8 Places for Winter Hiking in Mammoth Lakes
Feb 17, 2022
When you think about hiking, T-shirts and sunscreen may come to mind. But with a few extra layers, hiking becomes the perfect year-round activity.
Even in the winter wonderland of Mammoth Lakes, there are plenty of hikes for the non-skier in your group or for everyone to enjoy on a nice day. Trails are open year-round for hiking, but conditions vary greatly during the winter. When snow is on the ground you may need snowshoes for all or part of the hike. For current conditions, check MammothTrails.org or go by the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center.
Winter Hiking in Mammoth Lakes
Sherwin Creek Area
From Old Mammoth Road, turn onto Sherwin Creek Road and keep your eyes peeled for the Sherwins Trailhead parking area—a popular starting point for many backcountry snow adventures. This trailhead gets great sun year-round and in most winters can be hiked by foot, no snowshoes required. From this trailhead, hop on the 1.6-mile (one-way) Meadow Trail Connector that winds through the meadow and up a hill for a great view of Mammoth Mountain and the Sherwin mountains.
After heavy snow storms, Sherwin Creek Road closes past the turn for the Sherwins Trailhead. If the gate is still open, drive a bit farther down to find the Mammoth Rock Trail parking turnout (2.6 miles end-to-end). This trail offers stunning views the higher you hike, and the beginning section of the trail is likely passable or even snow-free in the winter.
Formed by steam-blast eruptions hundreds of years ago, the Inyo Craters are a geological phenomenon not to be missed. While the dirt road to the craters is impassable to cars during most of the winter, this road can be easily hiked or snowshoed depending on the conditions. It’s about 1.5 miles to the craters and relatively flat. Stay alert if the trail is snow-covered as this is a popular snowmobiling area. If the dirt road is open to cars, the loop trail to the craters is less than one mile round-trip.
Early in the season or in low-snow years, Panorama Dome is a steep but short hike that yields amazing views of Mammoth Lakes. Park at the road closure on Lake Mary Road by Twin Lakes. Stay on the left side of Lake Mary Road—the right side is groomed for cross country skiers—and keep an eye out for the Panorama Dome trail sign. From the trailhead, it’s just a third of a
mile to the top of the dome. Don’t forget to pack some snacks as you’ll want to sit and enjoy the view from the top.
Mammoth Lakes Town Loop
Locals and visitors alike love this paved path around town. The whole loop is just over 7 miles, but we recommend starting from Mammoth Creek Park. Head out through the tunnel under Old Mammoth Road and continue for a mile to the lookout point for amazing views of Mammoth Mountain. If you want a longer walk, take the dirt trail downhill just before the lookout point and continue toward Mammoth Creek for as long as you want.
Winter Hiking Just Outside of Mammoth Lakes
Hot Creek Geological Site
Hot Creek is a fishing and sightseeing hotspot in the summer, but it’s even more amazing in the winter. In big snowfall years, the road closes to cars but can be snowshoed or cross country skied. The magical turquoise pools can be viewed from the top of the canyon or, if conditions allow, you can hike down to and along the river before turning back.
Convict Lake Loop
The three-mile loop circling Convict Lake is scenic from the first step. If there’s snow on the trail, start on the trail to the right as you arrive at the lake and make it an out-and-back hike. Snow also melts off the paved trail to the left pretty quickly on a sunny day, so you can turn your Convict Lake adventure into two mini-hikes.
Lower Rock Creek Trail
This popular mountain biking destination is much quieter in winter and delivers a perfectly serene hike. The hike winds through Aspen groves and along Lower Rock Creek and can be made as long or short as you want. To get there, take U.S. 395 south from Mammoth Lakes to Old Sherwin Grade Road. Park in the first turnout you see to access the Upper Trailhead.
The trails from Obsidian Dome are groomed periodically by the U.S. Forest Service for winter recreation making it an accessible hiking spot—just be sure to stay to the side of the groomed trail so you don’t hurt the tracks. You can make a variety of loops on the trails at Obsidian Dome, all of which are clearly marked with cross country skiing diamond signs on the trees.
Tips for Winter Hiking in Mammoth Lakes
If your Mammoth Lakes visit coincides with a snowstorm, don’t worry—you can rent snowshoes from Black Tie Ski Rentals, Footloose Sports, Kittredge Sports, Get Outdoors 365 or Mammoth Mountaineering Supply and check out any of these trails even with snow on the ground.
If it’s a light snow year or early in the season, any of the above hikes can be enjoyed without much preparation. As when hiking in any season, bring water, sunscreen and plenty of layers for changes in weather.