What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Mammoth Lakes is a destination of choice, and often serves to break up the long drive between Yosemite and Death Valley, especially on longer trips like a 3-week USA itinerary.
This destination offers impressive scenery, especially if you arrive via the famous Tioga Road, with its spectacular Sierra Nevada mountain landscapes, dense forest and magnificent lakes.
It is a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, whatever the season: cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, fishing... There is something for everyone!
DEVILS POSTPILE NATIONAL MONUMENT
This one-of-a-kind national monument is about 30 minutes from Mammoth Lakes, and is definitely worth the detour. The formation is a rare sight in the geologic world and ranks as one of the world's finest examples of columnar basalt. Its columns tower up to 60 feet and display a striking symmetry. An easy 600-metre walk (one way) leads to the base of the columns, and the top of the Postpile is another 15 minutes uphill.
Within the Monument, which has been a protected area since 1911, you will find beautiful mountain scenery and the famous 101-foot high Rainbow Falls . A 4-kilometre (one way) walk from the monument Ranger Station, mostly downhill, leads to the falls.
DEVILS POSTPILE NATIONAL MONUMENT
Season: Open every day, 24 hours a day, from mid-June to mid-October (note that the opening season is subject to weather conditions).
Visitor Center: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. when the park is in operation.
Entry fee: There is no fee to enter the park when the shuttle service is available, but you have to pay for the shuttle. The America the Beautiful Pass is not accepted here.
Shuttle service inside the park?
* Note: vehicles over 25 feet in length are not allowed on Devils Postpile Spur Road.
HOT CREEK GEOLOGICAL SITE
Hot Creek is a place to marvel at geology in action. Boiling water bubbling up from the creek bed, fumaroles and periodic geyser eruptions attest to the chamber of hot magma which lies just 5 kilometres below the surface of the earth in this area! The site is open from sunrise to sunset and swimming is prohibited due to the risk of geysers and sudden changes in water temperature. It is just over twenty kilometres from Mammoth Lakes.
Open daily from sunrise to sunset.
HILLTOP HOT SPRINGS
There are several hot springs in this area, most of which are secret spots known only to the locals. No road signs indicate their presence. One of the nicest, Hilltop Hot Springs, is very small and located on a hilltop in the plain, with a superb view of the Sierra Nevada.
Try to go early for the best view and to avoid the crowds. To get there: from Hwy 203 in Mammoth Lakes, take the 395 South for about 8 km. Turn left on Benton Crossing, drive 5.8 km and you will see a gravel road on your left that leads to a small parking area. The trail to the hot springs is about 250 metres long.
HIKING AROUND MAMMOTH LAKES
Crystal Lake Trail
Distance (round-trip): 5 km
Time (round-trip): 2 to 3 hours
This relatively short (about 5 km / 2-3 hours round-trip), intermediate trail will take you straight to the heart of the alpine beauty of Crystal Lake and provide panoramic views of the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Crystal Crag, a granite monolith more than 10,000 feet high, will watch over you as you climb. This trail is a must-do for visitors to the area and is accessed from the Lake George trailhead from June to October.
Convict Lake Loop Trail
Distance (round-trip): 4 km
Time (round-trip): 2 hours
The Convict Lake Loop Trail is just under 4 kilometres (2 hours), but is easier than Crystal Lake Trail. It is popular with families and fishermen and is accessible between June and November.
The trail hugs the shore all the way around Convict Lake, meandering through open sagebrush country and groves of pine and aspen, with the sheer granite scarps of Mt. Morrison and Laurel Mountain rising above. It can be accessed by the Convict Creek Trailhead parking lot or the Convict Lake Picnic Area.
Located on the edge of the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains, about ten kilometres east of Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park and 50 km north of Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake is an ancient salt lake with an unusually productive ecosystem. As it is 2.5 times as salty as the ocean, no fish can live there.
However, the desert lake is home to trillions of brine shrimp, which thrive in its salty waters, and provides critical habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp and alkali flies. Volcanic in origin, it is known for its picturesque calcium carbonate formations that rise above the surface of the water, known as tufa towers. The south shore of the lake, South Tufa, offers the most spectacular scenery, and the light is best for taking pictures early in the morning.
Short guided tours are generally offered on Saturdays and Sundays in low season and three times a day during the summer. Stop at the Visitor Center to learn more about the lake's history, geology and wildlife.
Open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you feel like it, you can even swim in Mono Lake: floating effortlessly on the salt water is a delightful and memorable experience!
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
TOOMEY’S CATERING ($$)
This unassuming restaurant is one of the top eateries in Mammoth and enjoys an ideal location on Minaret Boulevard. Chef Matt Toomey is a real baseball fan, and his collection of memorabilia is displayed all over the walls. Locals come for the soups, salads, tacos, burgers, crab cakes, fish 'n' chips, filet mignon... and the Green Monster Smoothie.
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
THE MOGUL RESTAURANT ($$-$$$)
Widely considered to be the best steakhouse in town, the Mogul is famous for its steaks but also serves mouth-watering rack of lamb, pork loin, veal chops, marinated chicken and fresh fish. The fresh garden salad bar is one of the best in town and is included with most of the entrees. Children's menu available.
Open Wednesday-Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
THE RESTAURANT AT CONVICT LAKE ($$$)
The Restaurant at Convict Lake Resort offers a fine dining experience on the shores of historic Mammoth Lake. You will enjoy the romantic atmosphere and casually elegant decor. The menu features continental cuisine with specialities such as rack of lamb, beef Wellington, seafood, pasta and fresh trout.
Generally open daily from 5:30 p.m.
PETRA’S BISTRO & WINE BAR ($$$)
This is perhaps the trendiest of Mammoth's restaurants, also known for its vibrant atmosphere and beautiful stone fireplace. The menu changes regularly, but the main courses are prepared with care and attention to detail.
Petra's is in the Alpenhof Lodge and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m.
*** Hours may vary ***
Where to sleep ?
Dates: mid-July 2023
Come enjoy performances by Jazz artists from contemporary, fusion, latin and other genres of jazz music. You can also eat on site and even take a free dance class if you're in the mood!
Dates: early August 2023
This outdoors music and beer festival brings together a superb lineup of national and international blues performers with a mix of styles and genres. It is also a true delight for beer lovers, who can sample some of the best craft beers in the country. A good time guaranteed!
When to visit
- Very Favourable
- Very Favourable