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Capturing memories on a family bike ride in Mammoth Lakes Basin

California

Mammoth Lakes, California: Base Camp for Big Adventures

By: Christi Womack

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  • States:
    California

No matter what time of year you visit, outdoor adventures are plentiful in and around the mountain town of Mammoth Lakes in California’s Sierra Nevada range.

The town attracts more than 4 million visitors each year eager to conquer the legendary slopes in winter, fly-fish in spring, hit the trails in summer, and enjoy fall colors (and fewer visitors) in autumn. No matter when you visit, you’ll find fun adventures for all ages, as well as close proximity to some of California’s most famous natural attractions.

Choose Your Season of Adventure

During the winter months, find 150 runs for skiers and snowboarders of all levels on Mammoth Mountain, the official training mountain for the U.S. Olympic Team. For a change of scenery, go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, visit the snow tubing park and try ice skating.

Get in a little spring skiing before the snow melts, signaling trout fishing season in alpine lakes and streams, and beckoning hikers and mountain bikers of all skill levels to take on the region’s diverse terrain. Mountain bikers especially will want to visit the top-ranked Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, which covers more than 1,400 hectares with over 128 kilometers of trails.

Continue hiking and biking into the summer and fall months, but also fit in time for paddleboarding, road cycling, horseback riding, zip lining and golf. In fall, you’ll be greeted not only by the changing colors of the aspen trees, but also fewer visitors.

Skiing the powdery slopes in Mammoth Mountain

Skiing the powdery slopes in Mammoth Mountain
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Outdoor Attractions on the Town

Want to take in the scenery without all the work? Get a bird’s-eye view of Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding area during a breathtaking helicopter ride, or ride the scenic gondola to the summit of the 3,369-meter Mammoth Mountain.

Just five minutes from downtown, ride the free Town Trolley to the Mammoth Lakes Basin and find 80 kilometers of trails, lakes, forests, streams and campgrounds. After all of that activity, relax with a soak in one of the hundreds of hot springs located nearby.

A summer gondola ride during a golden sunset

A summer gondola ride during a golden sunset
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Day Trips to Famous Neighbors

Mammoth Lakes is within driving distance of some of California’s most famous outdoor destinations. Yosemite National Park, known for its giant sequoia trees, waterfalls and granite mountain peaks, is just a 45-minute drive away through Tioga Pass. Take a summertime hike in the park, stopping to admire the Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations.

Bodie State Historic Park offers visitors the chance to tour an 1800s gold-mining town that once had a population of 10,000. The last residents moved from the “Official Ghost Town of California” about 50 years ago, and everything they left behind is still intact. Some say the town is haunted; you be the judge.

During the summer months, join a guided tour of Mono Lake South Tufa State Natural Reserve. Walk amid the tufa tower rock formations ringing the edges of the salty inland lake that is 1 million years old. Go back in the winter, when there are fewer visitors and you can go cross-country skiing after a snowfall.

At Devils Postpile National Monument, see the symmetry of basalt columns that are about 100,000 years old. While there, fit in a trail hike to watch water cascading and colorful prisms dancing at the appropriately named Rainbow Falls.

A wintery landscape at Mono Lake

A wintery landscape at Mono Lake
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Getting There

Mammoth Lakes is an easy five-hour drive from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Sacramento and San Francisco. Connecting flights are also available year-round to Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and winter flight service is available from San Francisco (SFO) and San Diego (SAN).

A picturesque vista from the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park

A picturesque vista from the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park
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