Eleven53 Interpretive Center
Anchored firmly into the volcanic rocks of Mammoth Mountain’s legendary summit, the Eleven53 Interpretive Center offers some of the most breathtaking and unforgettable 360-degree views in North America. Perched at 11,053 feet (3,369 meters) above sea level amidst the seemingly endless peaks of the Sierra Nevada Range, the center hovers majestically above the town of Mammoth Lakes and the extinct Long Valley Caldera below. From the scenic gondola ride that whisks passengers into the sky, to exploring the interactive learning stations at the summit, a visit to Mammoth Mountain’s Eleven53 Interpretive Center is the perfect activity for all Mammoth Lakes visitors.
Known primarily as a scenic vista point and haven for skiers, Mammoth Mountain Resort’s Eleven53 Interpretive Center offers much more than incredible views of the Eastern Sierra’s unique and beautiful natural landscape. The building’s upstairs serves as a gondola loading and unloading station, while the handicap-accessible lower level houses the Top of the Sierra Cafe, clean restrooms and the Sierra Interpretive Center. Surrounded by full-length glass walls, the Sierra Interpretive Center contains a variety of displays showcasing the region’s geology, natural history, wildlife, ecosystems and climate. Whether learning about the formation of the stunning Minaret Range, whose peaks rise like jagged teeth along the western skyline, or understanding the feeding habits of the North American black bear, the center has an exhibit or learning station for guests of all ages to enjoy.
The Eleven53 Interpretive Center is only minutes from downtown Mammoth Lakes and can be reached by traveling to the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge parking area located near the end of State Route 203. For those that want to ditch the car, take the free Red Line/Town Trolley bus from town to the Village at Mammoth. At the Village, jump on the bike park shuttle (free for guests without bikes) to Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge and gondola ticket window. During the winter, ride the Red Line all the way to the Main Lodge.
In order to reach the dizzying heights of the Eleven53 Center, a ride in the enclosed cars of Mammoth Mountain Resort’s modern gondola is highly recommended. The scenic gondola ride does require a ticket purchase, which can be made online at Mammothmountain.com or done at the ticket window located near the giant statue of the Woolly Mammoth. The fee is modest and children 12 and under ride for free when accompanied by a paying adult. The exciting and unforgettable 10-minute ride whisks passengers to the highest lift-accessed summit in the state of California, providing a one-of-a-kind sightseeing experience.
After exploring the Eleven53 Interpretive Center and the summit of Mammoth Mountain, return to the base area by riding the gondola down. The lift is capable of carrying visitors in both directions. Make sure to look out for the serene waters of Mono Lake in the background on the return trip. For more adventurous and active sightseers, the Dragon’s Back/Twin Lakes hiking trail switchbacks from the summit through uniquely gnarled high-altitude pines into the Mammoth Lakes Basin below.