Traveling from Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes
Oct 15, 2020
With only a half-day drive separating the unforgettable mountain vistas of Mammoth Lakes from the bight lights and casinos of Las Vegas, it’s an easy escape to reach the breathtaking beauty of the Eastern Sierra. From world-class trout fishing to hiking, mountain biking, and epic skiing, Mammoth Lakes has an adventure for everyone regardless of the season — and it makes a perfect getaway from Vegas any time of year. Along the way, you’ll find amazing views of expansive Western landscapes and a plethora of activities for outdoor lovers.
Driving from Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes
The most practical way to get to Mammoth Lakes from Las Vegas is via automobile and several highway routes link the two communities. For those interested in making the most out of their time, the quickest way from Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes is via Highway 95 north for 170 miles to State Route 266 westbound to the small desert town of Oasis. This stretch of highway is desolate albeit uniquely beautiful, so be sure to top off the gas tank in the town of Beatty on Highway 95.
The Fastest Route
From Oasis, veer north on Route 266/264 through Dyer, Nevada and the agriculturally famous Fish Lake Valley. This region produces copious amounts of high-quality hay and feed that supports California’s livestock. Remain on 264 until intersecting Route 6 westbound into California, where it passes through the former mining town of Benton, CA. In Benton, turn right heading west on State Route 120 immediately after the small gas station in the center of town. After passing Benton Hot Springs Resort and reaching the apex of the granite-lined pass above the hot springs, turn left at Benton Crossing Road and continue for 32 miles to Highway 395, turning right and heading north to Mammoth Lakes. This route takes around 5 hours and has limited high-altitude passes to cross in the winter.
The Scenic Route
For those interested in taking the scenic route, the highways bisecting Death Valley National Park link Las Vegas to California’s Owens Valley. From westbound Interstate 15 in Las Vegas, take exit 33 and merge onto Route 160 in the direction of Pahrump, NV. Continue through Pahrump and when on the north side of town, take a left heading westward through the colorful and serene desert on Bell Vista/State Line road to Death Valley Junction. From here, turn right on Route 127 and then immediately left (west) on Route 190, which travels through the heart of Death Valley. Route 190 passes several scenic viewpoints and if in the mood for adventure, take the side road to Dante’s View or visit Zabriskie Point for incredible vantage points of Death Valley National Park.
Route 190 crosses into the National Park at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, where you may be required to pay a fee. The center is well worth the stop and has information about anything and everything relating to Death Valley. From here, continue traveling on Route 190 through Stovepipe Wells and over the pass at Panamint Springs until it intersects with California’s Route 136 along the eastern shores of the now dry Owens Lake. Head west on Route 136 until it intersects with Highway 395 just south of Lone Pine, CA. This is a great place to take pictures of the impressive Sierra Nevada Range and Mount Whitney, which is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. Turn right, heading north through the Owens Valley for around 1.5 hours until reaching Mammoth Lakes. This route will take between 6 and 7 hours and exposes travelers to some of the West’s most diverse and inspiring landscapes.
In Mammoth Lakes: Park the Car, Take the Bus
Once you reach Mammoth Lakes, there is relatively little need to drive (unless you’re heading to more remote parts of the area). Mammoth Lakes maintains and operates a free public transportation network of modern buses that services almost every point throughout town. Whether it is hitting the slopes or taking a long hike in the scenic John Muir Wilderness, free bus lines are able to provide prompt and courteous shuttle service.