Located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains, the stunning Mammoth Lakes should be on your list to visit. With pristine lakes and snow-capped mountains, there are plenty of things to do in Mammoth Lakes year-round for nature and outdoor lovers. While Mammoth Lakes is famous for the powdered snow on Mammoth Mountain, the town also has a variety of attractions. Outdoor and nature lovers, photographers, and those who simply want a weekend retreat, head here for the town’s stunning views, natural beauty, and alpine lakes.
To help you plan your trip, I’m sharing some of the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes in both summer and winter.
Best Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes in Summer
Chill out in a hot spring
The Eastern Sierra area is known for its hot springs, and a trip to Mammoth Lakes means you get to enjoy these relaxing natural wonders for yourself. The most popular is Wild Willy’s Hot Springs (though you may hear it called Crowley Hot Spring.) It’s just a short drive from the town itself and you’ll be rewarded not only with small pools that are between 95 to 105 degrees, but also pretty views while you soak.
Head over here early if you wish to avoid the crowds as these hot springs get busy. There is a boardwalk, as the area is more developed, so you can’t miss them! If the most popular hot pool isn’t your thing, there are quite a few other hot springs in Mammoth Lakes to see for yourself!
Take a hike to Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls gets its name from the rainbows that appear in the mist of the falls on sunny days. It’s a beautiful sight that is worth venturing to, especially since these falls aren’t small, plunging 101 feet into the San Joaquin River. While it’s the most powerful during the summer, this waterfall is really an attraction year-round. You can reach the falls from the Rainbow Falls trailhead, or off of the John Muir or Pacific Crest Trails.
Plan to hike for 2-3 hours and continue along the river further if you wish to see the not as spectacular but still beautiful Lower Rainbow Falls.
Drive the scenic Lake Mary Road
You won’t be in your car for long on this drive, but it’s well worth the 20 minutes from the town center for the fabulous lake and mountain views. Lake Mary is a great spot for fishing and camping, but mostly it’s spectacular for views. On this drive, you’ll also have the scenery of Lake Mamie and Horseshoe Lake. There’s no doubt that you’ll be pulling over for pictures!
See the views from Minaret Vista
If you plan on visiting Devils Postpile Monument or Reds Meadow (both of which you should), definitely make a stop at the Minaret Vista for one of the most iconic views in the Eastern Sierra mountains. Take the time to enjoy the view of the jagged ridge of Ritter Range before taking pictures because on a clear day it is truly breathtaking.
Stop by Convict Lake
Perhaps the most beautiful lake in the area, Convict Lake is a highlight to visit. With its crystal clear waters, it’s a great place to go kayaking or paddleboarding, and is even an excellent spot for fishing. The mountains that rise around the lake are best enjoyed either on the water or while hiking the 3-mile loop around the lake or are the ideal view to wake up to when camping (there’s also a resort), which is also great here. The story behind the name of Convict Lake of course has to do with convicts who escaped from a prison in Carson City and were finally found again here.
Visit Devils Postpile
Devils Postpile National Monument is another natural attraction in Mammoth that is almost hard to believe is real! What makes this rock formation so special is that as lava cooled it was pressed and shaped into vertical hexagonal pillars, all done by Mother Nature herself. To see this unusual sight, enjoy a brief, but one of the best hikes in Mammoth Lakes, a 1.3-mile loop (2.1km), around the bottom and the top of this rock formation that was created around 80,000 years ago.
See the Inyo Craters
Mammoth has even more geological wonders to show, with the Inyo Craters being a real treat. Partake in a short, 1.6-mile (2.6km) hike, to loop around these craters that display water that is an elegant turquoise color. The hike will take you through pine trees to the craters that are about 200 meters down, which were created by explosions a few hundred years ago. The parking area is just off of the Mammoth Scenic Loop and is best visited earlier in the day to see the colors really pop.
Try Mountain Biking
If you’ve never tried mountain biking before, don’t worry! At Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, the largest in the country, you can take lessons. There is a wide range of trails for all levels so beginners can feel as comfortable as experts. Hop onto the lift and see what the thrill is all about!
