Backpacking Near Mammoth Lakes for Beginners

Oct 20, 2020

Mammoth Lakes is ideally situated with the miles of hiking trails in our backyard. In a day of hiking you can reach the John Muir Wilderness, Ansel Adams Wilderness, and Yosemite National Park. While day hiking is one of the most popular recreational activities in the region if you decide to go backpacking instead, you’ll get to experience nature overnight and get deeper into the wilderness.

Backpacking is a combination of hiking and camping. You are basically hiking your overnight gear into a wilderness location and spending a night or two camping in the great outdoors. Before you trek out on a backpacking trip for a night or a few there are a few things to know about backpacking in Mammoth Lakes.

Get in Shape

You will need to be able to hike a moderate distance while carrying all of your overnight gear on your back, which might be harder than it sounds. If you want your backpacking trip to be an enjoyable experience, you will want to prepare your body.

You will need to be able to hike on a trail comfortably. If you have hiking trails where you live get out for an hour or two every weekend for a few weeks, at least, before your big trip. Remember you will most likely be climbing a lot more in Mammoth Lakes and you’ll be hiking at altitude.

You will also want to get your legs and back ready to carry the extra weight. A good way to practice is by packing your backpack with all of your supplies minus food. This is also a great opportunity to break in your backpack and hiking boots. Carrying a medium weight pack will ease your body into carry the weight. Adding a few extra liters of water each week to increase the weight will prepare you for the demands of backpacking.

What to Pack

There is a lot of specialty equipment required to go backpacking and the lighter weight equipment sure is nice. Some of the outdoor retailers in Mammoth rent equipment, so you don’t necessarily have to empty your savings account to go backpacking. Remember that everything you take must fit in your backpack, so smaller, lighter, and packable equipment is best. Here are the basics that you’ll need to go backpacking:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Water bottle and purification system
  • Headlamp
  • Lightweight clothing
  • Warm layers
  • First aid kit
  • Map
  • Bug repellant
  • Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses

Before You Go

You’ll need to get an overnight wilderness permit from the US Forest Service before you go. Most trails have quotas, so be sure to have a backup plan if your preferred trailhead is not available.

Do your due diligence to learn about area regulations including where you are allowed to camp, how to bury human waste, bear canister regulations, and fire restrictions. And as always, minimize your impact on the wilderness and be sure to leave no trace

Where to Go

The backpacking destinations are nearly endless in the Sierra Nevada and Mammoth Lakes has fantastic options for backpackers of all abilities. From short overnight trips, to longer base camps, and multi-night through hikes there truly is something for everyone.

Thousand Island Lake, accessible via High Trail, which begins ing is one of the most popular overnight destinations in the Mammoth Lakes region. The lake can be reached from a number of trails and offers breathtaking alpine scenery. Barney and Duck Lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin are also a favorite backpacking trip with a shorter approach along Duck Pass Trail.

If you have a car shuttle, consider hiking from one trailhead and ending at another. Rock Creek to Mammoth Lakes is a great multi-night option as is Mammoth Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows.

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 and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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