The best things to do in Mammoth Lakes, California

Mammoth Lakes with snow covered mountains and lake

A truly must-see vacation destination, there’s a plethora of things to do in Mammoth Lakes, California.

With plenty for outdoor enthusiasts, active groups, and families to do in Mono County, you’ll find a year-round vacation base for making the most of the great outdoors. Whether you are into hiking, mountain biking, skiing, watersports, or immersing yourself in Mother Nature, Mammoth Lakes in California will not disappoint! If you’re looking to escape the rat race, we offer a fantastic range of Mammoth Lakes vacation rentals.


The best things to do in Mammoth Lakes in summer

Explore the natural wonders of Mammoth Lakes

On land, there are many beauty spots and attractions to visit within the Sierra Nevada mountain range and regional nature parks. Mono County and the neighboring county of Inyo combine to offer the intrepid explorer unlimited public access to a vast public playground.

It is unlike anywhere else in California, with an impressive 93.6% to 99% of both counties’ landmass free for all to roam and enjoy. So where to walk to first?

The Devils Postpile National Monument in the Reds Meadow area is a perfect starting point. This popular Mammoth Lakes attraction showcases one of the world’s finest geological marvels; a rare columnar basalt, with symmetrical columns towering up to 60 feet high.

The Devil's Postpile

Also preserved within this national monument is the iconic Rainbow Falls on the middle fork of the San Joaquin River, which can be reached along a popular hiking route from Devils Postpile. The famed falls cascade over a drop of 2,260m and often display rainbows in the mist, hence its unique name. You can also take in the vista from the bridge at Twins Falls Overlook, which awaits walkers (and snowshoers and cross-country skiers in winter) along the upper Lakes Basin Path in the Inyo National Forest.

With twin waterfalls gushing down above Lake Mamie, against a spell-binding which stretches northwards as far as Mammoth Mountain, Panorama Dome, and Mammoth Lakes. The landscape is pure paradise, whichever season you visit.


Mammoth mountain biking

With the majority of California and the USA’s mountain bike routes in the Sierra Nevada, Mammoth is a mecca for cyclists. The attraction? The prospect for any passionate peddler to challenge themselves, across a vast variety of high-low altitudes and terrains! Accessible for all ages and abilities, with easy options to hire a bike, taking on the Bike trails in Mammoth Lakes is the top summer activity.

Mountain biking

With 80 miles of single track and a vast expanse of 3,500 acres at your disposal, the perfect place to go on two wheels is Mammoth Lakes Bike Park. Another great local scenic bike route is the 12-mile paved path which leads through the mountain-view Mammoth village, to an altitude of 1,000 feet. The 360-degree panorama which greets cyclists is truly captivating for both young and old!

The Eastern Sierra is ideal for high-altitude road biking, whilst those seeking a more sedate bike ride can take to the backcountry trails which meander through the forests.

Families will relish the easy trails that abound all around, from the scenic half-day Town Loop Trail (7.3 miles) and gentle Lakes Basin Downhill Path (5.3 miles) to the gently rolling dirt trail of the Horsehoe Lake Loop (just under 2 miles).

Hiking in Mammoth Lakes

With over 300 miles of trails, Mammoth Lakes is a popular hiking destination. Its sub-alpine forests, wildflower meadows, and alpine lakes rich in flora and fauna provide an enticing backdrop for born explorers to stretch their legs. What’s more, the multi-terrain trails seamlessly connect to the extensive off-highway road network in the Inyo National Forest. You will find endless routes to enjoy on two feet, or on four legs if you’re bringing your dog! The Mammoth Lakes Trail System is the go-to guide for where to hike in Mammoth Lakes.

Here are some of our favorite hikes in and around Mammoth Lakes:

Easy-moderate Mammoth hikes

Ideal for family-friendly excursions, the day hikes along the Mammoth Lakes Basin downhill path into town provide a super starting point for enjoying an easy scenic walk. For a walk that invites you to take in views of Mammoth Mountain and Mammoth Crest, take the easy flat 1.7 mile long Horsehoe Lake Loop, which leads along a smooth dirt track and is popular with swimmers and dog walkers.

For those looking for a slight uphill challenge with 360-degree views, then the short 0.3-mile Panorama Dome Trail will deliver breath-taking scenery to take in from its high-altitude setting. The Minaret Vista Trail leads hikers along a 1.2-mile long uphill path, past a lodgepole pine forest. The reward? Epic views of the San Joaquin River Valley!

