Our family just returned from vacationing in Mammoth, California. Although I’ve skiied Mammoth and camped in the area over the years, I haven’t really spent much time in Mammoth during the summer. What a beautiful place … truly God’s country. And, it’s a haven for those that love outdoor sports like hiking, biking and fishing.
We rented a home that we found on VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner). We vacationed with another family and had 5 teenagers and 4 adults total … so it was nice to find a home that had a large game room for the teenagers to “hang”.
Friends of ours that have a place in Mammoth recommended that we drive up to Mammoth Lakes Basin on our first day — to get familiar with the area. The first lakes you see are Twin Lakes. Lake Mary is the next lake, the largest in the area. When you get to Lake Mamie, there is a great view point on the right, looking down over the Twin Lakes. Horseshoe Lake is the last lake, reachable by road. It’s the only lake in the basin area that permits swimming.
If you’re in Mammoth for 3 to 5 days, here is my list of some favorite summertime activities.
Top things to do in Mammoth during the summer:
1) Hike Little Lakes Valley trail in Rock Creek. This is one of my most favorite hikes of all-time. It’s about the most picturesque hike you’ll ever take!
To get to Rock Creek from Mammoth, you head South on 395 and take the Rock Creek exit at Tom’s Place. It’s about 25 minutes from downtown Mammoth. Rock Creek has many great campsites, places to fish and of course, many hiking trails.
The Trailhead is located at the end of Rock Creek Road. Mosquito flat starts at an elevation of 10,300 feet. The Little Lakes Valley trail is very easy and skirts the largest lakes in the basin, including Mack, Marsh, Heart, Box, Long and Chicken Foot lakes.
The trail stays fairly close to Rock Creek. There are many great spots for photo ops along the way.
We hiked to the end of Long Lake and then turned around.
2) Eat homemade pie at “Pie in the Sky” after hiking in Rock Creek. In the summer, they usually run out of pie by 1 or 2 pm. So … hike early then go eat. (They have great burgers, too.)
3) Ride mountain bikes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin area or Mammoth Mountain Bike Park. Since most of our group hadn’t ridden in a while, we rented bikes at The Village. You can take the free trolley (with bike trailer attached) up to Horseshoe Lake. From there, the trail around Horseshoe is easy and pretty. You can ride around the other lakes and when you’re ready to head back to town, there is a paved bike path through the trees. You mostly coast down the path — which is a blast!
For the more serious rider, Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is the place to go. There are trails for the serious down hillers and trails for all abilities. You can get daily passes for access to the trails, gondola and shuttles. Prices are between $15 – $45 daily.
4) Picnic in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. There are rocks and logs along the shores of most of the lakes – which make for great spots for picnics. We parked on the road at Mamie Lake and hiked in several hundred yards and had a great picnic on rocks overlooking the lake.
5) Take a day trip to June Lake. This is great on a hot day when you’d like to find a place to play in the water.
- Splash around in Rush Creek. If the water levels are high, float down the creek in tubes.
- Swing on the Rope Swing (into the water) at Gull Lake.
- Eat lunch at the Silver Lake Cafe (closes at 2 pm). Great burgers & sandwiches!
6) Hike to Crystal Lake. It’s a moderate hike with some of the most amazing views. You climb 900 feet in elevation with quite a few switchbacks. The trail head starts from the Lake George parking lot.
The hike is well worth it! It’s one of the lesser traveled trails in summer in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
7) Eat lunch or dinner at Toomey’s — located in The Village. The food’s just as great as Matt’s food was at the Mobil Mart (Lee Vining). There’s not much seating, so make a reservation for dinner. Check out the menu here. Beware … they serve large portions — even the appetizers make a meal by themselves!
8) Eat homemade ice cream at Looney Bean Coffee & Roasting Co (corner of Main Street & Old Mammoth Road). During the summer, they have 6 to 8 different flavors daily. So creamy & delicious! Our groups’ favorite flavors were Peaches n Cream, Blueberry and Mud Pie. Their coffee and tea is great as well.
If you’re in Mammoth for a longer stay, there are some great day trips:
- Drive into Yosemite via Tioga Pass. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Mammoth Lakes.
- Take the shuttle bus to Devil’s Postpile & Rainbow Falls. Due to the crowds in summer, the shuttle bus is the only way to visit this area.
- Drive down to Bishop and float on the Owens River.
- Visit the Hot Creek Fish Hatchery (off the 395 at the Mammoth Airport exit). It’s a very interesting self-guided tour of one of the largest trout producers (the fish are then stocked in the nearby lakes). This is a short trip and can easily be added on your way home from Mammoth.