Cross Country Skiing on Public Groomed Trails in Mammoth Lakes
Mar 01, 2021
In winter months, hiking trails become Mammoth Lakes’ snowy tracks for winter sports. The Mammoth Lakes Trail System maintains miles of groomed trails open to the public for cross country skiing. If you’re a first time cross country skier, groomed trails are the place to start, however cross country skiers are also allowed to ski on ungroomed, snowy trails as well.
No rental services are available at the public groomed trailheads, so be sure to bring your own gear, or rent cross country skis and boots from a local shop in town or Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
Cross Country Skiing to Minaret Vista
Cross country skiing to Minaret Vista takes only a small to moderate effort but yields a tremendous payoff. When you arrive at the viewpoint, you’ll experience sweeping views of the Ansel Adams Wilderness including the craggy spires of the Minaret Range—a classic Eastern Sierra tableau.
Remember to dress in layers and keep in mind that it can be considerably cooler and windier at this elevation than in town. The high altitude of the trail allows for an extended season that can easily run from mid-November until late April or even a bit later depending on snow conditions.
The trail begins at Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge, an elevation of 8,909 feet, and climbs up to 9,265 feet over 2.5 miles. At Main Lodge, you’ll have access to services, including food and restrooms, before you start your trip to Minaret Vista.
The trail is wide and flat-groomed, with no set track. Since the trail is used for multiple sports, be on the lookout for snowmobiles and downhill skiers. Follow signs for Minaret Vista as the trail branches away from the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
Ride the free Red Line bus to Main Lodge or drive up Highway 203 to the ski area’s large parking area. Use the Main Lodge parking shuttle or simply walk toward the Mammoth Mountain Inn and past the Mammoth Mountain Chalets, where you’ll see the trail.
Cross Country Skiing at Shady Rest Park
Shady Rest Park offers beautiful, convenient, free cross country ski trails right in the heart of Mammoth Lakes. Because these trails are in town and at a lower elevations, the season for cross country skiing at Shady Rest Park is dependent on snowfall and typically shorter than higher elevation areas.
The mostly-flat trails at Shady Rest Park are groomed with set tracks for cross country skiing and are designated for non-motorized use.
To access the trailhead, ride the free purple line shuttle or park at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center and walk along the path past the buildings toward Sawmill Cutoff Road.
Cross Country Skiing Along Lake Mary Road
As soon as the first significant snowfall occurs, usually sometime in November, Lake Mary Road is gated and closed to vehicular traffic just above Twin Lakes Road. The closure allows for the entire Lakes Basin to be transformed into a winter wonderland until mid-April or later.
While many of the trails in the Lakes Basin are private groomed trails (accessible with a pass from Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center), the Lake Mary Winter Public Access Corridor is free to the public for cross country skiing.
Cross country skiing to Lake Mary is an excellent way to get in a workout and appreciate the unique landscape of the Lakes Basin, including views of the Sherwins, Crystal Crag and the back of Mammoth Mountain. The 2.5-mile trail winds uphill until you reach Lake Mary, where it levels out for the rest of the trip to Horseshoe Lake.
Take the free Orange Line bus to Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center or drive along Lake Mary Road to Twin Lakes Road, where you can parallel park. Then walk along Lake Mary Road to the winter road closure. The public trail runs alongside a groomed trail that requires a pass.