7 Easy Hikes in and Around Mammoth Lakes
Jul 14, 2021
From shaded paths under a thick forest canopy to level trails that circumnavigate one of the area’s many serene alpine lakes, Mammoth Lakes has a hiking trail for those of us that like to take it easy when we’re active. Plus you can access many popular trails via the town’s free bus and trolley system.
Before you head out on any hikes, be sure you know exactly where you’re going and what to expect. The Mammoth Lakes Trail System website is a great resource for hikers visiting the area. The organization provides maps and thorough descriptions of each of the region’s trails. Check out the Mammoth Lakes trails listed below to plan your next hike!
Easy Hiking Trails in the Mammoth Lakes Basin
The Mammoth Lakes Basin is located within minutes of downtown Mammoth Lakes. The best way to explore is via the free Lakes Basin Trolley, which departs from the Village at Mammoth every 30 minutes during the summer and stops at various points throughout the Lakes Basin.
READ MORE: Hiking in the Mammoth Lakes Basin
Horseshoe Lake Loop
For an easy, popular hike with great views of Mammoth Mountain and the Mammoth Crest, take a stroll around Horseshoe Lake Loop. Access the flat, partially shaded trail from trolley stop 104. Watch dogs swimming and people enjoying picnics along the shore of Horseshoe Lake as you follow the 1.7-mile path. The trail has a smooth dirt surface and restrooms are always nearby.
For a longer hike, link up with the paved Lakes Basin Path, which travels downhill into town and has trolley stops along most of its well-marked route.
Panorama Dome Trail
If you’re looking for 360-degree, breathtaking views, the Panorama Dome Trail should be on your list. Pick up the trailhead from trolley stop 95 (exit the Tamarack Lodge parking area toward Lake Mary Road). The 0.3-mile trail to the top of Panorama Dome is uphill but manageable. Just be sure to remember, you are hiking at high altitude, so you’ll need to take more breaks and carry extra water. After you’ve had your fill of the view, head back down the way you came up.
Insider’s tip: Be certain to bring a camera, as the Lakes Basin has unforgettable views overlooking Mammoth Lakes, with the impressive White Mountains in the background.
Easy Hiking Trails Near Mammoth Mountain
The Mammoth Mountain shuttle is a free service that takes mountain bikers from town to the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge, where they can ride the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park. But hikers and visitors interested in checking out the Mammoth Adventure Center are welcome to jump on the shuttle without a bike. Many of the hiking trails in the Mammoth Mountain area see little traffic but have some of the most scenic views in the Sierras.
READ MORE: Hiking on Mammoth Mountain
Minaret Vista Trail
Take a trek on the Minaret Vista Trail from the Mammoth Adventure Center. The relatively short (1.2 miles each way) trail does go uphill through a lodgepole pine forest for most the way, but the endless views of the San Joaquin River Valley from Minaret Vista are well worth the effort. Along the way, expect to see abundant birds and the occasional mountain biker riding the slopes of Mammoth Mountain. On the way back, it’s all downhill to Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge. After your hike, stop by the Yodler Restaurant and Bar for post-hike libations and food just steps away from the trailhead.
Insider’s tip: This trail is especially beautiful on an evening hike, as sunsets over the Minarets are breathtaking. Be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight for the return hike if you’ll be out past dark.
Easy Hiking Trails in Reds Meadow
The Reds Meadow Scenic Shuttle serves the San Joaquin River Valley, Devils Postpile National Monument and Rainbow Falls — all part of the Reds Meadow area — from the Mammoth Adventure Center. Personal vehicles are not allowed on the road to Reds Meadow so the shuttle is the easiest way to access the area. Purchase your ticket for the shuttle at the Mammoth Adventure Center and then board the bus from there. The shuttle drops off at a number of stops throughout Reds Meadow, and there are trails at every bus stop.
READ MORE: Hiking in Reds Meadow
Sotcher Lake Loop
A favorite easy hike is the 1.5-mile Sotcher Lake Loop. Hop off the Reds Meadow Shuttle at stop 7 to enjoy a relatively flat loop trail around Sotcher Lake. This family-friendly hike has a self-guided nature trail, complete with information about the local ecosystems and geography. Have your lunch at a picnic table on the shore of the lake before catching the shuttle to your next stop in the Reds Meadow area.
Agnew Wildflower Loop
Also along the Reds Meadow Shuttle Route at stop 1, the Agnew Wildflower Loop is a quick, but scenic 0.6-mile hike. Make the trail one of your first stops of the day before you head on to the ever-popular Devils Postpile National Monument or Rainbow Falls view points. Or hit this stop on your way back to the Mammoth Adventure Center for a leisurely stroll on the relatively flat trail to end your day.
Insider’s tip: Rainbow Falls Trail is also a popular choice for visitors interested in seeing the 101-foot waterfall. Although the trail is mostly downhill on the way, it’s an in-and-out trail, so you’ll have to head back uphill eventually. Bring lots of water if you choose to do this hike, as the sun-exposed trail can get very hot in summer months.
Easy Hiking Trails Just Outside of Mammoth Lakes
If you have access to a car during your trip, a whole new collection of trails become available to you just outside of Mammoth Lakes. A quick drive and you could be at the trailhead of one of these easy hiking trails just outside of Mammoth Lakes.
READ MORE: Hiking Just Outside of Mammoth Lakes
Inyo Craters Trail
Inyo Craters are an awesome example of local geology. Created by violent steam explosions over 600 years ago, these deep conical depressions found within the old-growth forests outside of Mammoth Lakes offer up-close exposure to the region’s volcanic past. The 0.8-mile Inyo Craters Trail is well maintained, making it a leisurely hike. After the short climb to the rim of the crater, expect to see sapphire-blue mineral water in the bottom. Plus, the view of the surrounding mountains isn’t bad either.
Getting there: Travel 0.7 miles from the Village at Mammoth west on SR 203 (toward Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge) until you see the Mammoth Scenic Loop on the right. Turn onto the Mammoth Scenic Loop. Then follow this paved road for 2.2 miles until you reach the gravel Inyo Craters Road on the left. Follow the signs for 3 miles to the Inyo Craters trailhead.
Convict Lake Loop
A hike around the well-maintained Convict Lake Loop is quintessential Eastern Sierra. Surrounded by colorful rock walls holding the crystal-clear water of Convict Lake, you’ll be shocked how easy it was to get to this gentle 2.0-mile trail. The area is especially beautiful in the fall when the brilliant gold of autumn’s foliage reflects off the lake.
Getting there: Travel 4.3 miles southbound on US 395 until you reach Convict Lake Road on the right. Turn onto Convict Lake Road. Then follow this paved road to the top, where there are two parking areas.