ll have a hankering to canoe Lake Mary for a better look at Mammoth Mountain, or nearby Mono Lake, to catch a glimpse of one of the area’s 300 species of bird, or one of the beautiful limestone tufa rocks rising out of the water.
For a leisurely summer afternoon, you could boat Convict Lake, just south of the town, and post up for an afternoon fishing on the water, or find land and hike the two-mile Convict Lake Loop, a trail just between stunning granite rock formations and Convict Lake.
Biking & Trails
Avid bikers will be in luck, here, too. Mammoth Lakes’ local Inyo National Forest boasts a complex web of unpaved trails and roads for the off-roading adventurer. But you might find the scenery just as breathtaking along Mammoth Lakes’ major paved roads and highways, which can take you from beachy lakes to granite crags to waterfalls and aspen forests.
Experienced hikers can catch the sprawling state-long Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Wilderness trail from trails in Mammoth Lakes for a week-long hiking trip, but both trailblazers and novices alike will doubtless be awed by Sierra Nevada mountain range, showcased at nearly every turn. Before you hop on the PCT, you might find it worthwhile to linger on the Inyo National Forest’s craggy peaks (reaching up to 13,000 feet of elevation)—or at least stop in for a quick drink after your hike at the Mammoth Lakes Brewing Company.
There’s much more still to do in Mammoth Lakes—and you’ll undoubtedly find even more to do in your new hometown. But one thing’s for sure: it’s hard to ever really get tired of the views.
Written by Jeremy Alderman