The best things to do in Mammoth this summer: bike, hike and camp

Twin Falls rumbled and there was talk of salmon near its base. Those were all the excuses Randy Mayer needed.

Mayer puts on her Dodgers hat, gathers her sons West and Van, paragliders over Upper Twin Lakes, and kicks off a little Mammoth Lakes family adventure.

“It’s best here in the summer,” says Mayer, who splits her time between Los Angeles and Mammoth. “Most people don’t know that. You can walk to another lake every day. ”

Winter is what made Mammoth so popular, and it still makes Mammoth Mountain Resort a big buck, thanks to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come from LA on snowboards and snowboards. But summer actually brings more visitors to this part of Mono County – hikers, anglers, birders, mountain bikers, and sports families like the Mayers.

The pandemic has underscored that fact. As this summer begins, thousands of Southern California families will come or return here to play on the Sierra slopes, forests, and lakes that surround the town of Mammoth Lakes (population: about 7,300 people) and the resort. Mammoth Mountain next door. Although fishing was the area’s main summer activity for decades (and still is an option now), many people never had access to it.

Besides hotels and motels, the Mammoth area includes a large number of vacation rentals (mostly apartments), along with thousands of nearby places to camp RVs and tents during the warmer months.

To get there from Southern California, you’ll likely drive up US Route 395, whose small towns and mountain views make this a quintessential California road trip. It’s not a quick drive – about 310 miles from LA City Hall to Mammoth via 395 – but the sections are breathtaking.

Here are six summer adventure ideas within 50 miles of Mammoth Lakes.

Cycling and hiking on Mammoth . Mountain

Elevators bring mountain bikers and cyclists to the top.

Lifts take mountain bikers and cyclists to the top of Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, which offers world-class cross-country and downhill cycling.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Start with Mammoth Mountain, about five miles west of town on Minaret Road. Founder Dave McCoy (1915-2020) built it in the 1940s as a skiers-only place. Today when the snow subsides (skiing ends on June 5 of this year), mountain bikers take the chair lifts. About 80 miles of single trails cover the park’s slopes, taking routes other than ski runs. (We recommend wearing a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves and eye protection.)

By the time I reached the mountain in late June, caravans of cyclists, including many families, were darting through the trees and down the trails from Seat 11. Sightseeing people lined up. for the Panorama Gondola, which runs to the 1,053-foot summit. (where Eleven53 Cafe serves lunch). Two more chair ladders and gondolas are scheduled to open to cyclists on July 1.

The resort’s Adventure Center (right across from Minaret Road from the motel) serves as a payment hub for booking activities, including (for kids) a neighboring ropes course, climbing wall, zip-line and bungee trampoline. Up the mountain, there are six ferrata-guided climbing routes (steel cables, iron steps, suspension bridges) waiting for adventurers 12 years and older.

Young people riding mountain bikes near Mammoth Mountain resorts.

Young people riding mountain bikes near Mammoth Mountain resorts.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Hiking also takes place on Mammoth Mountain – including, if you like it, a strenuous five-mile trail to the summit.

Near the Adventure Center is Yodler, a Bavarian-themed eatery that has been adjacent to the lodge since 1959, offering drinks and ski snacks. I fear this is going to be an overkill situation, especially when I see the $2 beer being offered to Bicycle Park ticket holders. But my lunch there – Black Forest ham sandwich with salad for $17 – was delicious and plentiful. Looking for a more ambitious menu? Think Toomey’s, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner; or the Lakefront Restaurant, a longtime dinner-only destination with fine dining.

Floating the lake basin

Kayaking through Twin Lakes with views of Twin Lakes Falls falling from Lake Mamie.

Kayaking through Twin Lakes with views of Twin Lakes Falls falling from Lake Mamie.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

If you haven’t taken the Lake Mary route south out of town, you may not understand why this place is called Mammoth Lake.

The first body of water you reach is Twin Lakes, where you’ll find a campground, general store, and yurt containing Tamarack Bike & Paddle. Tamarack Lodge and its three dozen cabins are also located near the water’s edge.

Upper Twin Lake, where I caught the Mayers launching their boats, is powered by Twin Falls (aka Mammoth Creek). And at the top of the Twin Falls – where I spent an enjoyable time climbing the rocks, admiring the white water from various angles – you find Lake Mamie.

Tourists fishing at Mamie Lake.

Tourists fish at Mamie Lake in Mammoth Lakes.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

From there, the waterworks continue: Lake Mamie, Lake Mary, Horseshoe Lake, and Lake George, with assorted campsites, marinas, general stores, motels, and trails nearby. The Lakes Basin Road, a 5.3-mile paved route that connects Twin Lakes, Lake Mamie, and Horseshoe Lake, is a favorite, for hikers and cyclists alike.

