Nestled in the mountains of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, there are some super unique things to do in Mammoth Lakes, California. While the town is best known for its fantastic skiing and snowboarding, it is arguably even more enchanting during the summer.
One of the best mountain towns in California, Mammoth Lakes is one of the most stunning places to visit for rugged, wild beauty. I’m a California local, and some of my favorite activities in the state are in Mammoth Lakes. In this article, we’ll go through the very best things to do in the area.
Table of Contents
- 27 Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes
- Kayak or Standup Paddleboard
- Rainbow Falls
- Devils Postpile National Monument
- McLeod Lake
- June Lake Loop
- June Lake Brewing
- Hot Creek Geologic Site
- Minaret Vista
- Mammoth Mountain Gondola Ride
- Inyo Craters
- Convict Lake
- Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
- Crystal Lake
- Lake Mary Scenic Road
- Crowley Lake Stone Columns
- Mountain Biking
- Mammoth Museum
- Mammoth Consolidated Mine
- Earthquake Fault
- Bodie Ghost Town
- Rock Climbing
- Float The Owens River
- Horseback Riding Tour
- Mammoth Brewing Company
- FAQs About Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes
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27 Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes
Kayak or Standup Paddleboard
Paddle around one of Mammoth’s pristine mountain lakes
Mammoth is known for its collection of stunningly beautiful mountain lakes. Depending on the time of year you visit California, the undisputed best way to explore the crystal blue water is by paddling around it.
Many of the popular lakes, like Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake George, Horseshoe Lake, and Mamie Lake, are great spots to launch your kayak or stand-up paddle board. Either bring your own or most of the lakes offer rentals, the most accessible of which is Lake Mary.
Hike to the majestic waterfall that creates a rainbow
📍 Google Maps | Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Nestled in the gorgeous Sierra Nevada mountains of the Devils Postpile National Monument, Rainbow Falls puts on a daily spectacle that makes the 2.5-mile hike well worth the effort.
The falls plunge 101 ft (31m) to the pool below and, at certain times of the day, the sunlight reacts with the spray to create a vibrant rainbow that perfectly frames the waterfall.
The trail to the falls is only open when there’s no snow or ice, and even when it’s open, you can only see the falls from a platform above. During summer, however, you can take a stone staircase to the base of the falls to revel in its full beauty.
Devils Postpile National Monument
Behold one of the most unique geological formations in the country
Devils Postpile National Monument is a unique geological formation of columnar basalt that formed around 100,000 years ago. It was created when lava cooled very slowly and evenly and then contracted – forming perfect pentagonal columns. It’s truly a mind-bending natural feature that showcases the wonders of nature.
The monument is just a short walk from the parking lot which fills up very quickly. If it’s full, you’ll have to take a $15 shuttle into the valley from Mammoth Mountain. Because of the treacherous road in, the monument closes during winter when ice and snow make access too dangerous.
Hike to a pristine mountain lake for a refreshing dip
The gorgeous, turquoise blue waters of McLeod Lake with its backdrop of forested mountains is a postcard-worthy example of a mountain lake in California. An easy half-mile hiking trail separates the lake from the parking lot which deters many people and leaves the lake much less crowded than others in the Mammoth lakes basin.
The hike also warms you up just enough to make a dip in the refreshing waters look appetizing
June Lake Loop
Drive around the turquoise blue waters of June Lake
By driving less than half an hour from the Mammoth Mountain area you can find yourself in June Lake, one of the best places to visit in California.
A quaint mountain town with a beautiful lake at its heart, there are tons of water activities you can take advantage of at June Lake, which is less crowded than the Mammoth lakes. These activities include kayaking, water skiing, wakeboarding, or just lounging at June Lake Beach.
June Lake Brewing
Sip a beer next to a beautiful mountain lake
June Lake Brewing is the best place to enjoy a brew in the Eastern Sierras. The microbrewery has created some fantastic beers that by themselves make a visit worthwhile, but what makes the brewery a standout is the location. It’s located right in the small mountain town, next to the beautiful waters of June Lake.
Hot Creek Geologic Site
Visit the hot springs that bubble up in a stunning valley setting
Hot Creek Geological Site allows you to witness geology happening in real time. The natural hot springs are formed by lava that flows about 3 miles below the earth, which creates pressurized steam that takes thousands of years to rise and bubble out of the streams.
The hot springs are continually changing, with new pools and geysers forming with each earthquake and temperatures shifting constantly. Because of the unpredictability, it’s prohibited to swim in the springs.
Take in the undisputed best view of the High Sierras
It’s no secret that Mammoth Lakes is a key destination on any California road trip, and one thing you can’t miss is the Minaret Vista. To put it simply, it has the best views of the Mammoth Lakes Area. The viewpoint is on the side of the road that leads into Devils Postpile National Monument and provides panoramic views of the forested valley below.
The vista is especially gorgeous during autumn when the trees put on an impressive show of fall foliage.