Hot Creek Geological Site
While you can’t get up close to this part of nature, you can still view the hot creek from above. At one point people could go into the waters but temperatures have risen and it’s so longer safe to go into the pools of hot water, even if they do look appealing with their bright colors! The bubbling waters sometimes even erupt as geysers so you’ve been warned.
Head over here in the morning or evening for sunrise or sunset. It’s a hot spot for photographers as the mountains as a backdrop with steam rising from the creek is truly picture perfect.
Try a local brewery or distillery
There are plenty of popular local watering holes to quench your thirst after a long day outdoors. Beer lovers will enjoy Mammoth Brewing Company, with dozens of options of their delicious brews on tap. In the summer, their patio fills up quickly. If you need something a bit more stiff, head to Shelter Distillery. Be sure to purchase one of their popular canned cocktail packs before you go to enjoy by a lake.
Paddleboard, canoe, or kayak on a Lake
SUP fans, canoers, and kayakers will be delighted to explore the multitude of lakes in Mammoth Lakes in the summer. Lake Mary is the largest lake with everything available to rent, but it also tends to be the busiest, so it’s best to avoid it if you desire calmer waters. Lake Geroge is the highest alpine lake that you can access by car in the area and has a few rentals available, while Twin Lakes is the lowest lake, with more spectacular views too. Horseshoe Lake and Mamie Lake are stellar options for those who have their own equipment already.
Attend the Mammoth Yoga Festival
For one long weekend in mid-June, experience a fully immersive yoga fest in Mammoth Lakes! With an emphasis on health, wellness, yoga, and meditation, the Mammoth Yoga Festival features live music, speakers, and yoga classes for all levels. Check out the incredible schedule as each day is jam-packed with fantastic activities. To give you an idea: you can start the day with a vinyasa flow class, head to a sound healing session, sit in on a breathwork class, and then enjoy the live music on the main stage. For yoga enthusiasts, the Mammoth Yoga Festival is not to be missed.
Play a round of golf
Don’t miss the chance to golf on one of the two public golf courses in Mammoth Lakes: Snowcreek Golf Course and Sierra Star. In fact, the Sierra Star course is located a whopping 8,000 ft above sea level, technically making it the highest 18-hole golf course in California. Tee off on a gorgeous, well-maintained course while admiring the surrounding mountains.
Top Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes in Winter
With its ideal location in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Mammoth Lakes in winter equals lots of snow and outdoor activities. Keep reading to discover the best list of winter activities in Mammoth Lakes.
Spend the day hitting the slopes
No matter what level skier or snowboarder you are, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to experience the terrain on Mammoth Mountain or nearby June Mountain. Given the large amounts of snowfall in Mammoth Lakes, ski trails at Mammoth Mountain are typically open from November all the way through June. True to its name, the resort itself is “mammoth”. There are 150 trails mixed for all levels. Both rentals and lessons are available, and it is recommended to purchase lift tickets in advance.
Enjoy a snowcat tour
A snowcat is a large vehicle with special tracks designed to move on snow. The mountain offers both midday and sunset snowcat tours, which is one of the most popular Mammoth Lakes attractions in winter. In addition to the excitement of just riding in a snowcat, you’re also rewarded with beautiful views of the Mammoth Lakes’ skyline where you can enjoy the beauty of the backcountry from the comfort of a heated snowcat.
Experience the snow tube park
Whether you’re traveling with kids or not, there are no age limits to enjoy tubing. Zoom down sled hills or the groomed hill specific for tubing at Woolly’s Tube Park. You’ll be shocked at how quickly you’ll fly down the hill on your snow tube. After tubing, relax near the fire pits with hot chocolate or a brew from the fully-stocked bar.
Join a snowshoe tour
Don’t be disappointed you can’t explore the Mammoth Lake trails if you’re here in winter – you can still trek through them in the snow! You can either rent snowshoes and follow the trails yourself or sign up for a guided snowshoe tour. I recommend a tour as your guide will be able to give you more background knowledge about the trail and the history of Mammoth Lakes. One of the most popular tours is the Full Moon Showshoe Tour. Each month, after dark, tour groups head out into the snow with the bright moon shining above. If you haven’t snowshoed before, don’t worry! The staff will guide you through every step and you’ll quickly be a pro.
