When I arrived in Mammoth Lakes on assignment for Canadian Traveller magazine, I had no idea I'd be leaving a little part of my heart there  which, as I'd learn, isn't totally uncommon. I met more than a few Canadians who came for the winter season and stayed for the summer... and then made their home in Mammoth Lakes.

What is it about this high altitude Eastern Sierra enclave that Canadian travellers fall in love with? I suspect part of it is a sense of familiarity: crisp air, hygge mountain vibes, tall trees, spectacular mountains, pristine lakes and outdoor recreation every direction you look. And yet, it's distinctly Californ-i-a.

If you're curious about this best-kept secret mountain town, here are 17 reasons to start planning your Mammoth Lakes visit in any season  starting with winter. 

A ski season that's snow joke

Mammoth Lakes TourismMammoth Lakes Tourism

Did you know Mammoth Lakes has one of the longest ski seasons in North America? The slopes typically open in November and run until July or August. Yep, you can snowboard in your shorts, if you please.


Mammoth Mountain fast facts

Mammoth Lakes TourismMammoth Lakes Tourism

  • 1,416 epic hectares of skiable terrain
  • Average annual snowfall: 10.16 metres
  • 28 chairlifts
  • 2 gondolas
  • 150 unique runs
  • 945 metres of vertical rise

It's not just for pro boarders & skiers

Mammoth Lakes TourismMammoth Lakes Tourism

Mammoth Mountain might be the official training mountain of the U.S. Olympic Team, but 40 per cent of the runs are designated intermediate and 25 per cent are beginner.

Not a snow sport enthusiast? Worry not, you can still drink in expansive summit views. Panorama Gondola on Mammoth Mountain whisks guests up to 3,368 metres elevation while offering 360-degrees of jaw-dropping Sierra Nevada beauty. Before making the return trip, pop into Eleven53 Café for a summit snack and investigate the interactive learning stations at Eleven53 Interpretive Center. The gondola runs year-round. 

You can ski for "free"


Did you know Mammoth Mountain is a part of the Ikon Pass? Canadian travellers who have one should pack it with their passport so they can ski for “free."

Catch some hygge village viges

Rock and RyeRock and Rye

Do you love mountain village vibes? In Mammoth Lakes, imbibe craft beer and crisp alpine air as you lean into the warmth of a cozy outdoor fire pit in The Village at Mammoth. (See this calendar of events for live performances.) For a little retail therapy, there are 13 boutique shops offering everything from technical gear to mountain-inspired apparel and home decor. 


Going uphill is the fun part (actually!)

Jenn on a bike

The town of Mammoth Lakes is laced with paved biking paths. Our favourite route stretches from The Village Lodge to Horseshoe Lake (8.3-kilometre one-way). It’s a real calf-burner (unless you load onto the free Lakes Basin Trolley which runs in summer and fall) but on an e-bike, it’s a total breeze. Grab a bike from the Mammoth Mountain rental shop and glide your way up Lake Mary Road to reach the Mammoth Lakes Basin


Easy access to nature

convictlakeJennifer HubbertMammoth LakesJennifer Hubbert

With stunning Laurel Mountain towering 1,524 metres overhead, the relatively flat four-kilometre loop trail at Convict Lake is a low-effort hike with high returns. The emerald-tinted lake is popular with trout anglers and photographers.

Up for a more rigorous hike? Find a Mammoth Lakes hiking & backpacking guide here.

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Adventure along the "iron path"

Mammoth Mountain Via FerrataMammoth Mountain Via Ferrata

Do you have the guts to try Via Ferrata? This rugged adventure is beginner-friendly and kind of feels like assisted rock climbing. Get fitted with a harness, then follow a series of steel cables and hand- and footholds while crossing a monkey bridge or two. 

Via Ferrata is operated by Mammoth Mountain, which offers six routes that vary in difficulty. Tours run three hours long and there are four daily departures: two in the morning and two in the afternoon.

Note: Via Ferrata is a summer activity; view the schedule here

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Minaret Vista: where beauty meets adventure

Minaret VistaJosh Wray | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Look upon the skyline that envelopes Mammoth Lakes and you'll notice a fin of jagged peaks. The Minarets are part of the Ritter Range, which stretch upwards of 3,900 metres in elevation. For the best viewpoint, set your GPS for Minaret Vista, located approximately three kilometres past the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge Area. Minaret Vista is also a popular place for stargazing, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and Snowcat tours. Click here to view trail descriptions.

Hidden gem: Devils Postpile National Monument

Devils Postpile

Can you identify this natural wonder? It's Devils Postpile National Monument, located west of Mammoth Mountain. You might be wondering how this 328-hectare oddity was formed. The monument's hexagonal basalt columns were created roughly 82,000 years ago as a slow-moving lava flow cooled and cracked. The symmetrical vertical columns were then smoothed by glacial ice. 

Devils Postpile is seasonally-accessed and makes for a pleasant 1.6-kilometre round-trip hike along a well-marked trail. To reach the trailhead, catch the (mandatory) shuttle from the Mammoth Adventure Center at Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge.

