10 adventures for all seasons on Mammoth Mountain, California
Mammoth Mountain is best known among the skiing and snowboarding sets for its awesome slopes, fresh powder, and sick pipes and parks. Explore further afield and you’ll find tons of opportunities for outdoor adventures in all seasons, including ice climbing, kayaking, and hiking amid spectacular mountain scenery.
Home to the tallest skiable peaks in California, Mammoth Mountain is a winter wonderland for skiers and snowboarders, as well as ice climbers, snowmobilers, and snow bikers who seek out the surrounding snowy environs. But it’s not just cold weather sports that bring in intrepid travelers and adventurers. Mammoth and the surrounding Sierra Nevadas offer a ton of exciting outdoor activities in warmer months too. From hiking and biking to exploring volcanic formations, these are some of our top picks for thrilling adventures for all seasons in this scenic mountain city.
1. Do the Thousand Island Lake Hiking Loop
The Thousand Island Lake hiking trail is a 17.6-mile loop where you meander your way through meadows filled with corn lilies and lupines and up craggy hills and granite shelves. Come here to soak up views of the lake dotted with tiny islands and backed by snowcapped peaks. Along the way you might see wildlife like marmots, deer, and long-tailed weasels. Start at the trailhead at the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center and take the shuttle to Agnew Meadows. The lake is about 7 miles from the trailhead.
2. See Rare Rock Formations
Located in the heart of California's Sierra Nevada mountains, Devils Postpile is a unique rock formation that includes hundreds of intriguing basalt columns that are roughly 60 feet tall and hexagonal in shape. The columns are over one million years old and were formed when lava flow cooled and cracked. After visiting Devils Postpile, be sure to make the trip to Rainbow Falls just 2 miles away. This impressive 101-foot waterfall was named after the rainbows that form in its mist on sunny days.
3. Paddle Across Cold Water Lakes
The Mammoth Lakes Basin is home to 10 gorgeous lakes that are surrounded by fragrant pine forests and the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Canoeing or kayaking is a great way to get in touch with nature, as you can glide across the water at dawn to see amazing views of the sun rising over the mountains reflected in the lakes, or come later in the day to discover hidden coves and catch glimpses of bears, ospreys, and other wildlife on the shores. Don’t want to head back to the city? There are campgrounds available on Lake George, Lake Mary, and Twin Lakes.
4. Cycle the Fat Bike Trail
Catch some amazing views of the city, the Sherwin Range, and the White Mountains, all while getting some fresh air and exercise on a snow biking trip up the Fat Bike Trail. The trail runs for 1.9 miles up to Lake Mary Road, and it makes for a moderate ride with one mildly challenging climb. Keep an eye out for the Mammoth Rock Trail, as you can ride along this summer mountainbike trail for a bit to get the best views. The trail is also popular with snowshoers, snowmobilers, and hikers, so be sure to keep an eye out for others around the bends.
5. Go Rock Climbing in the Summer
Rock climbers in the know head to Mammoth Mountain in the summer to explore a huge range of interesting climbing spots, spanning from Rock Creek in the south to Matrimony Wall in the north. To see awesome rock columns, caves, and other formations, head to the Catacombs above the Owens River Gorge. There you can rappel down while looking out over the picturesque valley below. The climbing season usually runs from late April or May until November, depending on snowfall and melt.
6. Visit Hot Creek Geologic Site
The Hot Creek Geological Site is just 15 minutes south of Mammoth Lakes, and it is home to hot springs, fumaroles, and craters that were created 750,000 years ago after a giant volcano erupted. The boiling water and steam that come up from the creeks here is heated by hot magma that lies about 3 miles below the Earth’s surface. Many people hike and mountain bike here in the summer or snowshoe, snowmobile, or cross-country ski in the winter to see the bubbling action.
7. Shred the Slopes
With a summit peaking out at 11,053 feet, seriously superb snow, and a ski season that can last all the way from October to July, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is the region’s biggest draw. There are slopes here to suit all levels of riders, and the terrain park is one of the best in the country. Stay in the middle of the action at the Mammoth Mountain Inn, just steps from the Scenic Gondola and Adventure Center. Juniper Springs Resort is another sweet ski-in, ski-out spot situated on the side of the mountain.
8. Go Ice Climbing in the Winter
During the colder months, the Lee Vining Canyon is home to a number of frozen waterfalls and huge ice pillars that are renowned for their ice climbing potential. To get there, head 25 miles north of Mammoth Lakes and park next to the Poole Power Plant on Poole Power Plant Road. For those who are new to the pickaxes and crampons, the Sierra Rock Climbing School offers full-day private guided ice climbing sessions and two-day or four-day ice climbing courses.
9. Speed Down the Slopes on a Snow Tube
Kids and those of us who are kids at heart will love careening down the slopes on a snow tube at Woolly’s Tube Park. Located at shuttle stop #18 on Minaret Road halfway between the Village at Mammoth and the Main Lodge, this snow play area features a tube lift, smooth groomed slopes, and state-of-the-art snow tubes that whiz down the mountainside at high speeds. If you prefer to sit and watch from the sidelines, there is also a heated deck and lounge offering hot cocoa, coffee, snacks, cocktails, and beer.
10. Explore Mammoth Lakes by Snowmobile
Experience Mammoth Lakes’ winter landscape in a new and exciting way with a snowmobile tour that will take you flying through untracked powder past open snow fields, pine forests, and frozen rivers and lakes. Mammoth Mountain offers guided snowmobile tours with experienced riders who will bring you to all the best mountain vistas while giving you tips and instruction on how best to handle your machine.