Mammoth Lakes Tour Itineraries
Yosemite National Park / Tioga Pass – Full Day
A spectacular day trip, Yosemite National Park—with the famous Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, Half Dome, El Capitan, the beautiful waterfalls of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias—is only a 45-minute drive away. Take U.S. Highway 395 north from Mammoth Lakes about 30 miles to State Highway 120 West. Wind your way up Lee Vining Canyon to Tioga Pass (10,000 feet) to the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. Entrance fee required. Closed in winter.
A point of interest located at the Mobil Gas Station, just off U.S. Highway 395 on State Highway 120, is the Whoa Nellie Deli—an unlikely setting offering delicious cuisine overlooking beautiful Mono Lake.
Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake & June Lake Loop – Full Day
Bodie State Historic Park: Bodie Ghost Town is the largest unrestored ghost town in the West. Bodie produced gold and silver from 1877 to 1888, and the town grew to 10,000 residents. Once notorious as the wildest town in the West—with its saloons, bordellos, gambling houses and opium dens—the town is now preserved as a California State Historic Park with weathered buildings, a museum, mine tours and a visitor center. Located 1 hour and 15 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes on U.S. Highway 395, turn right on State Highway 270, a partially paved, well-maintained road 13 miles from the Bodie entrance. An admission fee is required. Don’t forget your camera, sunscreen and water.
Mono Lake: Mono Lake is a majestic body of salt water covering 60 square miles. It is an ancient lake, over 700,000 years old, and is two and a half times saltier than seawater. Mono Lake sustains a unique biosphere where tiny brine shrimp and alkali flies provide food for millions of migrating birds. Mono Lake is also home to the unique tufa towers that have formed in the lake, making the landscape truly fascinating. The perfect way to learn about this fragile habitat is through the interactive displays at the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center just 20 miles south of Bodie on U.S. Highway 395 in the town of Lee Vining.
June Lake Loop: The June Lake Loop drive is approximately 15 miles of dramatic Sierra peaks and alpine scenery with a chain of gorgeous lakes. Grant Lake, Silver Lake, Gull Lake and June Lake all nestle in a steep, horseshoe shaped canyon. There is fishing, hiking, boating, horseback riding, camping, stores, restaurants and the world-class Double Eagle Resort and Spa. The scenic loop begins 10 miles south of Mono Lake off U.S. Highway 395 on State Route 158. The road then rejoins U.S. Highway 395 as you head south toward Mammoth Lakes.
Attractions in the Town of Mammoth Lakes – Half to Full Day
California Welcome Center – Mammoth Lakes: Learn about sightseeing points of interest and the natural history of the area through brochures, books and speaking firsthand with a U.S. Forest Service Ranger, National Park Service Ranger or a Mammoth Lakes Tourism Information Agent. The California Welcome Center – Mammoth Lakes offers interpretive displays and programs, as well as a bookstore teeming with area information, books and souvenirs provided by the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association. Open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day).
Mammoth Lakes Basin: Glacier-carved lakes form the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, Lake George and Horseshoe Lake are nestled below jagged peaks and pine forest. Easily accessible by car, the lakes are a favorite spot for picnics, day hikes, paddleboarding, kayaking and fishing. Follow Main Street until it becomes Lake Mary Road and proceed three miles, just a 10-minute drive from Mammoth Lakes. Total driving tour through the Lakes Basin will take 30 to 45 minutes.
Reds Meadow Valley / Ansel Adams Wilderness Area – Half to Full Day
A mandatory shuttle and fee are required to get into Reds Meadow Valley. Pick up the shuttle at the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center. The shuttle system is in place to allow the valley to recover from intense use it received in the 1970s, and it has protected the area from the additional degradation that would result from a high numbers of visitors combined with limited parking. The steep and narrow access road into the valley would also become a major traffic safety hazard during peak visitation periods without the shuttle service. A fee is charged to support the shuttle. For more information, call the California Welcome Center – Mammoth Lakes at 760-924-5500.