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Hidden gem: Rainbow Falls

Mammoth Lakes TourismJosh Wray | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Where can you find this pocket of natural splendour? Just downstream from Devils Postpile National Monument is Rainbow Falls, where a spectacular cascade tumbles over 30 metres. Rainbow Falls earned its name from the multi-coloured mist that reflects brightest beneath a midday sun. 

How to reach Rainbow Falls: Exit the shuttle at stop #9 during during the summer months (May through early September). In the shoulder seasons, drive to Reds Meadow, pay the fee and locate Rainbow Falls Trailhead

Go hot spring hunting

Mammoth Lakes Wild WillyJennifer Hubbert

Are you a hot spring hound? After a day of skiing, hiking or biking in Mammoth Lakes, seek out a natural hot spring for a well-deserved soak. There are plenty to choose from, but our favourite is Wild Willy’s Hot Springs. The pools are close to town, accessed via a boardwalk. The wraparound views of the Sierra Nevada peaks are awe-inspiring.

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Mammoth Lakes is totally unpretentious

Mammoth Lakes TourismMammoth Lakes Tourism

Would you believe us if we told you Mammoth Lakes has its share of celebrity and VIP travellers, yet there's not a single five-star hotel within city limits? (For now.) It's the kind of low-key place where you can slip into flannel, put on a toque and just relax. Even if you're dining in at The Lakefront — considered to be Mammoth Lakes' fine dining restaurant  you need only wear your finest Canadian tuxedo. (That's head-to-toe denim, in case you didn't know.) 

Venture to an otherworldly landscape

Mono lakeJennifer Hubbert

Mono Lake looks like an alien landscape but it's located right here on Earth — in fact, just 30 minutes driving from Mammoth Lakes. This saline environment is two-and-a-half times saltier than the ocean and while it appears inhospitable, the lake teems with life. A unique biosphere supports brine shrimp and alkali flies which feed millions of migratory and nesting birds.

Mono LakeJosh Wrap | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Make your way to South Tufa to admire Mono Lake's hallmark tufa towers which are formed when calcium-rich underwater springs mix with lake water to produce carbonate limestone. Over time, they grow (exclusively underwater) and are exposed only as water levels fall. Some towers stretch over nine metres tall. For a unique perspective, see it from the waterline; Caldera Kayaks offers kayak tours and rentals. 

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Travel back in time

BodieMammoth Lakes TourismBodieEric Marty

Do you believe in ghosts? At Bodie State Historic Park, 170 structures stand in a state of “arrested decay,” offering visitors a feel for an authentic California Gold Rush-era town. Wander the lonely streets and peer through the windows of the saloon, barbershop and jailhouse. Access to Bodie is seasonal so it’s best to check ahead.

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Yosemite National Park is nearby

Yosemite natiional parkMathilda Khoo

Did you know you can make a day trip into Yosemite National Park from Mammoth Lakes? So long as Tioga Pass is open, you can reach the park boundary in just 45 minutes. (While impossible to guarantee, historically the pass opens in May/June and typically closes in November.*) Reach the iconic Yosemite Valley in two-and-a-half hours. 

Prefer to let someone else do the driving? Take advantage of the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS), an affordable coach service with seasonal daily departures from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite National Park.

When you go:

How do I get to Mammoth Lakes? 

Mammoth Lakes Tourism airportMammoth Lakes Tourism

By air:

Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) is located just a 10-minute drive from the centre of town. Fly from Canada with a stopover in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Denver. Taxis and shuttles make it easy for visitors to travel within Mammoth Lakes. 

airport mammoth lakesMammoth Lakes Tourism

By road:

Canadians can fly into San Francisco, Los Angeles or Las Vegas and arrive by car in approximately five hours. Note: the drive from San Fran is shorter in the warmer months when Highway 120 reopens


Canadian Traveller's suggested accommodations:

Location, location, location

The Village Lodge at MammothThe Village Lodge at MammothThe Village Lodge at MammothThe Village Lodge at Mammoth

Address: 6201 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes

Conveniently located in the heart of Mammoth Lakes, staying in a studio or one-, two- or three-bedroom condo at The Village Lodge at Mammoth means you can park your car for the duration of your trip. Restaurants, bars, shops and a gondola are all just a few minutes away on foot. To get around town, jump on The Village Lodge Guest Shuttle which offers hotel guests transportation within an eight kilometre radius. Whats more, Mammoth Lakes is serviced by a complimentary shuttle network; view a map here

I stayed in an oversize two-bedroom condo complete with a full kitchen and balcony. I enjoyed getting to know Mammoth Lakes' local legends and lore while thumbing through the pages of Tracks of Passion: Eastern Sierra Skiing, Dave McCoy and Mammoth Mountain, a coffee table book located in my suite. An outdoor heated pool and hot tub (open until 10 p.m.) was my favourite way to end the day. 

Instagrammable & woodsy

Tamarack LodgeTamarack LodgeTamarack LodgeTamarack Lodge

Address: 163 Twin Lakes Road, Mammoth Lakes

If your style runs rustic-refined, make your home-away-from-home Tamarack Lodge and Resort, located in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Overlooking the shores of Twin Lakes are a bevy of quaint one-, two- and three-bedroom cabins and a main lodge, all of which are dressed in timber accents and Western Americana decor. 


Need a hand planning your getaway?
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Lodging | Restaurants | Events