Try Something New: Snowshoeing in Mammoth Lakes

Jul 14, 2021

If you like to hike, you’ll love snowshoeing in Mammoth Lakes.

Imagine the mountains and trees, and the trails you know so well covered in a fresh coat of snow. If you love to hike in the summertime but have not yet explored the region in the winter, now is the time to try snowshoeing.

Exploring the Mammoth Lakes Basin

As you explore the Mammoth Lakes Basin you’ll notice the terrain becomes a wonderland in the winter. The crisp mountain air is refreshing, and a light snowfall makes you feel like you are traveling through a magical snow globe. Snowshoeing is similar to hiking but opens up an entirely different way to tour the mountains in the winter. The wide basket-like surface helps you float above fresh snow, and the crampons underfoot give you traction on firmer surfaces. With ski poles in each hand, you’ll find you have great balance and stability in the variable terrain. It’s your first time snowshoeing, so you probably have a few questions about how to get started.

Snowshoeing Gear: What You’ll Need, Where and When

The good news is the essential snowshoeing gear is very similar to hiking so most of your equipment will cross over, and you can rent a pair of snowshoes with poles for $15 from Mammoth Mountaineering Supply.

There are different size snowshoes for different types of terrain and snowpack, so you’ll want to have an idea of where you are going before renting.

“If you are on packed snow you want the smallest shoe you can get,” says Mammoth Mountaineering employee Bill Cox. “For deeper snow you want a bigger shoe—use the right tool for the right job.”

Snowshoes can adjust to any size footwear, so a pair of running shoes or snowboard boots will work, but waterproof hiking boots are your best option for snowshoeing. “You can even wear flip flops if you’re tough enough, “ Cox says with a chuckle.

What to Wear Snowshoeing

Because winter weather changes quickly, you’ll want to be prepared for a range of temperatures and conditions. A lightweight wool thermal top and bottom are ideal to keep warm without over heating. And a fleece or lightweight down top layer is nice for colder weather, or to throw on when you take a break.

“When you are walking at a brisk pace the tails of the snowshoe can throw up snow in the back,” Cox says. “People don’t realize it until they get going and they have snow down their back.”

Solution? It might be warm and sunny when you go snowshoeing, but Cox recommends wearing a lightweight waterproof jacket and pants. You will also want to wear a pair of lightweight glove liners with a waterproof shell to keep your hands dry. A beanie or ear warmers and scarf or neck gaiter will keep you warm in stormy or cold conditions. And like all outdoors mountain sports, be sure to wear hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.

Best Spots for Snowshoeing near Mammoth Lakes

Once you are geared up and ready to go, you’ll find that the possibilities for snowshoeing in Mammoth Lakes are practically endless.

The Minaret Vista and Mammoth Lakes Basin are two of the most popular snowshoeing destinations, but just about any forested trail you choose is going to offer an adventure.

“I love snowshoeing already!” says Mammoth local Sarah Attar a few minutes into her first adventure on snowshoes.

“Hiking in the summer is great, but I’m already liking snowshoeing more. It opens up so many possibilities.”

As you are climbing up the Winter Access Corridor in the Lakes Basin, you’ll notice the pace slows down in winter. The route you are on is a road in the summer, bustling with visitors sightseeing, hiking, fishing, and camping. In the winter you’ll see families playing in the snow at the trailhead, sledders bombing down the hillside, and cross-country skiers gliding on Tamarack’s fee-based trails.

Once you walk for 20 minutes the number of people lessons and you’ll find yourself at peace with the trees. Maybe you’ll see a bald eagle soaring high above the snow-capped treetops, or a group of backcountry skiers traversing the mountain slope. Lake Mary will be covered in snow, and Twin Falls is frozen mid-cascade.

Each step you take on the hard packed snow will get you closer to your destination at Horseshoe Lake, but once in awhile, you’ll veer off-trail to snap a photo. You’ll feel a poof of fresh snow collapse beneath your feet as you float through the snowy forest. The cold air will feel crisp in your lungs and the breath you exhale will steam. As you follow your footsteps back to the trailhead you’ll watch the stormy clouds looming over Mammoth Pass turn a golden-orangeish-pink. As you unstrap the shoes and walk to your car, you’ll feel like you just got off a boat walking awkwardly on solid ground and wishing you were on fresh snow again. It’s then that you’ll start planning your next snowshoe adventure, and thinking of all the friends you want to join you.

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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