Mammoth Lakes is majestic in a way that I didn’t even know possible. The natural beauty is grand and the name speaks to the size of the mountains, the expanse of the valleys, the crystal clear mountain lakes, and the endless opportunities for adventure. I created a Mammoth bucket list in reverse. Here are the greatest experiences in the area to add to your own Mammoth bucket list.
Mammoth Bucket List
1. Hike Emerald Lake
2. Stay at The Westin Monache Resort near the village and the trails
3. Hike Rainbow Falls
4. Dine on local foods and craft beers
5. Dine at Mule House Cafe where backpacks outnumber cars outside
6. Ride the gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain
7. Explore the village of Mammoth
8. Ride a mountain bike down Mammoth Mountain
9. Hike Devil’s Postpile
10. View the Minarets from the Minaret Vista
How to Make it Happen
Where to Stay
You’ll need a few days to cross off all your Mammoth bucket list items so finding a central hotel is essential. Offering views of Mammoth Mountain and Mammoth Village, The Westin resort is 4 minutes walk from the ski lifts and 2.2 miles from the Mammoth Ski Museum.
The pool is heated and Whitebark restaurant has a Mammoth Cookie Sandwich made with chocolate chip cookies and filled with vanilla ice cream. It’s bucket list worthy on its own. If you have a Mammoth appetite, there are a few other majorly worthy restaurants to check out in Mammoth.
Mule House Cafe (in Red’s Meadow Resort)
The Mule House Cafe serves delicious meals guaranteed to satisfy hikers, fisherman, and campers alike. They serve a variety of classic sandwiches and burgers for lunch and dinner and you can top of your meal with one of their famous milkshakes or a piece of homemade pie. The coolest part of visiting the Mule House Cafe is the mass number of hikers that you’ll run into while you’re there. The backpacks line the street like cars and everyone has a story of the trial to tell.
Devil’s Postpile and Rainbow Falls
Devi’s Postpile is one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt formations. This rare geologic wonder is not to be missed. Its columns stretch 60 feet high and a foot path allows you to walk to the top to see the hexagonal pattern of unusual symmetry. Formed less than 100,000 years ago, the Postpile was the result of a lava flow that cooled into multi-sided columns. The walk from the Devil’s Postpile parking lot to the monument itself is only about a ¼ mile and has been graded for accessibility.
Rainbow Falls hike includes Devil’s Postpile and it can encompass Red’s Meadow. Be sure to hike up the mountain for lunch at Mule House Café at Red’s Meadow Resort.
Rainbow Falls, part of the National Monument, is a two-mile trek downstream from Devil’s Potpile. A relatively flat hike – except for the steps down to the base of the falls – most visitors find the reward well worth the effort. Rainbow Falls is an impressive 101-foot drop and is usually graced with a rainbow, especially about mid-day.
Emerald Lake is one of the less traveled trails and you’ll often find solitude just minutes away from the parking lot at Coldwater Trailhead.
The Emerald Lake Trail climbs gradually along Coldwater Creek for about a mile. Along the way, you’ll see the creek plunging over small cascading waterfalls. Tucked in a protected bowl beneath taller mountains and surrounded by a thick forest, the lake is often calm and glassy with a sharp reflection of the surrounding trees and mountains. Return the same way for a 2.5-mile hike or loop back to the Coldwater Trailhead by continuing on to Skelton Lake and returning on the Duck Pass Trail.
During the Emerald Lake hike, stay to the right for the best river views along the trail.
See it for Yourself
Mammoth Mountain Gondola Ride
Take a Scenic Gondola Ride up Mammoth Mountain to explore all the fun at 11,053 ft. At the top, snap a selife at the summit sign and enjoy the panoramic views. There are photo opportunities around large rock piles that make it seem like you are on the end of the world.
Off The Top – Mammoth Mountain Bike Trail
You can ride the gondola as a single rider or with a mountain bike. Bikes can be rented at Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center. Prepare for a visual onslaught as soon as you roll out of the upper gondola. The Mammoth Crest, Minarets, Mt. Ritter, and Banner Peak will all be competing for your eyes’ attention so don’t forget to stop and take it all in before riding down the mountain. Renting a mountain bike at Mammoth is the most convenient way to get out onto the trails.
Minaret Vista provides one of the most epic views of California’s majestic Sierra Nevada. From this viewpoint, a panorama of breathtaking scenery unfolds. In the center of it all, the jagged spires of the Minaret Range rise like dark monoliths from the green forest floor below.
At the Minaret Vista, several interpretive signs identify the names and elevations of the surrounding mountain peaks while also discussing the geology and ecosystems of the region.
Minaret Vista is located only minutes from downtown Mammoth Lakes and a visit should be on every sightseer’s bucket list.
If you’re ready to have an epic adventure-of-a-lifetime, then head off to Mammoth for these bucket list experiences.