Fall Colors Within 30 minutes of Mammoth Lakes
Aug 26, 2022
When nights cool down and the aspen leaves turn gold, fall has officially arrived in Mammoth Lakes. The season always promises to be spectacular in the Eastern Sierra, and you don’t have to venture far to see the show. In fact, some of the best viewing areas in the Eastern Sierra are just a 30-minute drive from Mammoth Lakes and are accessible in your car or on short hikes.
Sherwin Creek Campground
The closest to Mammoth Lakes, Sherwin Creek Campground offers a woodland experience in a forest of brilliant yellow aspen groves mix with majestic pines. The ease of access, combined with classic views of the Sherwin Mountains and Mammoth Mountain make the Sherwin Creek Campground a great first stop when you arrive in town. Follow Old Mammoth Road past Vons to the Sherwin Creek Road turnoff at Sierra Meadows Ranch. Then take the unpaved road two miles to Sherwin Creek.
Situated in a spectacular setting of rugged mountain peaks six miles south of Mammoth Lakes off US 395, Convict Lakes’ inkwell look is heightened in the fall as the trees that line the lake come into color. Convict Lake Loop, which winds around the lake, provides the perfect vantage point for witnessing the colorful scene.
Reds Meadow Valley
If a full-day adventure sounds like the perfect way to spend a fall afternoon, visit Reds Meadow Valley and take in Devils Postpile National Monument, Rainbow Falls and the San Joaquin River. Some of the most beautiful old aspen groves can be found in this area. Follow Minaret Road to Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge. (Note: A road access fee is in place beyond Minaret Vista. Call 760-934-5500 for more information.) Be sure to stop by Minaret Vista along the way to experience one of the most breathtaking views in the Sierra. It’s especially spectacular at sunrise and sunset.
The road to Reds Meadow Valley will be closed for the 2023 season, so this fall is a unique opportunity to see this area. The mandatory shuttle runs until September 5. After that time, visitors can enter in their own vehicle. Starting on October 1, please be prepared for up to 30 minute delays due to tree work along the road. The road will close for the season on October 11, 2022. The road is slated to reopen, weather dependent, Late May – June 2024.
McGee Creek Canyon
While you can observe some fall colors from your vehicle, McGee Creek Canyon, just 10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes off of US 395, is best seen on foot. Park at the trail head at the end of a dirt road. A long and somewhat strenuous hike rewards you with magnificent views of Red and White Mountain. Bring water, as the first stretches of the trail are across a south-facing slope, which can be quite warm even in the fall. Brilliant colors line the creek and canyon.
June Lake Loop
This scenic drive is a treat any time of year, but fall colors make the route especially pretty in autumn. Follow US 395 north about 20 miles to the south junction of SR 158. The road winds past the community of June Lake, which sits on the shore of its namesake. Gull Lake is next, followed by Silver Lake and Grant Lake. Continuing along the Loop, SR 158 brings you back to US 395 just past Grant Lake. (Note: SR 158 experiences winter road closures just past Silver Lake.)