For those looking to be closer to ‘terra firma’, the 1.5-mile Sotcher Lake Loop provides a flat lakeside trail in the Reds Meadow area, with plenty of fascinating areas for ecologists and geographers to marvel over.

The Agnew Wildflower Loop offers a short, picturesque 0.6-mile route adorned with wildflowers including lupine, lilies, larkspur, and columbine (the blooms open from late spring-early July). The walk can be reached whilst making your way to/from the 6-mile Devils Postpile National Monument and Rainbow Falls trail.

With its pleasant aspect and the promise of knock-out views, this twin attraction combines the perfect opportunity of some sightseeing with some exercise! Do remember to bring plenty of water with you, as sections of the sun-exposed trail can become hot in the summer.

A short but oh-so scenic walk awaits hikers from June through to September on the George to TJ trail. This classic lakeside walk leads for 1.5 miles past dreamy lake scapes of the George, Barrett, and TJ Lakes.

Along the way, take in the tranquillity of the lakes, which contrast beautifully with the dramatic rock formations. Its terrain and trail length makes it ideal for easy-moderate level walkers.

Moderate-difficult Mammoth hikes

The dog-friendly Crystal Lake Trail stretches out for 3.1-miles and is a popular choice for day hikers, fishing enthusiasts, and nature fans. Along the way take in the attractive scenery of Lake George and Lake Mary, as the trail leads through shady woodland, sunny sections, and moderately-difficult sections (be sure to bring a bottle of water).

Another great day hike near Mammoth Lake is the Duck Pass and Pika trail. This 9.5-mile trail welcomes hikers, dog walkers, and horse riders, as well as those seeking out a moment of solitude.

A great technical hike is the Heart Lake trail from Castle Lake near Mount Shasta. The steep rocky 1.9-mile route leads past wildflowers, to equally enchanting views.


The ultimate Backcountry hike 

For born explorers, the halfway point for the 211-mile long John Muir Trail (in the section of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail) can be found within the iconic Sierra Nevada mountain range, on the doorstep of Mammoth Lakes.

Stretching from Yosemite Valley in the west to Mount Whitney in the south, the impressive route passes through the world’s sunniest and mildest climate for any major mountain range. For true adventurers and campers looking to complete the trail, it takes approximately 60-70 hours on foot.

Along the way feast your eyes on spectacular terrain and scenery; from dramatic canyons and 14,000ft mountain peaks to granite cliffs and an infinite-seeming number of lakes.


Extreme outdoor sports in Mammoth Lakes

For those with a thirst for extremes, the outdoor adventure opportunities in Mammoth Lakes are a dream come true! One of California’s oldest and most-experienced mountain guiding companies is International Alpine Guides.

Offering a base in Mammoth Lakes and also nearby in Mount Shasta and Lake Tahoe, you will be able to cherry-pick some truly awesome vacation experiences; from hiking tours and mountain climbing clinics to extreme rock climbing classes.

Family activities in Mammoth Lakes

For kids, teenagers (and not forgetting parents), the perfect way to let off steam in Mammoth Lakes is at the Mammoth Adventure Center. Located in the Mammoth Mountain Ski resort, in the summer months, you will find yourselves at the gateway to the Mammoth Bike Park, as well as a host of fun family activities. From the Via Ferrata guided climbing experience, Junior Zipline, rope courses, and a climbing wall to the bungee trampoline and even prospecting for riches, at the themed Woolly’s Mining co.

Whatever the season, parents can relax and enjoy watching their kids have fun at the Adventure Center, whilst enjoying some adult time at the Yodler Restaurant & Bar. This popular eatery serves up hearty Bavarian cuisine and drinks out on its scenic sun deck. Families looking to take in the views can hop on the gondola and head to the summit, for a family photo opportunity and to learn more about the Sierra Nevada, from its engaging visitor center.

Lake-based activites in Mammoth Lakes

With no less than 5 lakes in the town’s lake basin to soak up and over 100 glacial lakes in your ‘backyard’, Mammoth Lakes promises plenty of opportunities to get out on the water. Lake Mary, Convict Lake, and Lake Crowley all offer boat marinas. If you’re tempted to hire a kayak for the day or enjoy a guided kayak tour then Caldera Kayaks at Crowley marina is the place to go!

