3 Days of Water Adventures in Mammoth Lakes

With a name like Mammoth Lakes, this little mountain town has no shortage of water adventures. Clear, pristine lakes, perfect for dipping your toes or catching a trophy trout, beckon. Create lasting memories as you pilot a pontoon boat, balance a stand-up paddleboard or hike to a sandy beach on a three-day adventure packed with watersports.

DAY 1 – Mammoth Lakes Basin

The well-stocked Mammoth Lakes Basin is the ideal place to start your water adventure with some trout fishing. New to fishing or need some help finding the best spots? Instruction and guides are available. Some guides even offer special packages for beginners. Guided fishing trips include everything you’ll need: equipment, bait, instruction and unsurpassed knowledge of the area. Just be sure to obtain a fishing license for anyone over the age of 16 in your party.

Fishing season runs from the end of April to mid-November annually, with some catch-and-release opportunities available year-round. Check the events calendar for fishing derbies and festivals throughout the season that add an element of fun to your trip.

If you’re fishing without a guide, be sure to follow California’s fishing regulations and observe sustainable fishing practices, keeping only the fish you will eat. A few local restaurants will even prepare and serve your day’s catch. 

By mid-day, the fishing action will have died down so the afternoon is an ideal time to take a hike with a refreshing swim at the end. Venture to Horseshoe Lake (note the trees killed by carbon dioxide seeping from the geologically active ground here), where you’ll find trailheads for Horseshoe Lake Loop and McLeod Lake Spur. Both trails are easy hikes, so you’ll have plenty of time for a picnic on the shore of Horseshoe Lake when you’re done.

DAY 2 – Mono & June Lakes

Whether you’re paddling a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard getting out on the water offers a unique perspective and is an excellent way to observe waterfowl, fish and other wildlife. Rise early and drive 30 minutes north to Mono Lake for a morning kayak tour of one of the oldest and most fascinating lakes in North America.

With no outlet, Mono Lake is 2.5 times saltier than the ocean. The scenery is incomparable, with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and distinctive geological features. Paddle among the otherworldly limestone tufa towers formed when lake water combines with fresh water from underground springs. While you explore the area, see how many of the 300 species of birds that frequent Mono Lake you can identify.

Post-paddle; grab some food in Lee Vining before heading back south. June Lake is your next stop for more lakeside fun. Rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak right on the beach. Or just spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the shore and enjoying the California sunshine.

DAY 3 – Convict Lake & Hot Creek

Head just south of town to the beautiful Convict Lake, where you can rent a pontoon boat from the marina. On the water, you’ll feel like you are truly getting away from it all. Many visitors have even been thrilled to spot eagles and black bears during their boating adventures.

Convict Lake is another favorite Eastern Sierra fishing spot. If you got hooked on Eastern Sierra fishing (pun intended) during a guided fishing trip earlier in the week, you can put your newfound skills to use here too.

When you finish boating, hike the easy 2-mile Convict Lake Loop around the lake. Be sure to linger among the aspens and cottonwoods around the inlet streams at the far end before returning to the marina.

On the way back to Mammoth Lakes, take a quick detour to explore nearby Hot Creek Geologic Site. Colorful sulfur deposits surround scalding, bubbling hot spring pools — a reminder of the volcanic nature of this area. Continue walking upstream from the site to capture that perfect sunset picture from this small canyon, with the towering Eastern Sierra peaks in the background.