As a California native, I know that there are two types of people: those that flock to the Sierra Nevadas for mountain biking and hiking in the warm sunshine, and those who prefer to visit Mammoth Mountain in the winter to ski or snowboard on fresh powder.
What many don’t know is just how magical every season is at Mammoth Mountain. Both the mountain and the town of Mammoth Lakes nestled below it are ripe with adventure no matter the month. From exploring the jagged peaks and alpine lakes to watching the leaves change and meandering through the snow, you’ll always find intense beauty here.
Now, the only thing that stands between you and some mountain fun is determining when you’re going to arrive.
Summer at Mammoth Mountain
Personally, summer is my favorite time of year at Mammoth Mountain. But that may be because most of my visits have been in warm, sunny weather. I remember standing on the edge of the uniquely salty Mono Lake. I’ve watched 4th of July fireworks over Crowley Lake, watched bears cross the road and wandered to waterfalls in Yosemite.
When visiting Mammoth Mountain, it’s important to be outdoors. The scenery is absolutely unrivaled. Where else will you find an endless amount of crystal clear alpine lakes? Rising glacial peaks next to dormant volcano mounds? Trees as far as the eye can see?
The nearby Mammoth Lakes Basin is perfect for mountain biking. Take the town trolley up to the top, near Horseshoe Lake, and ride back down to town. You’ll pass other spots like Lake George and Twin Lakes along the way. Horseshoe Lake is also the only lake in the area where swimming is allowed, while many of the other lakes offer opportunities for boating in the summertime.
Another option is to head to the McLeod Lake Trail. A short walk from Horseshoe Lake, this path leads through the trees, over a ridge and up to another alpine lake. Nestled at the bottom of mountain peaks and surrounded by trees, this more secluded section offers a peaceful escape. Even though I struggle to breathe in higher elevations (thanks, coastal living!) I was able to complete this hike no problem. I will never forget the feeling I had while sitting along on the shoreline at McLeod Lake.
Also in the summer, take advantage of the brand new Via Ferrata. This intense climbing route keeps you attached and safe on the rock face. Yet it still lets you explore from up above, taking in incredible views and getting a workout at the same time. Next summer, visitors will also be able to take part in the Mega Zip, a new zip line that happens to be the longest in the country.
In the autumn, the brilliant leaves turn fiery shades of orange, yellow and red. While many think that a trip to the Northeast is required to spot fall foliage, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Mammoth Mountain and the surrounding area is lit up with color each year. There are some truly beautiful hikes to enjoy in the cool weather, before snow flurries settle in. South of Mammoth, the Rock Creek area begins to turn earliest, with quaking aspen leaves fluttering in the wind. The trees along the creek and lake are beautifully vibrant here toward the end of September and into October.
Other spots filled with fall color include Convict Lake, Lundy Canyon and the beautiful June Lake Loop. The loop is home to June Lake Brewing, where visitors can sit amidst the trees and view the color. Another one of my favorite spots is Silver Lake. Surrounded by the same aspen trees, there is plenty of brilliant color here. Early enough in the fall, Silver Lake Cafe offers hearty sandwiches and burgers to dine on while looking out over the lake and the yellow leaves.
Another bonus to visiting in the fall is there are much fewer people around. While this means some of the restaurants may be closed on certain days, or boat rentals may not be available, it offers a chance to get close to nature. I experienced this for myself this year at the start of autumn and I loved it. Wandering in the crisp air, taking in the views unhindered by hoards of hikers was incredible. And when the weather in Southern California is in the 90s in September, Mammoth Mountain has a cooler climate.
Easily the most popular time of year at Mammoth Mountain is the wintertime. The region turns into a snowy wonderland, blanketed in soft snow. But because the mountains are still within California, the area often has clear blue skies and sunshine. As the snow glimmers in the light, skiers and snowboarders thank the heavens above for the incredible experience.
Mammoth Mountain was recently purchased by Alterra Mountain Company, who is offering the Ikon Pass for the first time this year. The pass gives winter sport enthusiasts all over the world the chance for unlimited skiing and snowboarding at some of the most iconic mountains around. While Mammoth Mountain is, of course, included, so are 35 other destinations, including those in Japan and Australia. Because snow storms can occur as early as September or October and as late as July or August, these sports are enjoyed nearly year-round on the Mammoth Mountain slopes.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can enjoy other activities as well. Snowshoeing offers a unique way to get to lesser-explored places, including the nearby hot springs—nature’s own hot tubs. Snowmobiling is a great way for families to see the winter scenery, especially near the Rock Creek area, where family-style dinners are served to those arriving to a local restaurant by snow mobile. Sledding, making snow angels and snowmen, and snowball fights are always great options for when the temperatures drop as well.
When the snow falls, head indoors for après ski activities as well. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in Mammoth Lakes where active visitors can enjoy a hotel meal or a cold beer. Stop by Mammoth Brewing Co. for Tuesday night trivia sessions, head to the new bowling alley or explore your creativity with a local paint night.
Let’s face it—spring at Mammoth Mountain is a pretty stellar combination of summer and winter. While the weather is starting to warm up, there is often still snow on the ground at higher elevations for snowboarders and skiers to continue their adventures.
Down lower, at the many lakes, wildflowers take over, offering spectacular scenes filled with color. Although autumn also offers plenty of hues to enjoy, the springtime flowers are different. Pinks, purples, reds and yellows cover the ground, highlighted by the green shades of the grass, trees and bushes. Wander with a camera to ensure you snap photos of the many colors. Then, stop by Mono Cone in the northern part of the region to enjoy an ice cream cone or milkshake.