The Eastern Sierra region in California is full of beautiful landscape. These are the Things to Do Near Mammoth Lakes during your summer vacation.
Summer is the season of family vacations, water, hiking adventure, camping and barbecues.
Last month we traveled to California’s Eastern Sierras – hiked several trails and visited some amazing lakes.
We stayed in Mammoth Lakes, a town known for beautiful mountains, trails, lakes and snow!
In fact, Mammoth Mountain has longest ski season in North America and is the official training home of the US Olympics Snowboarders.
On your next summer vacation, here are things to do near Mammoth Lakes.
Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes this Summer
A salt water lake located just miles from Mammoth Lakes, it is three times saltier than the Pacific and contains no fish. However, there is a healthy brine shrimp population and it’s home to many birds including the Ospreys, which make their nests on top of the Tufas – limestone towers which form in Mono Lake.
Tufas are really interesting because they are formed underwater and the towers that we see today were underwater at some point in history.
A very nice area to access Mono Lake and see the Tufas is South Tufa. The road goes into a parking lot and from there it’s about one mile loop that takes you to the lake shore and back.
June Lake is like a mountain beach. Located 20 miles from Mammoth Lakes, it’s easily accessible by car and resembles a caribbean beach with clear blue waters. If it wasn’t for the mountains surrounding it and the cooler water temperature, you could easily think you are in a tropical beach.
June lake was our favorite because you can just drive right to the lake, sit a couple chairs by the water and watch the day go by.
Many people swim, paddle board and kayak on June Lake. You can also take a boat out in the deeper section.
There is a campground nearby and a convenient store to buy drinks and snacks if you need anything while at the lake.
Kayak and paddle board rental is also available right on the lake.
June lake is part of a loop of three lakes (Silver Lake and Grant Lake) and by far the most popular and most beautiful of the three in my opinion, but if you want a more secluded location to fish, boat or camp, the other two lakes are probably a better bet.
Restroom facilities are available on the parking lot.
Mcleod Lake is located in the Mammoth Lakes basin and requires a small hike to get to it. It’s about .75 miles from the parking lot (Horseshoe Lake) and most of it is uphill, but with an easy grade, which makes this lake and hike a beginner trail.
You can reach it by taking the free trolley from town.
We visited in July and the trail was mostly clear with a section near the top in which snow was 4 feet high. Thankfully a path through it had been shoveled by someone, so that we could get through.
If you visit earlier in the year, then I would advise snow boots and spikes even if it’s warm outside.
The lake itself is absolutely breathtaking! Take at least half an hour at the top to take it all in.
You can hike around the lake as well and even play at the packed snow. Because there was quite a bit of it at the other side of the lake, the wind felt a little chilly, but not too bad as the sun was out. Pack a long sleeve layer if you are hiking in a cloudy or windy day.
Horseshoe lake is the lake from which you begin the hike to Mcleod Lake. If you want to enjoy all the benefits of being on a lake without the effort of hiking, this is your spot.
Lots of people sunbathe, barbecue and picnic here, so expect a little more action at this beach.
Restroom facilities are available at the parking lot.
If you are coming to Mammoth Lakes Basin, you will pass Lake Mary and notice two docks and a convenience store.
It’s the largest lake in the basin and easily seen from the road. There are campgrounds all around this area, so you are camping or rving, this is a gorgeous area to stay.
You can rent boats at Lake Mary and lots of people fish here.
Twin Falls and Twin Lakes
Also located in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, these lakes and waterfall can be seen from below or from above and are stunning from whatever angle you choose to see it.
Convict Lake is only a few miles from the town of Mammoth Lakes and easily accessible by car.
Right off the parking lot there are picnic and viewing areas.
If you want more of a challenge, hike around it (2.5 miles loop). The terrain is considered beginner, however it does go up and down quite a bit, so if you are not used to hiking in altitude or have mobility issues, this can be a little challenging. There are also a couple streams you need to cross, so hiking poles and water shoes are advisable.
Yosemite National Park
Only forty five minutes from Mammoth Lakes in the summer (check for road closures), this is one of the most popular parks in the United States.
A mecca for rock climbers, wildlife and adventure enthusiasts, Yosemite National Park is a must visit during the summer from Mammoth Lakes.
We visited the Yosemite Valley for a day, but to truly get a sense of the park, a multi-day visit is a must. Tuolumne Meadows is one area that can be easily reached from the West Entrance and it’s gorgeous.
Devils Postpile National Monument
An interesting rock formation made of basalt columns, this is an easy hike one mile hike with minimal elevation change.
To get to Devils Postpile trailhead, you are required to take a shuttle ride (stop 6) from Mammoth Mountain (adventure center). It costs U$8 per person and kids under 3 years old ride free.
From Devils Postpile you can take a small hike to the top of the columns to see how they are formed together or head over to Rainbow Falls on a longer hike.
You can also take the shuttle down to Rainbow Falls’ trailhead.
You can start the hike to Rainbow Falls from shuttle stop 9 or 10. The shuttle only goes one way, so if you want to visit Devils Postpile you must do that first.
The trail to Rainbow Falls is about 2 miles roundtrip and considered beginner. However, it does have a couple points in which you might need to climb steep steps or rocks.
For the rest of the hike, the trail is wide, exposed and sandy, so wearing proper clothing, sunscreen and footwear are a must.
Once you reach Rainbow Falls, you can view it from the top or hike down to the bottom.
Hot Creek Geological Site
As the name says it, Hot Creek is a stream in which water is hot – a geology lesson on how magma heats up water and how it surfaces through hundreds of years.
This stream is also easily accessible and open from sunrise to sunset. There are a few camping spots around the area as well as a fishery.
Due to the unstable temperature of the creek, it’s forbidden to enter the water, however, there were several people bathing downstream.
Other Things to Do in and around Mammoth Lakes
The Village is also a great place to spend an afternoon and offers events during the summer.
There are several businesses and restaurants in this part of town and even a distillery.
Bodie Ghost Mining Town
A former gold-mining town that sits at the border with Nevada, Bodie has several original buildings, a museum and displays on how gold was mined. For history lovers, it is worth the visit.
Known to have some of the best sunsets in Mammoth Lakes.
Mountain Biking Trails
Besides offering exceptional conditions for winter sports, Mammoth Lakes offers one the number one mountain bike park in the United States with over 80 miles single track trails!
And even better, you can take the free trolley, which has a bike rack, to your trail.
Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center
This summer center includes a rock- climbing wall, bungee jumping, a mining rail and an obstacle course for the kids.
You can buy tickets in the Adventure Center building and while the kids are having fun, you can have a drink and watch from the lawn.
Wild Willy Hot Spring
An Instagram hotspot, this hot spring pool is popular with locals and visitors alike.
Twin Lakes Hike
A moderate 6 miles hike with amazing scenery. If you are looking for a more challenging outing, this is the place to go.
McGee Creek Canyon Hike
Another moderate 7-mile hike with an elevation of more than 1,200ft, this hike is particularly popular in mid-July when the wild flowers are in full bloom.
These are only a few of the places you need to visit near Mammoth Lakes! This area is so beautiful and abundant on things to see and do that 10 days were not enough to explore it like I wanted to. I will definitely have to plan another trip, maybe in the fall to see the color changes in the mountains. I bet that is also breathtaking!
Have you been to Mammoth Lakes? What was your favorite place?
For more things to do in California, check out these travel guides:
- Things to Do in Downtown LA
- Malibu Travel Guide
- Where to Whale Watch in Southern California
- Yosemite Valley National Park Travel Guide
- A Day Guide to Joshua Tree National Park