Is Mammoth Lakes Worth Visiting: 14 Best Reasons to Visit

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Are you curious about whether Mammoth Lakes is worth visiting for a getaway?

When you think of California, many famous places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, or even Lake Tahoe might come to mind. 

However, I think the Eastern Sierra of California is such an underrated location. When I visited for the first time, I was truly blown away by its breathtaking natural beauty.

Yes, Mammoth Lakes is a lesser-known destination, but it should be on your California bucket list.

This guide will help you discover the best time to go, the top things to do, and whether Mammoth Lakes is the right fit for you.

Is Mammoth Lakes Worth Visiting?

Mammoth Lakes is the ultimate outdoor haven, offering something for everyone no matter the season.

While it’s famous for its fantastic skiing and snowboarding in winter, it’s also a fantastic year-round destination thanks to its countless trails and picturesque lakes. Whether you’re into winter sports or summertime adventures, Mammoth Lakes has it all.

Why Mammoth Lakes May Not Be Worth Visiting

If outdoor activities aren’t your thing, Mammoth Lakes might not be the best choice for you. This part of California is all about enjoying nature, with its stunning mountains and rugged landscape. 

If you’re hoping for beaches like San Diego’s, you won’t find them here. Mammoth Lakes does have some beautiful shores by its lakes, but it’s not quite the same as Southern California’s sandy coastline.

Similarly, if you’re looking for high-end shopping and dining like in Los Angeles, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re after a peaceful mountain retreat surrounded by nature, Mammoth Lakes is the perfect destination.

14 Best Reasons To Visit Mammoth Lakes

From exploring the beautiful Rainbow Falls to shredding down some of the best ski slopes California has to offer, there are plenty of great reasons to visit Mammoth.

Keep reading as I highlight some of the top reasons why I love Mammoth Lakes and why you will too.

1. Fantastic Hiking Trails

Black Fissures Hike Near Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes offers incredible hiking paths suitable for everyone, whether you prefer an easy hike or a challenging trek.

You can hike in Mammoth year-round, using snowshoes or microspikes in winter, but I typically suggest hiking during summer, fall, and spring for pleasant weather and a warm, sunny experience.

For an easy hike, try the Convict Lake Loop, a 2.5-mile loop around Convict Lake taking about an hour. It offers gentle terrain with minimal elevation gain, providing beautiful views of the lake and nearby mountains.

For a more challenging trek, consider the Duck Pass And Pika Lake Trail. This 10-mile round-trip hike takes 5 to 6 hours and involves a significant elevation gain of nearly 2,200 feet. Although it is a hard hike, it’s well worth it thanks to the stunning views from the summit of the surrounding mountains, lakes, and forests.

2. Epic Skiing And Snowboarding

One of the top reasons Mammoth Lakes is worth visiting is for its epic skiing and snowboarding! Mammoth Mountain stands out as one of the premier skiing destinations in the United States. It’s an ideal spot to explore during both winter and spring due to its lengthy ski season, typically lasting from November to June. 

Mammoth Mountain Resort boasts a large size, offering over 3,500 skiable acres of terrain and 175 trails to explore. With approximately 300 days of sunshine annually, it’s perfect for enjoying bluebird days, and its diverse mix of terrain caters to both beginners and experts alike.

As one of the leading ski and snowboard resorts in the US, Mammoth offers numerous trails you won’t want to miss. After a day on the slopes, don’t forget to explore the après-ski scene at the Lincoln Bar in Canyon Lodge, known for its exciting atmosphere and delicious drinks. 

So, grab your goggles, gear, and other skiing essentials, and head to Mammoth for an unforgettable skiing and snowboarding adventure.

3. The Beautiful Rainbow Falls

One of the most breathtaking sights in the area is Rainbow Falls, a magnificent waterfall towering at 101 feet. Found within the Devil’s Postpile National Monument, it’s named for the beautiful rainbow created by its mist.

For the best experience, I suggest visiting Rainbow Falls around midday when the sunlight hits it perfectly. Keep in mind that it’s a popular spot, so expect crowds during this time.

To reach the waterfall, take the Rainbow Falls via Devils Postpile Trail, a scenic 5-mile round trip. While the hike typically takes about 2 hours, take your time to fully appreciate the stunning views. Don’t forget to pack some lunch, snacks, and essentials for the trip.

4. Delicious Drinks At Mammoth Brewing Company

After a day outdoors, relax and enjoy delicious craft brews at Mammoth Brewing Company, offering a variety of locally brewed beers.

The sight of the nearby mountains from the brewery is truly spectacular, and there’s no better way to enjoy the scenery than by sipping on one of their cold beers and savoring one of their tasty flatbreads.

5. Hot Creek Geological Site

This is a great spot to observe nature in action. At Hot Creek Geological Site, you can see bubbling hot springs, erupting geysers, and flowing steam from the warm waters. It’s perfect for anyone looking to experience something new or for science enthusiasts to appreciate the geothermal activity.

The hot springs can reach dangerously high temperatures so entering the water is prohibited. 

6. Take a Dip in The Travertine Hot Springs

travertine hot springs

If you are looking for hot springs that you can go in, about an hour from Mammoth are the Travertine Hot Springs. The hot springs are worth the drive, it was by far one of our favorite things we did when visiting Eastern California.

I loved it because it was so unique and I had never experienced anything like it before. And it’s the perfect way to relax after an adventurous weekend of hiking or a long road trip.