Mammoth Mountain Gondola Ride
Enjoy the views of Mammoth from above on a gondola ride up the mountain
Of all the things to do in Mammoth Lakes, riding the gondola up Mammoth Mountain is one of the most fun and unique. Pile into the enclosure that’s suspended from a lift that shuttles you up to the top of the mountain, showcasing the beauty of the forest and lakes below.
This is a great way to enjoy the mammoth lakes region from a new perspective.
Take an easy hike to craters in the mountain which contain vibrantly colored water
A hike of a little over a mile leads you up through the Sierra Nevada wilderness to a series of 3 remote craters. The craters are the aftermath of pressurized steam exploding in quick succession heated by lava deep in the Earth.
Two of the formations have now collected snowmelt from the surrounding mountains, forming otherwordly bright green pools.
Visit this incredibly picturesque lake where you can boat, paddle, or swim
Convict Lake is located in Mono County, south of Mammoth Lakes. The stunning body of water is renowned for its beautiful clear blue water and the stunning backdrop of towering mountains. The lake draws people hoping to enjoy water activities such as boating, trout fishing, and paddleboarding.
In addition to natural beauty, Convict Lake boasts an intriguing history. Once named Mono Lake, it was renamed in 1871 when convicts from Carson City Nevada escaped prison and took refuge by the lake. When officials attempted to recapture the escapees, a shootout ensued, and the convicts who survived evaded capture.
Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
Submerge yourself in thermal waters set in a valley surrounded by mountains
📍 Google Maps | Entrance: Free
A short 20 minutes from east of Mammoth is the hidden gem of Wil Willy’s Hotsprings, a naturally heated stream and pool that reaches temperatures of 95-100ºF, perfect for relaxing and enjoying the panoramic views of the sierra mountains.
The thermal water is accessible via an easy quarter-mile walk that takes you straight to the secluded pools. Beware that Wild Willy’s is clothing optional.
Fish in one of the picturesque mountain lakes or streams that wind through Mammoth
With its many lakes and pristine rivers that contain a healthy stock of rainbow, brook, and brown trout, there’s no question as to why fishing is one of the most popular things to do in Mammoth Lakes.
Whether you take a boat out or go fly fishing in one of the forested streams, the Mammoth lakes region provides some of the best fishing in all of Northern California.
Fishing season starts the last Saturday in April and ends on November 15 of every year so get your fishing pole ready.
Hike a few miles to one of Mammoth’s most beautiful lakes
📍 Google Maps | Hours: Open 24 hours | 🥾 Distance: 1.75-mile hike, steep elevation gain of about 800 ft
Nestled in the shadow of the iconic granite monolith of Crystal Crag, Crystal Lake is the stunning reward after a moderately-strenuous hike. The lake is the epitome of alpine beauty that sits at the base of the Mammoth Crest, which separates the Lakes Basin from the San Joaquin River.
It’s my favorite spot for a lakeside picnic and to dip my toes in the cool water.
Hike through the incredible high sierras surrounding Mammoth
Not too far away from the epic Yosemite hikes, the Mammoth Lakes Region is a hiker’s paradise! With miles and miles of hiking trails, including the Mammoth Crest Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and others that lead to picturesque waterfalls and lakes, Mammoth has some of the best hiking in California for all levels.
Some of my favorite hikes are Coldwater to George Trail, Duck Pass Trail, and Emerald Lake to Skeleton Lake Trail. For a shorter, easier hike, check out the mile hike with very little elevation gain to the gorgeous McLeod Lake.
Lake Mary Scenic Road
Drive the loop that showcases some of Mammoth’s famous lakes
If you’d like a tour of some of Mammoth’s most iconic mountain lakes and natural beauty, a drive around the Lake Mary Scenic Road is the perfect way to get a taste. Mary is the largest of the Mammoth lakes where you can rent paddleboards and kayaks. Keep driving, and you’ll find Mamie lake, The Twin Lakes, and Horseshoe lake as well. Stop at whichever lake catches your eye and dip your toes or go for a swim.
Crowley Lake Stone Columns
Check out these otherworldly rock formations
Soon after the Crowley Lake Reservoir was constructed in 1941, people began noticing that strange cylindrical columns were forming along the walls of the eastern shore. The columns have regular cracks spiraling the length of the columns, giving them a hand-made appearance that has sparked many speculations as to their origins, though scientists do know they’re natural formations.
Depending on water levels you may be able to walk up to the columns and form your own hypothesis. Be advised that the dirt access road requires 4wd.
Get a boost of adrenaline pedaling through high sierra wilderness
The trail system that winds through the Mammoth Lakes region offers abundant mountain biking opportunities for experts and beginners alike. The trails connect some of the top Mammoth’s lakes attractions such as Minaret Vista, Inyo Craters, and Shady Rest, making a bike one of the best ways to sightsee.
In addition, bikers can explore the Mammoth Mountain bike park, which offers 80 miles worth of bikeable trails, including a beginner’s section.
Learn about Mammoth’s unique gold mining history
The Mammoth Museum is located in the historic Hayden Cabin and showcases some of Mammoth’s
history, artifacts, and culture. The cabin was originally constructed in the 1920s by cartographer Emmet Hayden who explored and mapped much of Mono County. He later opened the cabin as a hunting and fishing lodge that welcomed visitors that wanted to hunt and explore the surrounding wilderness.
