What I love the most about summers, besides having it “off” as a teacher, are the mini-trips to new places. I’m fortunate that I live in California and am so close to the Sierras, which is my favorite place to visit in the summer. This year, we decided to check out Mammoth Lakes, on the eastern side of the Sierras. We knew it was a popular ski town in the winter, but since we don’t ski, never got around to checking it out. However, we heard it was beautiful in the summer as well. It definitely lived up to its rave reviews.
Best Outdoor Activities
Lakes: I’ll first get to the outdoor activities since these are my favorite things. The name of the town pretty much describes much of its topography; Mammoth has lots of lakes in the vicinity. Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, Lake George, and Horseshoe Lake are all clustered together just a few minutes from the main village and accessible by car. Boat rentals, paddle boards and kayaks are available at Lake Mary. I’m pretty sure that you can rent a kayak or paddle board for the other lakes, but the other lakes are a bit smaller in size. However, I’ve read that Lake George has some good fishing and is deeper than Lake Mary. We decided to rent a small fishing boat and fished for a couple of hours on Lake Mary. We didn’t catch anything (supposedly they stock the lake with trout), but had a good time just the same. There are also quite a few lakes you can hike to including Duck Lake if you’re looking for a less crowded lake experience.
Biking: I was really kicking myself that we didn’t bring our bikes. Not only are the lakes mentioned above really close to the main town, but there’s an awesome bike path that runs along the lakes. We contemplated renting bikes, but then decided that the next time we visit, we’ll definitely bring our bikes along. The town’s free trolley has a bike rack on the front (some have a large one on the back) in case you want to be dropped off at a certain point.
Hiking: We enjoy hiking easy to moderate trails, especially if the views are spectacular. Let me just say that the Sierras never disappoint. We took the Red’s Meadow Shuttle for $7 a person (round-trip) from Mammoth Adventure Center (across from the Mammoth Lodge and ski resort) to the Devil’s Postpile stop. We hiked the easy half-mile hike to Devil’s Postpile, stopping to take beautiful photos of the San Joaquin river and scenery. We even ran into a guy fly-fishing. However, he wasn’t having any luck either. All the fish he caught were too small (says something about the effects of our drought). We continued on for another 2 and 1/2 miles to Rainbow Falls. That part of the hike was fairly easy as well with only a few inclines here and there. The falls were beautiful, but busy. And let me just say, it’s frustrating when people are snapping selfies of themselves in front of the falls then instagram-ing the photos right then and there, blocking the view for everyone else! I also saw some younger adults doing some stupid, dangerous things to get a “look at me!” selfie. So stupid.
We decided to hike up to Red’s Meadow since it was a shorter hike, but that hike was not so easy. The last mile and a half is quite a climb. No up’s and down’s, just up, up, up. Yuck. I was a bit disappointed in Red’s Meadow, but it could have been that I was hot and miserable and just wanted a cold beer. Which we were told was available at Red’s Meadow. Technically, yes. There’s beer. But you have to buy it at the general store. I was thinking a cold one on draught. Not so much.
I’m a cheapskate and try to save a buck or two on a hotel whenever I can. You’d think I’d learn my lesson as you can read about a terrible experience here. Apparently, I haven’t learned my lesson yet. We stayed at the Quality Inn not far from the newer village. It was clean, but really old and run-down. The best part about it was that it was next to a bar that had a decent happy hour. That’s all I’m going to say about that hotel.
On a side note, the next time we visit I want to check out Camp High Sierra off Lake Mary Road. They have tent sites and bare-bones cabins for a decent price. The only negative thing I’ve read about the cabins is that they are arranged in a circle and not very private. There’s also decent camping at Twin Lakes, but I’ve read the camp host is really grumpy. I think I can deal with a grumpy camp host if the sites are secluded.
We spent the late afternoons in the newer village. It wasn’t very busy and we found a great restaurant with $2 draught beers and good food at the Lakanuki Tiki Bar. Its Yelp reviews aren’t very good, but we didn’t have any trouble with the service at all.
All in all, Mammoth Lakes was just beautiful. I’m looking forward to visiting again and exploring the lakes a bit more and biking the bike path.
On a side note, Casey saw a bear the last night of our trip right outside our hotel. It was just meandering through the village looking for some grub. (I’m so glad I missed it!)
And if anyone’s been to June Lake, I’d love to hear about it! I noticed it wasn’t very far from Mammoth.