Trail Running in Mammoth Lakes: The Essentials

Oct 20, 2020

As I slowly put one foot in front of the other, I wonder if I am running any faster than I could hike. I feel like I am breathing through a straw. The thin air, which I am acclimated to, is noticeably thinner when you are running straight uphill over sometimes rocky terrain.

The plan is to run up to TJ and Barrett Lakes from Lake George, continue on the Coldwater-George Trail to Emerald Lake and descend to the Coldwater Trailhead.   I succumb to speed hiking in the really steep sections, and running on the more moderately sloped trails, but I am happy to be out running free.

Trail running is basically the same thing as regular old running, except you are exposing yourself to a host of new elements. The footing on a trail is variable. You’re exposed to rocks and roots, and sometimes the dirt is sandy or muddy. You are away from services and amenities, and there’s usually no cell service. To go trail running, you really need to be self-sufficient.

Depending on the length of your run, you may not need anything additional to your normal running gear, but if you are going to make a good habit of trail running, and want to go on longer runs you might need a few things specific to trail running. Here are a few trail running essentials to get you started on the right foot.

Trail Running Shoes

Your normal running shoes are not built for the wear and tear of trail running. While you can get away with using regular trainers, if you want your shoes to hold up and protect your feet, you’ll want to invest in a pair of shoes built specifically for the trails. These shoes have a more durable outsole, and better tread patterns. Trail runners will increase your stability and protect your feet from the rugged terrain.

Hydration System

Since you will be away from services, you’ll need to carry your own water on trail runs. Staying hydrated is especially important at high altitudes and since you’ll be sweating, you’ll need to be sure to replenish your body with fluids. There are a few options for carrying water when trail running. There are backpacks specifically designed to carry water while running, hand held water bottles, and hip packs that carry water bottles. Try a few styles and decide what is most comfortable for you.

Lightweight Trail Running Jacket

Since you’ll be warming up as you go, it’s hard to get the layers just right for trail running. It may be cool in the morning, and if you ascend into higher elevations, you’ll often find a breeze or cooler temperatures later in the day. A lightweight trail running jacket will protect you from changing temperatures and unexpected weather like rain, hail and snow. Most of these exceptionally light jackets can be stuffed into a pocket or in your pack while you don’t need it.

Sun Protection

Mammoth Lakes is famous for its 300 days of sunshine per year. It goes without saying, but anytime you are exposed to the sun at high elevation, you need to protect yourself. When you are going trail running, be sure to always wear sunscreen and sunglasses. A hat or visor is also recommended.

Clothing for Trail Running

There are a lot of great trail running brands that offer high tech apparel for getting out on the trails. You can invest in some great gear, or make use with what you already have. Consider wearing clothing that has pockets to help carry any supplies like, gels and snacks, sunscreen, and lip balm.

Trekking Poles

Depending on the terrain you’ll be running on, you may want to consider trekking poles. They definitely help with steep and rocky trails, but it’s a personal preference on whether or not you want to carry them.

Nutrition and Trail Snacks

If you are going for a long run, you may want to bring some food to re-fuel your body. Trail running is, after all, much more difficult than regular running and will deplete your energy levels more quickly. Try a nutrient packed energy bar, energy gels, or chews. Also consider putting an electrolyte drink mix in your water bottle to help with carbohydrate intake as well as keeping yourself hydrated.

Where to Go Trail Running in Mammoth Lakes

The possibilities are endless in Mammoth Lakes for trail running. Be sure to check a map and know where you are going before you head out. If you are not familiar with the area bring the map with you. Mammoth Rock Trail is will give you a taste of for trail running and offers beautiful views in our backyard. If you want to run a little further try the Duck Pass Trail in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, or for a long day head out on the High Trail from Agnew Meadows to Thousand Island Lake.   Where to Buy Trail Running Gear   There are a number of outdoor retailers in Mammoth Lakes that can help with expert opinions and advice when buying trail running equipment.

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

More Blog Posts By Monica Prelle

More Posts

Like this