Waterfalls & Wildflowers: Unreal Viewing in an Unusual Year.
Jul 19, 2023
It’s no secret that this is an unusual year for Mother Nature. Record breaking snowfall has meant a delay to our typical summer sights and activities. Good news is, they are finally melted out and ready to show off. And boy are they showing off! Every time we turn around there is a new water fall or a new patch of wildflowers we have never seen before. Now is the time to escape the heat of the flat lands and head for the mountains to check out the fruit of Mother Nature’s labor.
We aren’t joking – every time we turn around there is a new spout of water, tumbling down the mountains above. Residents who have lived in the area for more than 50 years, have never seen water in this volume.
In the Lakes Basin, the classic Twin Falls is visible from Lake Mary Road before you even reach Twin Lakes. As you drive up Lake Mary Road from the Town of Mammoth Lakes, keep our eyes up and what appears to be a “slab of snow” is actually the raging cascade at the top of the Twin Falls. You will also see Mammoth Creek raging below the lakes off the left hand side of the road as you approach Twin Lakes. Stopping at the scenic overlook just before the Lakes, allows an up close view of the creek as it rushes below.
Continuing through the Lakes Basin you will find Coldwater Creek, overwhelming its banks and lightly flooding portions of the road around Lake Mary. Horseshoe Lake is so full that an overflow channel, usually unnoticeable when biking by, is coming over the bike path and creating a second waterfall in the Lakes Basin. Stopping in the long pull out between Horseshoe Lake and Lake Mamie, will allow you to view this seldom seen cascade with Twin Lakes in the background.
And our best tip: Keep your eyes up! There is still a LOT of snow in the Lakes Basin, immediately surrounding Horseshoe Lake and at higher elevations. As the temperatures continue to warm here, you never know where the next waterfall will make its way into the world.
SAFETY TIP: While it is getting warmer here, the water is still VERY COLD as it is most recently melted out. The water is also moving much swifter than it looks. Even calm bodies of water can have strong undertows, due to the volume of water flowing in and out right now. Please keep a close eye on dogs and kids near all water.
More ideas north of Mammoth Lakes:
Rush Creek Falls: Just below Agnew Lake, on the Rush Creek Trail in the June Lake Loop, The Rush Creek Falls tumble out from the bottom of the Agnew Lake Dam whenever the spillway is open. There’s no way to know if the dam is open, just have to hike up and see for yourself. But in a year like this the falls can be seen from just cruising the June Lake Loop. For those wanting some exercise, the moderate 2.25 mile hike up to the falls will have you surrounded by one of the most stunningly beautiful and well-kept secrets in California: the spectacular June Lake region. If you don’t feel like a hike you can view the falls from the Double Eagle Resort.
Lundy Canyon: Just north of Lee Vining (and the eastern entrance to Yosemite) Lundy Canyon is a spring paradise, exploding with foliage and wildflowers. The topography creates a microclimate around the falls with a look and feel unique to the region. The Lundy Canyon Trail climbs 2.2 easy miles from the trailhead, where you’ll pass beaver ponds and several smaller falls before reaching two falls on the north side of the canyon that are worth every bit of the effort expended.
Lee Vining Canyon: Just about 30 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes on Highway 395 is the turn off for Tioga Pass – Highway 120. About 3 miles up on the left is the turn off for Poole Power Plant Road.This road navigates the floor of Lee Vining Canyon and you can follow it all the way to the back to view two tributaries of Lee Vining Creek as the converge before running down stream towards Mono Lake.
Tioga Pass: With the section between Lee Vining and the Yosemite National Park boundary open, you can take in some extra falls that appear after a big year, just because of the mass amount of snow melting and the incredibly steep Lee Vining Canyon walls. While the entrance to Yosemite remains closed (Until 8am, Saturday July 22!), that doesn’t mean you can’t take in the views from one of the prettiest parts of the park. Because of elevation and snow, the park’s eastern boundary is one of the least developed entrances making even the quick 30 minute up and back a very worthy scenic drive.
We have never seen flowers like this before. We aren’t going to use the word “Superbloom,” because we don’t want hoards of people to show up and smash the beautiful flowers all for the “gram.” But this bloom is literally everywhere and growing.
Whether you are enjoying the patio at Roberto’s or getting gas, you will find wildflowers. Near Mammoth Creek, stop to take in the roar of the creek and soon you’ll notice that there are different varieties all around you.
Whether on bike or foot, make your way past Mammoth Creek Park and along the Snowcreek Meadow. Here, Mammoth Creek has completely over run its banks and the ducks are loving it! But so are the flowers, and once the water flow slows a bit, we might even see more flowers where water once was.
If you are staying in the Juniper Springs/Eagle Lodge area, take the bike path from the parking lot at Eagle Lodge, behind Juniper Springs and down along the Valentine Reserve’s northern border. The path connects with the Snowcreek Meadow via the Waterford Street Bridge (Hot Tip: There is a water bottle filling station here) allowing for a full loop to be made depending on where you start in town. For more information and a map of the Town Multi-Use path, stop by the Mammoth Lakes California Welcome Center.
If you are looking for a bit more of adventure, head 25 minutes south of Mammoth Lakes to McGee Creek. Take Highway 395 south and exit right at McGee Creek Lodge. You are immediately on McGee Creek road, and you should pass the McGee Creek RV park on your left as you head up the hill to the trailhead. Please drive slowly as the road is narrow and unmaintained. The road dead ends at the trailhead parking lot. The trail has two options but eventually come back together as the trail climbs to higher elevations. The trail is generally clear until above 9,500 feet elevation, but there are multiple places where water is crossing the trail. Please be cautious when crossing, use trekking poles for balance, and remember rocks will be slick. Most of the flowers are viewable without crossing any water.
If it’s your rest day, take a drive around the scenic loop which is really earning its name right now. From Minaret Road and Main Street, travel up Minaret Road past The Village as if you are headed to the Main Lodge of the Ski Area. A quarter mile past The Village, turn right onto the scenic loop and immediately begin soaking in the beautiful blues and purples. Follow the scenic loop until it meets back up with Highway 395 and head south to head back to town, or head North to explore more of Mono County.
Although you might never hear us say this so late in the year again, it seems that wildflower season has just begun at elevation. We expect to see more flowers as the higher elevations continue to melt out. And yes, it is mid July and we are still trying to melt out. So stay tuned for more updates.