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Mammoth Lakes
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Mammoth Lakes

The 12 best things to do in Mammoth Lakes

The best things to do in Mammoth Lake offer endless ways to enjoy nature year-round, with plenty to eat and drink too

Written by
Clara Hogan

Mammoth Lakes offers exactly what you hope for in a mountain town; breathtaking scenery, excellent ski runs, cozy restaurants, and endless ways to enjoy nature. Nestled along the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Inyo National Forest, the area is directly next to Yosemite National Park and a popular destination to travel to from both Northern and Southern California; it's about 5 and a half hours from San Francisco and under five hours from Los Angeles

Mammoth offers a vast amount of things to do year-round, perfect for nature lovers. In the summer, get out on the crystal blue lakes, mountain bike, or take advantage of the hiking and biking trails. In the fall, take in the foliage that turns the mountainside shades of orange and red. Of course, the winter months are the most popular time to visit, given the prestigious skiing available on Mammoth Mountain. Springtime brings stunning waterfalls.

All the adventures here can be fueled with a heartwarming meal or drink at the local restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, and distilleries. Mammoth maintains a small-town feel without the crowds that many ski resort towns have. It is utterly delightful.

Best things to do in Mammoth Lakes

One of the most stunning waterfalls in all of California, Rainbow Falls is an easy 2.5-mile walk from the trailhead at Devil's Postpile National Monument in Mammoth Lakes. When the weather is good, expect to see lots of visitors enjoying the beautiful scenery on the trail, and who can blame them? Rainbow Falls is the highest waterfall on the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, and you can hike to two scenic overlooks for beautiful photo ops, plus go down to the bottom of the falls for a superb view of the cascade. The most common method for accessing Devils Postpile is via the shuttle bus operated by Eastern Sierra Transit Authority in the summer months, followed by a 1/4 mile walk. The shuttle route begins at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area's Adventure Center and makes several stops throughout the valley. It begins operating when the Reds Meadow Road opens in the summer and continues through Labor Day weekend.

The scenic gondola up Mammoth Mountain is undoubtedly one of the best things to do while you're in town. It usually runs from late September until mid-November and from May to mid-June. Take in panoramic views of the area, and once you reach the top (11,053 feet above sea level), you can take in the 360-degree vista, have lunch or a drink at the Eleven53 Café at the summit, and browse exhibits about the Sierra.



The heart of the town of Mammoth is The Village, and this pedestrian area hosts many of the best restaurants and shops in the area. When hungry, try the family-friendly Mexican eatery Gomez Restaurant or gastropub 53 Kitchen & Cocktails. For drinjks, head to Lakanuki Tiki Bar for an apres ski Mai Tai or margarita. When the weather is warm, The Village is also the site of local festivals, live music, DJs, games and crafts, movies under the stars, and other events.

Mountain biking is a way of life in Mammoth, and there's plenty of opportunity for a ride down the mountain whether you are a veteran biker or want to try it for the first time. Mammoth Bike Park boasts 80+ miles of trails — including berms, jumps, and drops — and the beginner-friendly Discovery Zone. They also offer lessons. One of the best parts about the bike park is that it allows e-bikes, not just regular mountain bikes, which can make the experience easier for novices, and more fun for anyone else. 



Most tourists come to Mammoth to ski or snowboard, for good reasons. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, nestled among the Sierra Nevada mountain range, is the highest lift-served terrain in all of California. It features more than 3,500 acres of breathtaking ski-able terrain and is one of the most prestigious ski destinations in the country. The mountain offers slopes for all levels ranging from beginners to experts. It also has one of the longest ski seasons in the country, with an average of 400 inches of annual snowfall. If you're in Mammoth in the winter, don't miss a day on the slopes. 


6. Wild Willy's Hot Spring

After a long day adventuring — whether hitting the slopes or the trails — there's nothing better than a soak in a natural hot spring. Mammoth features several, but one of the easiest ones to get to is Wild Willy's off Benton Crossing Road. Once you park, head down a wooden walkway for a short distance before the water comes into view. Settle in, relax, and take in the mountain views. 

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A lot of mountain towns do comfort food really well. And while Mammoth has plenty of those restaurants, it also has a balance of lighter and organic spots. One of the best is Elixir Superfood & Juice, which offers a large menu of gluten-free, organic options ranging from grain bowls to salads to smoothies and juices. You can also find energy snacks, hot drinks, and wellness shots. 

In the summer, nothing beats getting out onto one of Mammoth's many stunning lakes. You'll be surrounded by crystal blue waters, pine tree landscapes, and views of the Sierra range. There are plenty of options; Pokonobe Resort and Marina offers pontoon, motor boat, kayak, and paddleboard rentals, while the Lake Mary Marina offers kayak, SUP, and fishing boat rentals.

Coffee shops
Photograph: Courtesy of Mammoth Coffee Roasting Company

9. Coffee shops

Mammoth is full of active early risers who will achieve a 10-mile hike or bike ride (or both) before 9 a.m. Therefore, local coffee shops are abundant. Try Stellar Brew, operating in a quaint little blue building and serving organic brew, freshly squeezed juice, and home-cooked, all-natural breakfast. Other options include Black Velvet Coffee for a high-quality, organic cup of coffee and espresso drinks or Mammoth Coffee Roasting Company for house-made donuts to pair with your cup of jo. 



Located in The Village at Mammoth, Shelter Distilling creates progressive spirits, including whiskey, bourbon, gin, agave, and specialty spirits. The location is actually a distillery, brewery, and restaurant in one, offering cocktails, beer, and small entree dishes. Open seven days a week, choose from sitting inside or on the heated outdoor patio. Win-win!

Local restaurants
Photograph: Courtesy The Stove

11. Local restaurants

Active days call for food to fuel them. Mammoth has several local mainstays with cozy environments and large, hearty dishes. The Stove is a local favorite; it has been around for over 50 years and is a fixture in the Mammoth community. Its hometown diner-style breakfasts draw in crowds any day of the week. Another popular choice is the Warming Hut, a family-run restaurant serving affordable, delicious American food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

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