3 Perfect Days of Hiking in Mammoth Lakes

Oct 20, 2020

Mammoth Lakes is an outdoor paradise like no other—the rugged natural beauty of our backyard makes it an ideal hiking destination. With an extensive system of trails in Mammoth, you won’t need to go far to find a trailhead, but there are also exceptional destinations to the north and south, so you’ll never have to hike the same trail twice, unless, of course, you love it that much.

Before you head out on your hiking adventure, check out this list of hiking essentials and make sure you have everything you’ll need for three perfect days of hiking in Mammoth.

Day 1: Hiking in the Mammoth Lakes Basin

The first day of your hiking adventure you should stay close to town and visit the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Swing by Stellar Brew on Main Street and pick up a sandwich, before you hit the trail. You’ll be happy to find a fresh baked cookie in your lunch bag after hiking for half a day.

If you are hiking with a dog, the Horseshoe Lake Trail is a favorite spot among the four-legged pals. The 1.8-mile loop circles the lake along the shore and through the forest and the sandy shore is perfect for a picnic. It’s a relatively easy hike for your first day at altitude and Fido will most likely make new friends.

For a longer hike to alpine lakes, take the Duck Pass Trail. It’s a favorite among locals and one of the most popular hikes in the region. You’ll hike passed Arrowhead, Skeleton, and Barney, on the way up to the viewpoint above Duck Lake. This hike is not short on elevation or views. Plan a full day for a 10-mile round trip.

Heart Lake is another great option in the Lakes Basin and is an off-the-beaten-path hiking destination. The 2.25-mile round trip leads hikers through aspens groves to the heart-shaped lake tucked beneath the west side of Sherwin Ridge. After a great first day of hiking, stop by the Village for an ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s—you’ve earned it.

Day 2: Rock Creek Hiking Trip

You don’t have to go far to get to a trailhead in the Sierra Nevada, but it is worth the 30-minute drive to Mosquito Flat trailhead in Rock Creek Canyon. Stop by the Eastside Bake Shop on Crowley Lake Drive on your way to the trailhead for a coffee and fresh baked goods (and maybe a snack for later, too).

If it is your first-time hiking at Rock creek, you’ll want to take the Little Lakes Valley Trail up the canyon for spectacular views of tall peaks and alpine lakes. The hike is one of the most popular in the Sierra Nevada for a reason the scenery is just that beautiful. Take the trail all the way to Gem Lake for a 7-mile round trip, or turn-around at any point for your desired length.

Even though the Mosquito Flat trailhead is the most popular, there are other hikes in Rock Creek Canyon. If you prefer the trail less traveled, Tamarack Lakes are a fantastic destination from the Rock Creek Lake Trailhead. It’s an 11-mile round trip hike, but you can adjust the length to make it shorter by turning around at Francis or Kenneth Lake.

No matter which trailhead you hike from in Rock Creek Canyon, you are guaranteed beautiful scenery, but the best part is waiting for you at Rock Creek Resort’s Pie in the Sky Cafe. The fresh homemade pies are even more delicious after a long hike.

Day 3: Reds Meadow and Devils Postpile

A trip to Mammoth is not complete without a trip to the other side of the mountain. The Reds Meadow Valley is a portal into the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness. Hop on the Reds Meadow shuttle at Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge and enjoy the ride into the valley.

Devils Postpile to Rainbow Falls is the quintessential Reds Meadow hike. The 5-mile route starts at the Devils Postpile Ranger Station, follows the San Joaquin River past the monument to Rainbow Falls, and returns to Reds Meadow Resort.

The basalt columns at the monument are fascinating and the rainbow in the waterfall’s mist is spectacular, but if you’ve seen these stunning sights before, you might want to head out into the wilderness for a longer day hike. Minaret Lake is a 14-mile round trip that takes you to the alpine lake, which sits at the base of the Minarets.

Whichever hike you choose, a root beer float and cheeseburger will be waiting for you at Reds Meadow Resort’s Mule House Café.  

More Mammoth Hiking Resources:

How to Leave No Trace

Your Ultimate Guide to Packing for a Day Hike

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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