5 Reasons to Stay a Few Extra Days around Gran Fondo

Aug 29, 2022

After months of training for the Mammoth Gran Fondo (plus the 100-mile bike ride at altitude), you’ve surely earned a few extra days of vacation to relax and actively recover. With warm days, cool nights, and fall colors beginning to change, September is an ideal time to kick back and enjoy the quiet season in Mammoth Lakes. 

Take a Scenic Gondola Ride 

After the Gran Fondo your legs might need a rest, but you can still climb plenty of elevation without doing any work. Ride the scenic Panorama Gondola from Main Lodge to the top of Mammoth Mountain. From the 11,053-foot summit you’ll see unobstructed views of the Minarets, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak. Watch mountain bikers ride the downhill trails, and learn about local geology at the interpretive center. Take a photo at the iconic Mammoth sign at the top and ride the gondola back down. If you are feeling rested and up for a mellow adventure, hike the three-mile downhill Mammoth Mountain Trail back to Main Lodge. 

Visit Rainbow Falls and Devils Postpile 

See the San Joaquin River plunge more than 100 feet and create a stunning rainbow at Rainbow Falls and explore the 60-foot tall Devils Postpile basalt columns that were formed when cooling lava cracked 100,000 years ago. Pack a backpack for the day with lunch, water, and snacks. At this time of year, the shuttle has stopped operating so you will need to drive your own vehicle down into the Reds Meadow Valley to the ranger’s station at Devils Postpile National Monument. Hike a quarter mile to see the Postpile, then continue heading south on the Rainbow Falls Trail following the San Joaquin River to the Rainbow Falls viewing platform. Take the stairs down to see the waterfall up close before hiking back to your vehicle. Please note, the road to Reds Meadow Valley will be closed for the 2023 season, so this fall is a unique opportunity to see this area.

Ride Mammoth Rock Trail 

Bring your mountain bike or rent one, because once the Gran Fondo is finished, you’ll want to explore some of the classic single-track trails in Mammoth Lakes. Named for the ionic limestone monolith, the Mammoth Rock Trail is a multi-use intermediate trail that is a favorite for its rolling terrain, winding curves, and technical rock sections. The trail starts from the top of Old Mammoth Road and descends 2.5-miles to Sherwin Creek Road. Have a car shuttle waiting at the bottom trailhead, ride back up trail for a 5-mile round trip ride, or take Old Mammoth Road back up for a 6-mile loop. 

Pedal the Lakes Basin Path 

The Lakes Basin Path is the quintessential paved bike trail in Mammoth Lakes. It’s a great route to go for a scenic ride. This relatively easy 10-15 mile road bike ride climbs and descends more than 1,000 feet, but compared to the Gran Fondo it will feel like a warm-up. Head out from The Village at Mammoth and pick up the trail on the south side of Lake Mary Road where the path begins to climb immediately. Take a breather at the vantage point overlooking the town with views of the Mammoth Rock and the Sherwin Ridge. Continue on to the Lakes Basin where the path winds past Twin Lakes and starts to climb again to Lake Mary. From there the path rolls along past Lake Mamie to the end at Horseshoe Lake. Return the same way for a fun descent or add on a few miles and ride the loop around Lake Mary and the short, but steep climb to Lake George. 

Go Fishing on the Owens River

You pedaled along the Owens River in the final miles of the Gran Fondo, now take some time to make a few casts in the river. With expansive views of Mammoth Mountain and the surrounding mountains, the Owens is not only a top fishing destination, but it’s also one of the best spots for landscape photography. The Owens River is the main watershed in the Eastern Sierra with tributaries starting from the snowcapped mountains and alpine lakes in the high country. The bends, riffles and pools make it an ideal trout habitat and a great place to hook a fish on your fly rod. Match the hatch and you’re likely to catch a brown or rainbow trout. Big Crowley Lake trout swim upstream to the Owens River in the fall, maybe you’ll catch that big one after your long ride. (Hire a guide to increase your chances.)

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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