Devils Postpile: Devils Postpile is a unique geologic feature, formed 100,000 years ago by an eruption of lava. The lava cooled uniformly, leaving surface cracks resulting in six-sided basalt vertical columns. Devils Postpile is a short, easy half-mile hike from the trailhead. The National Park Service offers interpretive tours, a ranger station, picnic area, restrooms and a campground.
Rainbow Falls: The San Joaquin River tumbles over an abrupt 101-foot lava ledge, sending rainbows of color into the mist. The best time to experience the rainbows is midday, when the sun is highest. You can walk another 3 miles past Devils Postpile to the Rainbow Falls trailhead. From there, it is a 1.25-mile, moderate hike to view the falls.
Reds Meadow Resort & Pack Station: Reds Meadow Resort has cabins, motel rooms, a general store and the Mule House Café. Resort services include backcountry supply package delivery, showers, summer entertainment, barbecues and wagon rides. Reds Meadow Pack Station offers guided hour-long, half-day and full-day horseback rides. Custom multi-day, week-long and full-service pack trips are also available. Advance reservations required. Reds Meadow Resort & Pack Station is located 1 mile past the Rainbow Falls trailhead. For more information, call 760-934-2345.
Mammoth Mountain – Half Day
Take a gondola ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain to an elevation of 11,053 feet! There you will have spectacular panoramic views of over 400 miles of the Sierra Nevada Range. Explore the Eleven53 Interpretive Center with interactive displays on the area’s geology, hydrology and volcanic history. Grab a bite at the Top of the Sierra Café before you ride or hike the trails on Mammoth Mountain. The gondola ride is only a 15-minute ride from the Adventure Center at the base of the mountain. Dogs on a leash are welcome. Free maps are available at the Adventure Center. Fee required. For more information, contact Mammoth Mountain at 800-626-6684.
Minaret Vista: Approximately 2 miles up from the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center is Minaret Vista, with breathtaking views of the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas. The jutting spires of the Minarets with Mount Ritter (13,157 feet) and Banner Peak (12,945 feet), the two tallest peaks in the range are clearly visible. Minaret Vista is a popular spot for stargazing, and during the summer months there are “Star Parties.” Restrooms and picnic areas are available.
Earthquake Fault: The sizeable fissure is not an earthquake fault caused by a single quake, but was actually formed during a series of strong quakes. A more appropriate name for this fracture would be “Earthquake Fissure.” The fissure is up to 10 feet wide and 60 feet deep and cuts through volcanic rock, part of a glassy rhyolite lava flow from Mammoth Mountain that was formed by tectonic stresses in the earth’s crust. The age of the fissure is unknown, but some of the trees growing in it are 150 years old, indicating that the crack is at least that old. A short walking trail surrounds this natural phenomenon. Majestic red fir and Jeffrey pine trees make this a nice spot for a picnic. Restrooms are available. Closed in winter. Located off Minaret Road about halfway between the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
Southern Mono County – Half Day
Hot Creek Geologic Site: Hot Creek is a place to marvel at geology in action. What remains of the ancient Long Valley Caldera blast is an area of fascinating geological wonders of bubbling hot springs, geysers and fumaroles (gas vents) creating colorful sulfur deposits and formations. The chamber of hot magma lies about three miles below the surface of the earth in this area. The brilliant pools are scalding hot and water temperatures can change rapidly, so entering and swimming in the water is prohibited. Restrooms are available. Located about 10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes off U.S. Highway 395. Take Airport Road (east) past the airport turnoff. You will pass the Fish Hatchery and continue on a partially paved road about 3 miles to the parking area for Hot Creek, then it’s an easy 1 1/2-mile hike down to Hot Creek.
Hot Creek Fish Hatchery: The warm springs of Hot Creek provide ideal temperatures for incubation of trout eggs. The Fish Hatchery is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for self-guided tours. Interpretive tours are available by appointment. For more information, call the Department of Fish and Wildlife at 760-934-2664. Located about 6 miles south of Mammoth Lakes off U.S. Highway 395. Take Airport Road (east) past the airport turnoff. Follow the signs.
