Mammoth Lakes town in California's Sierra Nevada mountains is a perfectly situated springboard to the ultimate in sightseeing adventures. A national park, national monument, state parks, an official ghost town, and the world's oldest trees are all within easy reach for amazing day trips when you finally take a vacation after this ongoing travel break.
If you are looking to travel solo, which is estimated to be the preferred mode of travel post-pandemic, Mammoth Lakes is surrounded by the highest peaks in the west. It is a land of outdoors and adventure lovers who take to the slopes of signature Mammoth Mountain and nearby June Lakes resorts in winter, then take to the trails when the snow melts to fly-fish in clear mountain streams, hike, and mountain bike through wildflowers in high alpine meadows, and dip into natural hot springs.
See the region's most unbelievable natural and historic site on a 5-day trip to Mammoth Lakes.
Begin your trip touring Yosemite National Park, including Yosemite Valley. Channel your inner Ansel Adams – an American landscape photographer and environmentalist – with a stop at Tunnel View to capture the quintessential shot of Yosemite. Feel the spray of Bridalveil and Yosemite falls, walk alongside the towering granite of Half Dome to Mirror Lake and marvel at climbers scaling the vertices of El Capitan.
After exploring Yosemite Valley, head toward the east side of the park. Hike among giant sequoias in the Tuolumne and Merced groves. Then spend time in the spectacular but often-overlooked high country. Choose an easy hike to a carbonated spring or a moderate scramble up a granite dome. Or use the park's free shuttle to roam from the pristine shores of Tenaya Lake to the craggy outlooks of Olmsted Point.
Hike along the San Joaquin River to see the unique rock formation. Then, continue on the easy 2-mile hike downstream to Rainbow Falls, named for the colourful rainbows reflected in the mist by the midday sun. Wrap up your adventure with lunch at the Mule House Cafe at Reds Meadow Resort before catching the shuttle back to Mammoth Lakes. When you're back at the Mammoth Adventure Center, take a Scenic Gondola ride to the summit of Mammoth Mountain and admire the views from 11,053 feet.
An ancient lake
Over a million years old and covering nearly 105 square miles, Mono Lake, is situated just north of Mammoth Lakes. The alkaline lake has no outlet, so evaporation is the only way water leaves the lake, making it 2.5 times saltier and 80 times more alkaline than the ocean. The unique biosphere provides food to millions of migrating birds.
Just a few miles north you'll reach the weathered buildings of Bodie State Historic Park, California's official ghost town and the largest unrestored ghost town in the West.
The park is the site of an old mining town, which produced over $35M in gold and silver from 1877 to 1888. In its heyday, Bodie was a notorious Wild West town of 10,000 residents. Today, 170 original structures still stand in a state of "arrested decay," including a store where the same items remain from when it was closed for the last time in 1912.
Back in Mammoth Lakes, you can explore additional mining history at the Mammoth Consolidated Gold Mine in the Mammoth Lakes Basin or at the Hayden Cabin Museum on the bank of Mammoth Creek.
World's oldest trees
Situated high in the remote, tall and scenic White Mountains two hours south of Mammoth Lakes, the 3,500 to 5,000 year-old trees of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest are some of the oldest living organisms on Earth. Your first stop will be Schulman Grove Visitor Center, where you can get more information about the trails in the area. Take the short but scenic, one-mile Discovery Loop or visit the very oldest trees along the more strenuous, 4.5-mile Methuselah Grove Trail. Then drive to the Patriarch Grove, over 11,000 ft in elevation, to witness the largest living bristlecone tree.