Bucket List Guide to Mountain Biking near Mammoth Lakes

In the mid 1980s and 90s, the most daring mountain bikers made the journey to Mammoth Lakes to ride the fastest downhill mountain bike race in the world—the Mammoth Kamikaze. The event was the brainchild of Mammoth Mountain VP, Bill Cockroft and the region has been considered a world-class mountain biking destination ever since. With endless mountain roads and more than 80-miles of single track on Mammoth Mountain, the region is home to some of the best mountain biking in the country. From downhill trails to cross-country and beginner routes, there is something for riders of all abilities. These are your bucket list mountain bike trails in and around Mammoth Lakes.

Mammoth Lakes Public Access Trails

Mammoth Rock Trail 2.6 miles Mammoth Rock Trail is a fun downhill singletrack that traverses the Sherwin Ridge beneath Mammoth’s iconic limestone monolith. The intermediate trail can be traveled in either direction. Ride up and down for a 5-mile round trip or hop on at the top. This trail is also very popular for trail running, leisurely hiking, dog walking, and occasionally horseback riding. Be sure to use caution, and yield to others.

Panorama Dome Trail 1 mile – Even though it’s short, the Panorama Dome Trail is some of the best singletrack in the region. The trail winds its way through a dense lodgepole forest and loops around the Panorama Dome. With banked turns and good firm dirt, its fun for a few laps or used as connector trail between the Mammoth Lakes basin and Mammoth Rock Trail.

Mountain View Trail 5.3 miles – From the top of the Minaret Vista, the Mountain View Trail descends through a microclimate forest lined with wildflowers. The winding trail is fun, and connects with fire roads for fast descents and one climb in the middle of the descent that ends at the Earthquake Fault Picnic area. Be sure to pay attention to yellow mountain bike trail signs as it’s easy to get off route at junctions. For more downhill connect with the public section of Downtown.

Horseshoe Lake Loop 1.7 miles – The loop trail around Horseshoe Lake is easily the best beginner mountain bike trail in the area. The loop is mostly flat with a few dips and climbs, and offers great dirt on wide trails. The trail lake is popular for off-leash dog play, so it’s also good place to ride with Fido. You can also start a longer downhill ride here connecting with the Lakes Basin Path, Panorama Dome Trail, and Mammoth Rock Trail.

Inyo Craters Loop 10.5 – A fun and easy cross-country mountain bike ride, the Inyo Craters Loop travels around Deer Mountain and through large groves of Jeffrey pine trees. The spectacular views of the San Joaquin Ridge make up for the pumice. You will cross many fire road and trail junctions, but keep looking for the yellow mountain bike trail markers, which will point you in the right direction. Be sure to check out the short hiking path out-and-back to the craters before or after your ride.

Mammoth Mountain Bike Park

To access trails on the bike park, you’ll need to purchase a day pass from Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, which gives you access to the shuttle and chair lifts.

Off the Top 5.5 miles – If you are going to purchase a bike par pass, you’ll want to head to the top of the mountain and ride Off the Top. The trail is lined with wildflowers in the early season and offers unparalleled views of the Ritter Range, the Minarets, and Mono Lake in the distance. It’s a fast and flowy downhill intermediate trail that travels from the 11,054′ summit down to Red’s Lake. Pick up Beach Cruiser or Shock Treatment to get back to Main Lodge.

Beach Cruiser Loop 6 miles – Beach Cruiser is a favorite among cross-country riders for its winding gentle climb and its fast and flowing descent. The forested area offers some of the best, packed dirt in the area, not to mention the unobstructed views of Red Lake and the San Joaquin Valley. You can also ride just the intermediate-rated downhill trail and access it from Off the Top or Kamikaze.

Kamikaze 3.4 miles – From its 1980s mountain bike racing fame, the Kamikaze Downhill is known for its high-speed adrenalin rush. This black diamond trail is where mountain bike racing got its start and though it is not technical, the downhill grade is steep enough to brake burning high speeds. Take the gondola to the top and ride the trail all the way back to Main Lodge.