The museum is a great place to learn more about this history and the development of the Mammoth Lakes area.
Mammoth Consolidated Mine
Explore the historic mine abandoned in the mountains
The Mammoth Consolidated Mine is a short trail of less than a mile that transports you back in time to explore the remnants of an abandoned mining district from the 1920s and 1930s.
In its six years of operation, the mine produced little over $100,000 worth of gold, earning it the underwhelming notoriety as a “somewhat successful mine”. On the site you can find old miner bunkhouses, the remains of an ore-processing mill, and the above pictured cabin.
Stare into a 60 ft hole made by an earthquake fault line
The deep fissure in the rock of the Mammoth Lakes Earthquake Fault demonstrates the awesome force of the Earth’s tectonic plates. The fault is located deep in the forest at the base of Mammoth Mountain and makes for an impressive sight.
The crack runs hundreds of feet through the trees and plunges to a depth of 60 feet in the ground. It’s believed to have formed around 600 years ago during a recent Inyo/Mono crater eruption.
Bodie Ghost Town
Stroll through an old mining town turned eery ghost town
Once a bustling gold mining town with nearly 10,000 inhabitants, Bodie State Historic Park is now a genuine ghost town. You can stroll down the eerily empty streets and imagine what the town might have looked like in its heyday in the 1870s when the discovery of gold drew tons of prospectors.
Today, only a small piece of the original town remains, preserved as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962.
Climb to new heights on the rock walls and boulders throughout Mammoth
The mountainous area of Mammoth Lakes California is full of jagged outcroppings of granite and volcanic tuff, making the region a popular rock climbing destination in summer and fall. Depending on the snowfall, usually climbers start arriving in late April and May to take to the rock walls. Some of the more popular routes include Crystal Crag and Rock Creek.
For those who are unfamiliar with the climbing spots in the area or people wanting to try out climbing for the first time, there are also rock climbing tours offered.
Float The Owens River
Grab a tube and float down a tranquil mountain river
One of my favorite Mammoth Lakes water activities is to grab a tube and float down the Owens River. Especially in Summer, when the area gets hot and dry, there’s nothing better than taking a dip in the refreshing water and relaxing on the surface of the water.
The Owens river winds for 120 miles through Mono County and boasts some of the most diverse aquatic systems in California and showcases some of the region’s spectacular beauty.
Harness the mountain breeze and fly across a mountain lake
In my opinion, the best way to experience Mammoth in spring and summer is by camping. Pitch a tent or park your van or RV beneath pine trees or next to an alpine lake for stunning views of the area when you wake up in the morning. Like many campgrounds in California, be sure to book your campsites early, as sites fill up very fast.
Mammoth has quite a few campgrounds. For the easiest access to lakes and hiking, check out one of the campgrounds in Mammoth Lakes Basin:
👉 Pro Tip: If you’re a fan of luxury and prefer a roof and soft mattress, check out Juniper Springs Resort.
Horseback Riding Tour
Take a horseback riding tour through the forested trails
For a unique way to explore the Mammoth lakes and the surrounding Eastern Sierras, consider taking a guided horseback riding tour. The Mammoth Lakes Pak Outfit offers tours to people of all skill levels, with tours that last from an hour to overnight pack riding through the backcountry.
Usually, horseback riding is only offered during the summer months from June to September.
Mammoth Brewing Company
Enjoy a beer after a day of outdoor activities
Sipping a cold beer at Mammoth Brewing Company is the best way to end your long day full of outdoor fun whether it was mountain biking, kayaking, or hiking.
The local establishment is usually bustling in the afternoons as people wind down for the day and come together to reminisce on their adventures over a beer or cider. The brewery also sells canned beer to take back to your cabin or campsite.
👉 Read Next: 23 Camping Essentials You Might Forget to Bring
FAQs About Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes
What is Mammoth Lakes known for?
Mammoth Lakes is known for its beautiful alpine lakes that boast crystal blue water with stunning mountainscapes in the background. The hiking trails that wind around the basin and the lakes are also famous for their beauty and range of difficulty. In winter, the focus shifts to Mammoth Mountain, which offers some of California’s best snowboarding and skiing.
How many days do you need in Mammoth Lakes?
To fully enjoy Mammoth Lakes, I recommend staying at least two full days, though you could easily spend up to a week exploring all of the lakes and hiking trails.
Is Mammoth Lakes worth visiting in summer?
While Mammoth is often associated with winter activities, I would argue that the area is even better during summer. The Mammoth lakes are best enjoyed under the warm sun and many of the best hiking trails don’t even open until summer.
Which Mammoth Lakes can you swim in?
Swimming is permitted in all of the Mammoth lakes in the basin, including Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake George, Lake Mamie, and Horseshoe Lake.
Thanks for reading my guide to the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes! The variety of activities and attractions offer some of the best things to do in California, and each time I return I find some new, stunning gem.
But don’t take my word for it, go check out the beautiful area for yourself!
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