Convict Lake: Convict Lake is named for the result of an ambush encounter on September 17, 1871, when a group of inmates escaped from prison in Carson City; Sheriff George Hightower eventually caught up with the convicts and a shootout took place. Robert Morrison, a Benton merchant, Mono Jim and other posse members encountered the convicts on the present Convict Creek. In the encounter, Morrison and Mono Jim were killed, and the convicts escaped only to be captured later in Round Valley. The towering peak above the lake was renamed Mt. Morrison and the smaller one below it Mono Jim. Convict Lake is popular for camping and fishing. Take a two-mile hike around the lake with views of rugged mountain scenery and sheer cliffs, as well as the oldest rocks in the Sierra Nevada Range. The Restaurant at Convict Lake is widely recognized as one of the finest restaurants in the Eastern Sierra, offering sumptuous continental cuisine, an award-winning wine list and a martini bar. Located 10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes off U.S. Highway 395, turn west on Convict Lake Road.
Crowley Lake: Crowley Lake offers some of the most exciting trout fishing in California. Crowley Lake is a man-made lake that’s 12 miles long and 5 miles wide. The lake is a large reservoir that supplies water and power to Los Angeles. Although famous for trout fishing, Crowley Lake also offers various other water sports such as kayaking, water skiing, wake boarding, wake surfing, kite surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. Crowley Lake Fish Camp, the only concession on the lake, is operated in cooperation with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. All visitors, boats and campers must access the lake through Crowley Lake Fish Camp. Crowley Lake Fish Camp offers a full-service marina with 200-plus private slips, a fleet of 84 rental boats, rental cabins, full hook-up RV sites, dry camping sites, a tackle shop and convenience store. Located 13 miles south of Mammoth Lakes off U.S. Highway 395, turn east on Crowley Lake Drive.
Points of Interest to the South
Mount Whitney: Mount Whitney stands at 14,505 feet and is the highest point in the contiguous United States. The west slope of the mountain is in Sequoia National Park, the summit is at the south end of the John Muir Trail, and the east slope is in the Inyo National Forest in Inyo County. Mount Whitney is above the tree line and has an alpine climate and ecology; very few plants grow near the summit. The peak’s name comes from Josiah Whitney, the state geologist of California and benefactor of the California Geological Survey in July 1864.
Trips going to Mount Whitney have specific quotas and must be reserved. A valid overnight permit or day-use permit is required year-round.
Mount Whitney is west of the town of Lone Pine along U.S. Highway 395 (approximately 105 miles south of Mammoth Lakes), and is easily accessed by the Whitney Portal Trailhead approximately 13 miles west of town. For more information on Mount Whitney and permits, contact the Wilderness Information Line at 760-873-2485 or the Reservation Line at 760-873-2483.
Death Valley National Park: Death Valley National Park has over 3 million acres of designated wilderness and hundreds of miles of backcountry roads. The park contains an amazing variety of terrain, historic sites, plants and animals for outdoor adventurers to explore. Some of the highlights of Death Valley are Golden Canyon, Artist’s Drive, Devil’s Golf Course, Natural Bridge, Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Titus Canyon, Eureka Dunes, The Racetrack and Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center and Museum is open daily. The visitor center is located in the Furnace Creek Resort area on California State Highway 190. Contact them at 760-786-3200. The Death Valley Natural History Association sales outlets are located in visitor centers and contact stations and have informational materials about the park. Lodging, camp stores, restaurants, dump stations, fuel and auto services are available in Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells Village, Panamint Springs and in the towns adjacent to the park.
Cellphones and GPS do not work in Death Valley! Do not depend on them. In some cases there is spotty reception, but dependence on a cellphone or GPS can be fatal in an emergency situation. Check with the rangers for specific recommendations on travel safety. Located approximately 4 hours (214 miles) south of Mammoth Lakes, take U.S. Highway 395 south to Lone Pine and take State Highway 136 to State Highway 190 into the park, or continue south to Olancha to State Highway 190, heading east into the park.
Badwater, 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America and only 80 aerial miles from Mount Whitney.
Manzanar: Internment camp during World War II for U.S. residents of Japanese descent. Discover some of the history in the Owens Valley. 95 miles south of Mammoth Lakes.