Skid Marks 3.8 miles – Skid Marks is another fun, but technical and rocky downhill trail from the top of the mountain. The trail traverses the Dragon’s Back east ridge of Mammoth Mountain and offers views of the Mammoth Lakes Basin. The trail descends rapidly through loose dirt lined with large rocks. The best riding is in the lower section where the dirt is firm and fast just before connecting with Upper Paper Route.

Juniper 1.6 miles – A fun winding intermediate trail, Juniper starts at the top of upper Paper Route and winds its way down to Little Eagle. The trail bends through the forest offering scenic views of the Lakes Basin and Mammoth Creek along the way. Start at the top of Mammoth Mountain and take Skid Marks to Juniper for a fast descent with a the most vertical in Mammoth. 

Uptown 4.7 miles – The Uptown Mountain Bike Trail climbs up from the Village all the way up to Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge. The rolling terrain winds and bends in the forest, making the climb pleasant and fun. From the top of the trail you can turn around and descend on the sister trail, Downtown, or hop on the chairlift to access a number of other trails. For an even longer cross-country ride, connect with the Beach Cruiser Loop.

Downtown 5.4 miles – The Downtown Mountain Bike Trail is the quintessential beginner downhill trail that descends from Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge to the Village at Mammoth. The paver-turns, gentle decline, and wide trail make it a great downhill for beginners and families. This trail is also a great way to access downhill trails in the Canyon Lodge area like Shotgun and Flow.

Paper Route 6.2 miles – The Paper Route Loop is the most popular cross-country trail in Mammoth for a reason. The rolling terrain through a pine forest, moderate grade, and firm dirt are great for pedaling. You can also use the trail to access many of the spur trails down to Canyon Lodge and Little Eagle.

Big Ring 1.8 miles – Big Ring is a fun winding, trail, that is great for beginner and intermediate mountain bikers that want to ride singletrack, but can also be fast and flowing for more experienced riders. The trail starts at the shaded rest area on the Lower Paper Route.

North and South of Mammoth Lakes

Lower Rock Creek Trail 8 miles – One of the favorite mountain bike trails in the Eastern Sierra, Lower Rock Creek trail is the highlight of any mountain bike trip to the region. With flowing banked turns, the top two sections are fast and fun singletrack. The third section descends through a narrow canyon and over technical rock gardens. Thought the trail is multi-use and multi-directional, most people car shuttle and ride top to bottom. For an easier, but still fun option (6 miles), loop the top two sections by pedaling up the paved road and down the trail.

Sand Canyon Trail 12.6 miles – Probably the biggest downhill descent in the region, the Sand Canyon Trail starts in the high elevations near Rock Creek Lake and descends to the Lower Rock Creek Canyon. The trail covers a variety of terrain and travels over a combination of singletrack, double track, and fire roads. Intermediate to advanced riders will have fun on the fast, steep, and sometimes sandy descent. This trail is best ridden in the downhill direction, but you’ll need a car at the bottom of the trail.

Yost Meadow Trail 8 miles round trip– Located in June Lake Loop, the Yost Meadow Trail is a fun ride, and one of the only mountain bike singletrack trails in the June Lake area. The trail begins to climb quickly from the Fires Station by the big rock, but the uphill grade mellows out after the first mile. Continue on the trail past aspen June Mountain ski area until you reach Yost Meadow. Turn around and enjoy the descent.

White Mountain Trail 14 miles round trip – The opportunity to mountain bike to the top of a 14,000′ peak is rare, and this trail delivers not only in elevation, but the views across the valley of the Sierra Nevada range are unparalleled. The White Mountain Trail is the highest mountain biking trail in California and starts at the locked gate at the end of White Mountain Road. You will head uphill on a paved road past the Barcroft Station before you reach the dirt fire road that climbs gradually to the summit of White Mountain.

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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