The town of Mammoth Lakes is nestled on the eastern side of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, surrounded by soaring peaks, crystalline lakes, and miles upon miles of trails. Perched at 7,881 feet, the town has long been a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who come in search of adventures, from soaking in wild hot springs to epic mountain biking.
You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie, however, to enjoy the region’s stunning scenery. One of the most amazing things about Mammoth Lakes is just how accessible nature is. Far too often, the exquisite beauty and solitude of true wilderness can be really challenging to access, meaning it is only accessible to those with the time, money, and ability to seek it out. And while there are plenty of opportunities for overnight backpacking trips or all-day hikes near Mammoth Lakes, you don’t have to go far in order to find picturesque scenery and peaceful moments.
If you’re new to hiking or just feel more comfortable on shorter trails, these five short but scenic hikes near Mammoth Lakes, CA, do not disappoint.
This approx. 0.7 mi out-and-back trail starts near the entrance to the Lakes Basin and takes you to the top of a hill with awesome 360-degree views of the mountains and lakes below. Be prepared for quite a bit of incline since the short trail takes you straight up the dome. Dogs are allowed on leash.
This approx. 1.7 mi out-and-back trail starts from the Coldwater Creek Campground. Follow the easy path along a burbling, crystal-clear stream until you reach Emerald Lake. True to its name, Emerald Lake shines a pretty, green hue, contrasting with the snow-sprinkled craggy peaks that tower above it. Dogs are allowed on leash.
This easy 1.8-mile loop circles a sweet little McLeod Lake nestled at the base of towering, rocky crags. Around the lake, you’ll find numerous little beaches and perfect picnic spots. If you go in early summer, be prepared to hike across snow around part of the lake. Dogs are allowed and may be off-leash in some areas.
Convict Lake Loop
This 2.5-mile loop takes you around Convict Lake. Stark mountains rise up from this lovely blue lake, creating a dramatic scene. Meander around the lake on the mostly flat trail or consider finding a picnic spot to spend the afternoon. Dogs are allowed and may be off-leash in some areas.
This short but decently strenuous 3.1-mile out-and-back trail will get your heart pumping as it leads you up to breathtaking Crystal Lake at the base of the mountains. Along the way, be sure to stop to take in the views of Lake George and Lake Mary below. Once you arrive at Crystal Lake, continue around the edge of the water to explore the many sweet picnicking and swimming spots available. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and you might spot mergansers, chipmunks, or other little critters. Dogs are allowed and may be off-leash in some areas.
Responsible Travel in Mammoth Lakes, CA
During your time in and around Mammoth Lakes, take care to follow all ‘Leave No Trace’ principles to ensure the plants and animals of the region are not negatively impacted by our recreation. Stay on trails, avoid disturbing wildlife, pack out all trash, take only memories and photographs, and avoid disturbing other hikers by leaving all music at home.
Additionally, be mindful of the weather, especially if traveling during the shoulder season as storms can roll in quickly in the mountain. It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.