The Travertine Hot Springs are a group of geothermal pools that are naturally warmed to 70°F to 110°F depending on the time of year and which pool you are in. I visited in March, and the pools were at a very comfortable and soothing temperature.

However, the best part about the Travertine Hot Springs is the panoramic views of the snowcapped Sierra Mountains you get to enjoy while soaking in the hot springs.

✅ Tip: Don’t wear your jewelry in the hot springs. The sulfur from the hot springs can turn your silver jewelry to bronze or black.

7. Incredible Golf Courses

Enjoy golfing against the backdrop of mountains at Mammoth Lakes’ exceptional courses, offering both challenge and enjoyment.

During the summer months in Mammoth Lakes, don’t miss out on Sierra Star Golf Course, located at 8,000 feet, where your ball will glide through the thin air. With stunning mountain views, it’s a picturesque spot to play 9 or 18 holes during your getaway.

8. Discover The Ancient Tufa Towers at Mono Lake

Mono Lake Tufas

Walk along the shores of Mono Lake, an ancient lake and one of the oldest in North America. Mono Lake is about a 30-mile drive from Mammoth Lakes. What makes Mono Lake so unique and worth visiting are the famous tufa towers that emerge from the lake’s cobalt blue waters.

These formations have been created by carbonate-rich saltwater, and are fragile limestone structures. It is prohibited to touch or walk on them to help preserve their delicate nature.

✅ Tip: The Mono Lake South Tufa Area showcases the best tufa towers with spectacular views of Mono Lake.

9. Excellent Fishing Spots

Overlooking Lake Mary

With abundant water features such as lakes and rivers, Mammoth offers excellent fishing opportunities. Don’t miss the chance to explore fishing spots like Lake Mary, Convict Lake, or Twin Lakes for fantastic fishing experiences.

10. Countless Places To Swim

Horseshoe Lake

Stay cool during the summer months by swimming in the clear waters of Mammoth Lakes, surrounded by beautiful landscapes. Check out Horseshoe Lake or Crystal Lake for lake swimming, or head to Whitmore Pool for a refreshing swim in a pool.

11. Nearby Destinations Within A Short Road Trip

Kings Beach in Lake Tahoe

Mammoth Lakes is a perfect base for exploring nearby places on short road trips, offering plenty of options for scenic drives and outdoor adventures.

It’s approximately an hour away from Yosemite National Park, about a 4-hour drive from Fresno, and roughly 3 hours from Lake Tahoe.

12. Phenomenal Biking Trails

Discover the natural beauty of Mammoth Lakes on its scenic biking trails, suitable for riders of all levels. The Reds Meadow Ride offers challenging yet rewarding road biking, spanning 28 miles with breathtaking views. Families can enjoy the Town Loop Trail for a leisurely biking experience, while the Horseshoe Lake Trail provides an easy mountain biking option.

13. Great Camping In California

Experience the outdoors by camping in Mammoth Lakes, where you’ll find numerous campgrounds surrounded by tall trees and pristine lakes, creating an ideal setting for outdoor adventures.

Consider exploring Twin Lakes Campground or Sherwin Creek Campground for a memorable getaway. These campgrounds are conveniently located, offer excellent amenities, and promise an unforgettable outdoor experience in Mammoth.

One of the highlights of camping is the chance to step away from city life and connect with nature. Camping allows you to fully enjoy the company of loved ones while appreciating the outdoors, and Mammoth offers the perfect setting for camping in California.

14. Kayaking And Paddleboarding

Kayaking in Mammoth Lakes provides an amazing outdoor adventure surrounded by mountainous scenery. With numerous beautiful lakes to explore, paddlers can enjoy peaceful waters surrounded by mountains and forests. 

Lake Mary, especially, is known for its calm waters and breathtaking views, making it a popular spot for kayaking. Another nearby option worth exploring is June Lake. 

Whether you’re new to kayaking or an experienced paddler, trying your hand at either water sport is sure to create some great memories.

FAQs About Visiting Mammoth Lakes

Keep reading below as I answer a few frequently asked questions about visiting Mammoth. 

Is it worth going to Mammoth Lakes?

It is definitely worth going to Mammoth Lakes because of the gorgeous scenery and outdoor activities.

How many days do you need in Mammoth Lakes?

You need at least 2-3 days in Mammoth Lakes to soak in the views and try out a few different activities.

Is Mammoth Lakes better than Lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe is better than Mammoth Lakes because it offers magnificent views, a wider range of activities, more dining and shopping options, diverse accommodations, a greater number of ski resorts, casinos, and additional entertainment options.

But, if you are looking for a smaller town with not as many crowds, I would definitely add Mammoth to your bucket list.

What is the best time to visit Mammoth Lakes?

The best time of year to visit Mammoth Lakes is in the winter because of the incredible skiing. However, the ideal time to visit Mammoth Lakes depends on your interests. Winter is perfect for skiing enthusiasts like myself, while summer offers great opportunities for hiking, swimming, and enjoying warm weather activities.

What is so special about Mammoth Lakes?

Mammoth Lakes is so special because of its beautiful natural surroundings, including lovely lakes, excellent skiing, and the breathtaking Rainbow Falls.

Final Thoughts: Is Mammoth Lakes Worth Visiting? 

If you love outdoor activities and beautiful scenery, Mammoth Lakes is definitely worth a visit. It offers amazing hiking trails, great skiing, and attractions like the gorgeous Rainbow Falls. Mammoth Lakes is perfect for nature lovers looking for a mountain retreat in California.

This post was written by: Abby Price from the travel blog Summit Skier