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Summer in the Eastern Sierras

Summer in the Eastern Sierras

Discover Mammoth Lakes, CA

Sometimes for the perfect getaway folks head south, or out to the beach, or to the family cabin on the lake—but by looking skywards, and climbing to the higher elevations of the mountains you are practically guaranteed dramatic changes of scenery and a refreshing retreat from the reality of city life. If you find yourself in the Southern California/LA area, then the alpine town of Mammoth Lakes might be your ideal altitudinous destination. While in the winter months (and often into summer) the bulk of the town’s visitors are drawn to the enormous Mammoth Mountain Resort, in the post-ski season the steep peaks come alive with all the dryland adventuring and water fun one could imagine.

Where to stay?

The lodging options in Mammoth Lakes are exactly what you would expect of a world class mountain town in the heart of the High Sierra wilderness—that is to say, grand, rustic, and everything you need for a soothing change of scenery. Looking for a total retreat into the tranquil seclusion of pinyon pine and juniper forests? Try the acclaimed Tamarack Lodge, where scores of simple-yet-luxurious cabins are arrayed around the gorgeous central lodge—all perched on the shores of Twin Lakes. If you and your family or friends are in the mood for something a bit more conventional, check out the reasonably priced yet exceptionally accommodating Mammoth Creek Inn. Just off the central Old Mammoth Road, this Inn has been undergone top-to-bottom renovations in recent years and now offers 25 stately rooms and suites, with a cozy great room warmed by a large stone fireplace as the focal point. For folks looking to unwind in style while staying close to the heart of Mammoth action, the Creek Inn is a sure bet.

For the harder core outdoor crowd, excellent camping abounds in the Mammoth Lakes region. To stay within spitting distance of the finest lakes and hiking trails around, book a site at one of the Mammoth Lakes Basins campgrounds: Coldwater, Lake Mary and Twin Lakes campgrounds are all good options. Be sure to reserve early, as sites fill up fast!

Tamarack Lodge & Resort

Mammoth Creek Inn

What to do?

As you’ve probably guessed, the sky is literally the limit when it comes to fun ways to spend your days in Mammoth Lakes.

Mammoth Visitor Center

For hikers, the surrounding two million acres of Inyo National Forest Land promise endless adventure. Grab a map from the local Visitor Center, and head out to any of the various central trailheads: by hopping on the ESTA Lakes Basin Trolley, you can hit any number of breathtaking day hikes, including the Panorama Dome, Seven Lakes, Dragon’s Back, Mill City, Arrowhead Lake, Mammoth Crest, and the Horseshoe Lake Trail—to name a few. For a user-friendly run-down of the whole staggering list of accessible and utterly awesome footpaths, check out Visit Mammoth’s hiking guide.

For road bikers, this remote swath of California wilderness is thankfully crisscrossed by scenic, well-paved thoroughfares and state highways perfect for taking in the sights on two wheels. At the top of your list might be the 22-mile June Lake Loop, which starts, appropriately enough, at the June Lake beach, looping out along a gently rolling route past Grant and Silver Lakes, up into the mountains and back beside Gull Lake to where you began; the Scenic Loop offers less lake and more forest, but all the same gradual climbing and dropping, and all the same spectacular views and generally sublime cycling.

Between the Mammoth Lakes Public Access Trails, the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, and the wide array of nearby trail networks and venues, mountain biker are sure to find Mammoth a high-altitude paradise—find an exhaustive list of all potential mountain bike adventures here.

Once you’ve spent your morning exploring the trails and heights of Mammoth, and you’ve worked up a good sweat, it’s time to discover the second part of this mountain’s town’s name: the Lakes. For top-notch swim spots easily accessible by car, Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, and Lake George are great family-friendly options—Horseshoe Lake or June Lake have the added benefit of spacious beaches to doze off on.

Caldera Kayak – Lake Crowley Kayak Rentals

Once you’ve spent your morning exploring the trails and heights of Mammoth, and you’ve worked up a good sweat, it’s time to discover the second part of this mountain’s town’s name: the Lakes. For top-notch swim spots easily accessible by car, Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, and Lake George are great family-friendly options—Horseshoe Lake or June Lake have the added benefit of spacious beaches to doze off on.

Paddlers can’t go wrong with Mono Lake, where a kayak or paddle board across the ancient salt water reveals towering limestone formations and a wealth of bird and fish species. Depending on which body of water you decide to dip your oars in, Lake Mary Marina, Caldera Kayaks, or Mammoth Kayaks and Paddleboards have you covered with all the rental gear you’ll need.

Aprés Activity

After a successful day of climbing, splashing and cycling, a hearty (a Mammoth-sized, if you will) meal is in order. For a family friendly venue with classic American grilled goodies, try The Mogul Restaurant, where delicious platters of sirloin and chicken or Alaskan crab legs are served up in a cozy log cabin-style building. Looking for a casual-yet-classy bite with a good drink? Check out the Good Life Café, whose extensive menu offering everything from Chicken Picatta to a wide array of burritos, quesadillas and burgers will please every palate. Sit out on the Café’s patio with a Mammoth-brewed Golden Trout Pilsner and enjoy the mountain air and savory scents wafting from inside.

To get a taste of this crisp pilsner, and a whole host of other delicious beers from their source, head over to Mammoth Brewing Company. Beers like the Yosemite Pale Ale and the Wild Sierra Belgium provide perfect accompaniment to the end of a day of outdoor excitement, and pair excellently with any of this trendy brewpub’s rich food offerings.

About The Author

Pete Wilson

Pete is a Vermont native with a lifelong love of being outside. Ever since he bushwhacked a ski trail through his parents’ property, he’s been hooked on getting into the woods--whether it’s on skis or snowshoes, or going out for a trail run or a long hike. He studied English at Carleton College, and now after four years in Minnesota is back in the Green Mountains exploring the endlessly beautiful and intriguing locales across the Northeast.

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