Snowshoeing near Mammoth Lakes: Tips and Trails

Winter offers a striking new experience to the hiking trails you love in summer. Even of the most advanced hikers marvel at the spectacular winter scenery at their favorite Eastern Sierra spots. But you don’t have to be an advanced hiker to enjoy snowshoeing. All skill-levels can get out and into the mountains on snowshoes to explore and play. It’s great for beginners and families as well as more advanced hikers and mountaineers. However, there’s more to snowshoeing that just throwing on a pair of snowshoes and heading out into Nature. Here are some tips and considerations for your next snowshoeing adventure.

Tips for Preparing for Your Next Snowshoeing Adventure

Tell a friend: Make sure friends and family know where you plan to go and when to expect you back. Also leave a note in your car documenting who you are, where you’re going and what time you expect to be back.

Bring Provisions: Pack some nutritional snacks and lots of water. You’re going be active and outside at elevation, which means you burn more calories and dehydrate more quickly.

Pay attention to the conditions. Make sure you know where you’re going, check the weather and be aware of sunset times. The weather can change dramatically in a single morning or afternoon and it gets dark early in the winter.

Must-Have Snowshoeing Gear to Ensure a Great Experience

Being out in the winter elements can be more intense than in fair summer months. You may encounter snow, wind and cold. To make sure you’re comfortable, warm and safe, consider using the following gear.

Start with your head. Most of your heat and energy escapes from your head. Bringing a warm hat (even if you don’t think you need one) can help keep you warm if you start to get chilly. To account for any conditions, avoid cotton. Cotton can actually wick heat away from your body when it gets wet. Instead, bring a hat made of wool or a synthetic material.

Bring glasses or goggles. The sun is intense at altitude. In winter, the sun’s rays reflect upward off the snow, making it even more intense. To protect your eyes from painful sunburn, always wear sunglasses or goggles with UV protection.

Wear and carry extra sunscreen and lip balm. For the same reasons you want to protect your eyes from the high-altitude winter sun, you’ll want to protect your skin and lips too. Here’s an insider’s tip: Apply sunscreen under your chin and under the tip of your nose to protect against UV rays reflecting up from the snowy ground.

Layer your clothing for maximum comfort and protection against the elements. Layers trap warm air between them, helping to keep you nice and warm. Layers can also be shed for maximum comfort if your body temperature heats up with extra effort of a strenuous hike or changes in weather. At the very least, wear a base layer, a mid-layer and a weatherproof outer layer or shell. Just like with your hat, avoid cotton which can wick heat away from your body when it’s wet with snow or sweat.

Bring Extra Socks. Keep your toes warm and dry throughout the day by bringing an extra set of socks. Extra socks are especially welcome if your feet get cold or wet during your adventure. Wear appropriate footwear. Opt for water and weatherproof boots with a warm insulating liner. Sorrels are a local favorite but many local outfitters carry a variety of winter boots that will work well with snowshoes. Avoid tennis shoes or street shoes that can quickly become cold, wet and uncomfortable in snowy conditions.

Pack extra gloves. Keep hands warm and dry with a pair of mittens or gloves. Like socks, you may want to carry an extra pair in case the ones you’re wearing get cold or wet. Extra hand warmers are also an option to warm up cold fingers and hands mid-adventure.

Carry a headlamp. In case you get caught out past sunset a headlamp can help you find your way back safely and quickly.

Have a map. Stop by the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center for maps and guides.

Favorite Snowshoeing Hikes and Trails with Easy Access from Mammoth Lakes

  • Shady Rest Park: Good parking with access to trails ideal for snowshoeing.
  • Borrow Pit: Off of Old Mammoth Road. Also has an abundance of parking and it a local favorite for dog walks.
  • Inyo Craters: Off of the scenic loop.
  • Lookout Mountain: Also off the Scenic Loop.
  • Mammoth Lakes Basin: Including Obsidian and Panorama Domes.

Online Resources

For online maps and trail information, visit MammothTrails.org

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