The tours in particular offer incredible moments to explore some geological wonders in Lake Mono, along the way. Just a 20-minute drive from Mammoth, June Lake is home to one of the best Kayak and Paddleboard companies in Mammoth Lakes. Mammoth Kayaks and Paddleboards offers the perfect vacation lake moment, set against a backdrop of pristine natural scenery.

Into fishing? Sierra Drifters offers guided fly fishing tours in Mammoth Lakes. If you prefer some solitude, then you can just as easily head out on your own. Surrounded by mountains on 3 sides, the 168-acre Convict Lake is a small deep lake famed for its fishing. With a superb stock of Rainbow and German Brown Trout, it’s easy to see why Convict Lake plays host to 2 annual fishing derbies.

On land, Convict Lake is equally well-stocked with some top Fishing Guides and Outfitters, whilst its marina offers motorboat and pontoon boat rentals, paddleboard hire, and kayak rentals. Another favorite fishing destination in Mammoth is Lake Mary, which offers a marina with motorboat and pontoon rentals as well as a useful fishing tackle store.

The best things to do in Mammoth Lakes in winter

Skiing in Mammoth

Mammoth Ski resorts

Once the fishing season comes to an end in Mammoth Lakes (usually by mid-November), thoughts soon turn to snow. Mammoth Lakes boasts 2 ski resorts and a plethora of winter sports to keep all novices and experts alike enthused.

From skiing and snowboarding to snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ice skating to tubing, sledding, and of course cross country & Nordic skiing, Mammoth Lakes is a winter vacation destination in its own right! The Mammoth Mountain Ski area and June Mountain Ski area are spread 21.4 miles apart and offer a haven for skiers, winter sports fans, and families.


Mammoth Mountain Ski area

Usually open for mid-November, the Mammoth Mountain Ski area is serviced by 28 lifts and offers 3,500 acres of ski-able terrain. Aside from the ski slopes and lessons, the winter activities in Mammoth Mountain Ski area are numerous. You may feel like a wild moment with the kids at Woolly’s Tube Park or a scenic ride on the gondola up to its impressive summit (11,053 feet).

The resort also offers a great excuse for Cross-country Skiing on Nordic Skis and Snowshoeing. Just head to the Tamarack Cross-Country Ski Center and there you’ll find a fantastic offering of trails, tours, rental equipment, and lessons. Fancy a tour?

Why not enjoy a guided Snowmobile excursion, guided mountain climb, or naturalistic tour, whilst on your skis or snowboard. The resort also provides Snowcat tours, for a cozy way to see the top sights whilst savoring some light bites.

June Mountain Ski area

Known as ‘California’s family fun mountain’, the June Mountain Ski area is the place to be when you’re with the kids! The beginner-friendly terrain is spread across 1,500 acres and is serviced by 7 lifts. The 41 trails are refreshingly uncrowded, so you can really feel like you have plenty of space to learn and practice.

Rental shops and lessons await in the resort and there are a host of winter activities off the slopes too, including a free naturalist tour on skis and snowboards and the kid-friendly Bucky’s Bonfire event (held at the resort’s Chalet each Saturday).

Kids 12 and under also get to ski and ride for free here, so it really does offer the perfect winter vacation for families and beginner-level skiers and snowboarders in Mammoth Lakes. For those intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders in the group, the tailor-made Backcountry tours are a tempting way to spend a day on the slopes.

Looking to  complete a professionally-recognised winter sports course?

The experienced International Alpine Guides deliver educational and professionally-accredited programs for winter vacationers in Mammoth Lakes. From Backcountry Skiing and Ice climbing classes to Avalanche courses, the center attracts worldwide instructors and enthusiasts alike.


Best things to do near Mammoth Lakes

Located 40 miles northwest of Mammoth Lakes, the Yosemite National Park is a world-class visitor destination. Be it for a day excursion or a stop in your travel itinerary to see the best attractions in the Sierra Nevada, you’ll be glad you came!

Enjoy an audience with the ancient sequoias and walk amongst the giants as you head out on foot to take in the views from Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, and Half Dome.

Further afield from Mammoth Lakes (140 miles to be exact) Lake Tahoe offers a superb offering of year-round activities, world-class ski resorts, and snow parks. Our luxury vacation rentals in Lake Tahoe will tempt groups of all sizes to stay.