Warm-up inside at the Mammoth Rock ‘n’ Bowl
Don’t worry if you need a break from outdoor activities. Take a break from the chilly, outdoor fun and head to the Mammoth Rock ‘n’ Bowl. Here, you can unwind with plenty of indoor activities – whether it be bowling, teeing off on their giant golf simulator, or challenging friends to arcade games. This is a great space to escape the cold and still enjoy plenty of fun.
Unwind at the Spa
What better way to unwind after a long day on the slopes than a relaxing spa treatment? The Mammoth Lakes village has several spas, such as Bodyworks Mountain Spa, with services ranging from massages to facials. After a long day of skiing, your muscles will be sore, so it’s never a bad idea to relax at the spa.
Things to Do near Mammoth Lakes
Most likely unlike anything you’ve seen before, Mono Lake shows its unique qualities from the tufa towers. These towers rise out of the lake and are made of calcium carbonate or limestone and can be viewed when you walk around the lake on a self-guided tour that has signs explaining more of the lake.
Mono Lake is estimated to be between 760,000 and 3 million years old and since the lake doesn’t drain into any other water sources the salt builds up and is now 10 times saltier than the ocean. So yes, that means that in the summer you can get in and float! Be sure to make your way to South Tufa State Reserve for some time in this other-worldly-looking area.
June Lake Loop
Perhaps the most scenic drive in the Eastern Sierras (and that’s saying something), the June Lake Loop is not to be missed as is just 20 minutes away from Mammoth Lakes. Take a day trip to June Lake for even more epic lake views, hikes, and waterfalls. Some of the most notable stops are Grant Lake, Silver Lake, Horsetail Waterfall, Gull Lake, June Lake Beach, and the June Lake Overlook. The entire drive is 16-miles so you can do it as a half or full-day adventure.
See the Crowley Lake Columns
Just south of Mammoth Lakes you’ll find Crowley Lake and the unique columns and caves that were formed due to volcanic activity. Venture over here on a drive south on Highway 395 and park at the top and walk down to see the geological formations (about 1-mile), or if you have a vehicle that is AWD with high clearance you can drive closer. Note that water may be in the caves preventing you from going in, so best to check before you go.
Mammoth Lakes FAQs
Mammoth Lakes is a town at the base of Mammoth Mountain, which the area is also often referred to as, in the Eastern Sierra Mountains in Northern California. This scenic town is known for its skiing, and Mammoth Village which is located next to the town itself is where you’ll find your way up the mountain for snow.
From Los Angeles, it’s just under 5 hours driving, from San Francisco just under 6 hours, and from San Diego, it’s about 6.5 hours driving. Additionally, it’s only 20 minutes from the stunning June Lake area, or under 3 hours from Lake Tahoe for more outdoor adventures! From any destination, it’s highly recommended that you make extra stops for a Highway 395 road trip, which is one of the best in the state! If you’re coming from San Francisco, consider adding Yosemite National Park to your itinerary.
From the list of Mammoth Lakes activities above, you can see there is no shortage of things to do in Mammoth Lakes no matter what time of year you visit. Nonetheless, winter tends to be the most popular time to visit given the popularity of the Mammoth Mountain ski trails. The best season for the fewest amount of crowds and amazing colors is fall when all the summer activities are still possible but with fall foliage!
Mammoth Lakes makes a perfect long weekend destination; I recommend 3-4 days in Mammoth Lakes to truly enjoy your time here. This length gives you plenty of time to unwind while also enjoying all of the outdoor activities. If you’re short on time, the highlights can be done in 2 full days.
Where to Stay in Mammoth Lakes
There are plenty of cozy, cabin-like retreats to choose from during your stay in Mammoth Lakes. Check out these best places to stay to begin your research.
- The Village Lodge: Fully immerse yourself in mountain life at the Village Lodge. Snow lovers, get excited. Here, you’ll have direct access to the gondola and ski elevator to grant you quick access to the mountain.
- Mammoth Mountain Inn: This lodging also offers ski-in, ski-out access for snow lovers. After a day on the slopes, enjoy the heated, outdoor pool.
- SureStay Plus Hotel: This friendly hotel provides breakfast each morning as well as shuttles to the ski resort every 30 minutes during ski season.