The Perfect 4-Day Summer Itinerary for Mammoth Lakes

The Perfect 4-Day Summer Itinerary for Mammoth Lakes
Photo: Dakota Snider/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Summer has always been my favorite time of the year to hit the road. Cities and towns light up with festivals, flowers bloom all around and the outdoors beckon adventure seekers. Last year I decided to take yet another trip into the great outdoors. And what better destination to quench this thirst for wanderlust than the picturesque town of Mammoth Lakes? Nestled in the heart of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mammoth Lakes embodies everything that an outdoor enthusiast like me dreams of, offering a plethora of activities set against a backdrop of majestic mountains and endless blue skies.

Day 1 – The Complete Day Exploration: Bodie Ghost Town, Mono Lake, June Lake Loop and Hot Creek

I began my exploration with a full day of adventures, starting with a visit to Bodie Ghost Town. Just over an hour north of Mammoth Lakes, this town is a testament to California’s mining history. Stepping into this largest unrestored ghost town in the West feels like stepping back in time to the days when Bodie thrived with 10,000 residents chasing gold and silver fortunes. Today, its weathered buildings, museum, and mine tours offer a glimpse into the once wild and bustling town, now preserved as a California State Historic Park.

The next stop was Mono Lake, quite the opposite of the ghost town with its serene oasis surrounded by the rugged Eastern Sierra landscape. Mono Lake is over 700,000 years old and resembles a postcard with its painted salty waters and giant limestone tufa towers.

June Lake Loop. Photo: Dakota Snider/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

To cap off my trio of extraordinary destinations, I headed to June Lake Loop. The scenic drive unfolded dramatic Sierra peaks and alpine lakes, including Grant Lake, Silver Lake, Gull Lake, and June Lake. There was a lot to do here, from fishing and hiking to boating to even horseback riding. After a quick stopover at the Double Eagle Resort and Spa I was ready to return to Mammoth Lakes.

But I decided to take a detour to Hot Creek, a picturesque wonderland filled with numerous bubbling hot springs, geysers, and colorful sulfur deposits created by gas vents. The nearby Convict Lake, named after a historic shootout with escaped prisoners, offered camping, fishing, and a scenic two-mile hiking trail. Fishing enthusiasts would love Crowley Lake, known for exciting trout fishing and water sports.

Convict Lake. Photo: Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Day 2 – In and Around Mammoth Lakes Town and Yosemite National Park

I love discovering local gems while on a trip and Mammoth Lakes Village was a delightful experience. The quaint streets of Mammoth Lakes Village were filled with local galleries and artisan shops, making it a picture-perfect afternoon. Delving deeper into the region’s rich history, I immersed myself in the stories of the Mammoth Museum where the exhibits depict geological marvels and the legacy of Native American cultures.

Mammoth Crib. Photo: Joanna Reyes/Miles Weaver/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

My next destination, the Mammoth Lakes Basin was magical; glacier-carved lakes set against the backdrop of peaks and pine forests are an unforgettable experience. The Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, Lake George, and Horseshoe Lake had a lot to offer so I knew I had to come back. From picnics by the lakes that I could swim in, to hikes and water activities like paddleboarding, kayaking, and fishing, there was a lot to tick off my bucket list. A leisurely driving tour through the Lakes Basin will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes, allowing ample time to soak in the breathtaking scenery.

Photo: Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Photo: Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

For those who love hitting up on nature, I highly recommend a day trip to Yosemite National Park. Its iconic attractions such as Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, Half Dome, El Capitan, the mesmerizing waterfalls of Yosemite Valley, and the majestic Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are just a 45-minute drive away.

Day 3 – Exploring Reds Meadow Valley and Ansel Adams Wilderness

The adventures around Mammoth Lakes never end. Reds Meadow Valley came in as a local recommendation and turned out to be a wonderful experience. The best way to see the valley is by opting for the shuttle that is accessible from the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Centre.

Rainbow Falls.
Rainbow Falls. Photo: Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

One of the highlights of the valley is Devils Postpile, a geological wonder formed over 100,000 years ago by a lava eruption. The six-sided basalt columns, created as the lava cooled uniformly, are a testament to the forces of nature. Another must-see attraction is Rainbow Falls, where the San Joaquin River cascades over a 101-foot lava ledge, creating a spectacular display of rainbows in the mist. I was lucky enough to witness this midday when the sun was at its highest.

Day 4 – Half-Day Adventures

Exploring Mammoth Mountain was one of my favorite excursions. On a gondola ride to the mountain’s summit, I was greeted by breathtaking panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada Range. I indulged in a meal at Eleven53 Café before heading to Minaret Vista. The views of the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas, including the majestic Minarets, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak were beyond breathtaking. The Earthquake Fault was an interesting spot of nature, a fissure formed by tectonic stresses in the earth’s crust, surrounded by towering red fir and Jeffrey pine trees. All in all, this was a lot for a half day but still left my soul satiated.

Photo: Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Photo: Mammoth Lakes Tourism

As the sun set against the Sierra Nevada, casting a glow over the rugged landscape, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness about leaving the enchanting Mammoth Lakes after all these adventures. From outdoor adventures to moments of calm in the wild amidst pristine wilderness and a charming town, this hidden gem is the greatest summer getaway.

Local Transport in Summer

Photo: Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Photo: Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Come summer and the best way to travel around Mammoth Lakes is MAWS Transportation. With point-to-point car service, door-to-door airport shuttles, long-distance shuttle options, specialized trailhead transfers for hikers and backpackers, captivating summer sightseeing tours, and even elegant limousine services for special events, you can pick and choose as per your needs. For those seeking shared transportation, seats on the shuttles can be booked for $65 each way, amounting to $130 for a round trip. Additionally, they provide private shuttles accommodating groups of up to 5, 11, or 25 guests, ensuring personalized and comfortable travel experiences for all.

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