To get to the catchment area from the village or just explore the watershed, find a parking spot for the day, then take the Mammoth Lakes Basin Tram, a free service that runs from 9am to 6pm daily days but only in summer. (There are entertainers on board on weekends.)

Explore the Devil’s Postpile National Monument

Water falls over Rainbow Falls National Monument near Red's Meadow.

Water falls over Rainbow Falls National Monument near Red’s Meadow.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The basalt columns on basalt at Devil’s Postpile National Monument are only about 10 miles from Mammoth Mountain. The surrounding area forms an enjoyable hike when you catch the $15 shuttle bus to the Red’s Meadow area from Mammoth Lakes or Mammoth Mountain. Alternatively, Rainbow Falls (101 feet high) is just 2.4 kilometers from the Devil’s Postpile rock formation. For a 3.4-mile hike you can do both, then continue to Red’s Meadow Resort and catch the shuttle bus back to Mammoth.

Mellow on the lake in June

Lake June is about 20 miles from Mammoth and is a favorite for fishing, falling foliage, sleepy scenery (and in winter, a small, kid-friendly ski mountain). Even if you don’t have time to stop, the June Lakes Loop (aka Highway 158, closed for the winter) takes you past June’s Gull and Silver lakes before rejoining 395. If you have the time, Silver Lake Resort’s Silver Lake Cafe is open daily (7am-2pm; three-way omelette), so does the general store (7am-7pm). Additionally, there are two campgrounds, including Oh Ridge (its views might explain the name) on the east shore of the lake.

The High Country of Roam Yosemite National Park

In the summer months when it’s open, State Route 120 leads to great things. It runs from 395 westwards across Tioga Pass, allowing motorists to take in the highlands of Yosemite – a beautiful territory without seeing nearly the crowds that can clog Yosemite Valley. (In winter, the snow closes and bury the Tioga Pass.)

First, make sure you’ve booked an overnight or day trip to the national park – that’s a requirement (to limit crowds) through September 30th. Then hit road 120 back. West at Lee Vining (overlooking Mono Lake) and you can reach the park’s vast, verdant Tuolumne Meadow (21 miles) in about half an hour. Lake Tenaya (picnic, swimming, boating) is another seven miles to the west and the panoramic Olmsted Point is two to three miles away.

Some notes: If you’re going to Yosemite Valley from Lee Vining, it’ll take about two hours (75 miles on the mountain road). In addition, Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds will be closed until 2024 or 2025 to undergo an infrastructure overhaul. And the road to Glacier Point (and its sweeping views of Half Dome and the valley) is closed throughout the year for repairs.

Eat, sleep and shop in Bishop

Customers shop at Erick Schat's Bakkery in Bishop.

Customers shop at Erick Schat’s Bakkery in Bishop.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

If you’re driving from Southern California to Mammoth, the highlands of Yosemite, or Lake Tahoe, chances are you’ll stop at Bishop, have a meal, or sleep a night. To take in the long history of hungry passersby, step into Erick Schat’s Bakkery, long known for its bread, sweets and family-friendly feel. You won’t be able to miss Schat’s two-story building at 763 N. Main Street (although the family empire now also includes a roadside house and wine cellar within a few blocks, you’ll find plenty of them. Schats around town).

For lunchtime dinner, check out Holy Smoke Texas Style BBQ (772 N. Main St.), which features tender, fragrant pork and brisket and tops the town’s gourmet charts. For something more beer-focused, head to Mountain Rambler Brewery (186 S. Main).

Creekside Inn (725 N. Main St.) has 87 rooms, 39 of which face the hotel’s smart landscape along Bishop Creek (including several fire pits). The rooms are spacious and comfortable, the walls are covered with vibrant Sierra images by Bishop’s late photographer Galen Rowell, and the overall design of the hotel is always Western, never outdated now.

If you have time to shop, a strong choice is Toggery (115 N. Main St., for hats, jeans, boots, blankets, Breyer horses and other accessories), dating from 1922. Another option is Spellbinder Books (124 S. Main St. for a thoughtful, wide selection of books and gifts, including many volumes on local history).

One more tip 395, by the way: it’s a long, straight route, with a 70 mph limit for most of the distance. But if you don’t follow the 25 to 35 mph speed limits as you pass through Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine, and Bishop, chances are there will be a CHP officer ready to stop you for speeding. degree.

But please wait a little longer

There is no way to be comprehensive here. Within 50 miles of Mammoth, the Sierra and Owens Valley offer dozens more attractions and surprises. Exotic tufa towers and migratory birds at Mono Lake. Cabins, marina and fishing at Convict Lake Resort (owners recently took over nearby McGee Creek Lodge). Bodie ghost town. The Tragic History of Manzanar National Historic Site. The rustic saunas of Travertine Hot Springs near Bridgeport. The best things to do in Mammoth this summer: bike, hike and camp

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