Your Ultimate Guide to Mammoth Lakes in the Winter

Imagine stepping into a winter wonderland where every snowflake feels like it was made by magic and rugged mountains are softened by a blanket of snow.
That’s what Mammoth Lakes in winter feels like.  It’s a snowy paradise full of scenic beauty and unique experiences that go beyond the typical ski trip.

Whether you’re visiting Mammoth to hit the slopes at Mammoth Mountain, or  searching for off-the-beaten path ways to unwind, we have the ultimate guide for discovering new ways to experience the mountains.

By the time you leave the Eastern Sierras we want your soul to be refreshed, your body rested and your mind longing for a winter all year long.

Table of Contents

Exploring Mammoth Mountain: A Winter Wonderland

Ask any local and they’ll tell you that after years or decades, they still find something awe-inspiring or special on The Mountain. For many, a day on the slopes becomes a sanctuary for everyone from novices to experts.

Skiing and Snowboarding on Mammoth Mountain

In the 1980’s Mammoth Mountain launched a marketing campaign that boldly stated that “nobody else lived up to its name.” It’s true, Mammoth Mountain is one of the largest ski areas in North America, boasting more than 3,500 skiable acres of terrain.

That means no matter what your ability, you’ll find everything from sweeping vistas to peaceful forests to explore.

Main Lodge: Dave McCoy built Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge in the early 1950s. It was originally dubbed “The Pit” and provided a place to refresh and warm up after a day skiing on Chair One.  From the deck of the modern-day Main Lodge you can still see the arrow in the rockwork that marked the original building.

Main Lodge access to the following chairlifts:

  • Broadway Express (Chair 1)
  • Unbound Express (Chair 6)
  • Lower Panorama Gondola
  • Discovery Chair (Chair 11 – Beginner Friendly)

Canyon Lodge: While Main Lodge is the historical hub of the mountain, Canyon Lodge and its access to Lincoln Mountain, has become increasingly popular among powder hounds looking for some time in the “White Room” before the top opens on a powder day. On classic sunny days, Canyon Lodge is known as “The Beach” for its laid back, Apres ski vibe and sun soaked deck.

Canyon Lodge access to the following chairlifts:

  • Canyon Lodge Express (Chair 16)
  • School Yard Express (Chair 17)
  • Chair 8
  • Chair 7

Eagle Lodge: Known for its gentle slopes, mild weather, and well-cushioned chair lift that seats six, Eagle Lodge has become a favorite among families. Don’t let the Sprung Tent structure fool you. Eagle Lodge has everything a family needs for a fun day on the slopes,  from rentals, and retail  to restaurants and ski instruction.

Eagle Lodge access to the following chairlift:

  • Eagle Express (Chair 15)

Local Hideaways: The Mill and The Outpost are two local favorites for leisurely lunch breaks soaking up the California sun in a beach lounge chair.

  • The Mill is known for its tasty BBQ, giant fireplace and friendly bartenders. The convenient parking lot and easy access to Stump Alley Express (Chair 2) and Gold Rush Express (Chair 10) make the Mill a great place to start and end your day.
  • The Outpost is aptly named. Located on the backside of the mountain next to chairs 13 and 14, the Outpost is a scenic and quiet spot to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the larger lodges. You’ll also find the best grilled cheese sandos in town here.

Take a Scenic Gondola Ride

For those looking to elevate their experience, literally and figuratively, the Panorama Gondola offers breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada while transporting you to over 11,000 feet elevation – making every ride an adventure in itself. The best part: you don’t have to be an expert skier or snowboarder to enjoy the view from what Ski Patrol fondly refers to as the “Top of the World.” Ride only tickets are available and anyone with a pass can ride the Gondola to the top. Once you’ve gotten your perfect photo, stop by the interpretive center to learn more about the natural history of the region. Then grab a bite to eat at the small eatery.

During peak seasons like Christmas and New Year’s weeks or long holiday weekends in January and February, Mammoth Lakes transforms into a hub of winter joy. Planning your trip during these times ensures you’re part of this vibrant atmosphere but remember that early booking is key as it gets busier than a hot tub after a chilly day on the slopes.

Exploring Mammoth Lakes

Cross-Country Skiing + Snowshoeing

If skiing isn’t your thing or you’re just looking to switch up the pace, Cross Country Skiing or snowshoeing around Mammoth Lakes might be right up your alley. Imagine stepping or gliding through freshly fallen snow, each movement underfoot syncing with the serene silence of wintry forests.

  • Sherwins Trailhead.  For those who prefer tranquility over adrenaline rushes, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing through Mammoth’s scenic landscapes provides an equally captivating winter experience. Starting at the Sherwins Trailhead, just steps from Sierra Meadows Ranch, you’ll find machine groomed public access trails for XC skiing and snowshoeing surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Sherwins. You’ll find yourself immersed in nature’s splendor just steps from your door.
  • Shady Rest Park. Nestled amid expansive pine forests and located on the outskirts of town, Shady Rest Park offers easy access to forested trails where the peaceful quiet of winter opens up along pristine snowy paths. If you’re looking to explore the hidden corners of the wilderness, you’ll find miles upon miles of meticulously groomed trail networks weaving through towering pines.

Sledding Adventures

Woolly’s Tube Park and Snow Play

If sliding down hills at breakneck speeds sounds thrilling but standing on two planks does not appeal much, say no more. Woolly’s Tube Park has got your back (and your front.)

This family-friendly zone brings laughter-filled days where gravity does all work pulling tubes down specially crafted lanes – because why should skiers have all the fun?

It’s amid the picturesque backdrop of winter in Mammoth Lakes where families and friends make memories that last a lifetime.

  • Public Access

Both Sherwins Trailhead and Shady Rest Park offer fun (and free) places for the family sledding and snow play. enjoy other quintessentially winter fun such as building a snowman or engaging friendly snowball fights.

Eastern Sierra’s Unique Landscape

Mammoth Lakes isn’t just a snow-lover’s paradise. Besides being a haven for those who adore the cold, Mammoth Lakes boasts some of California’s most distinctive geological and scenic wonders.

Here you’ll find natural hot springs, geological marvels, rock oddities and sleepy mountain towns lost to time. There’s more to explore beyond town limits, even in winter.

Rock Creek Geological Site

While it’s too dangerous to soak, bath or swim at Rock Creek Geological Site, due to unpredictable water temperatures and eruptions, this area offers a unique sightseeing experience with a surreal landscape of boiling water bubbling up in a cold creek.

This quiet, out-of-the way spot offers a different view of the Sierra skyline.  It captivates visitors with its unique natural phenomena, from steaming and boiling waters to vibrant algae that can withstand extreme heat.

An interpretive path offers a fascinating view of the processes beneath the earth’s surface that make the Eastern Sierra so special (and magnificent).

Relaxing in Nature

Mammoth Lakes, known for its breathtaking winter landscapes and adventurous ski slopes, and few vista’s are as beautiful as the ones you’ll find from the vantage point of  a natural hot spring. These geothermal marvels ease weary muscles and unparalleled relaxation after a day in the mountains.

Soaking in Wild Willy’s Hot Springs

Cruising towards Wild Willy’s, the earth stretches out through the expansive meadows of the Long Valley Caldera.  The ridgeline of the Sierra still stands tall while the snow capped White Mountains fade far into the distance.

Just a few miles from Highway 395, off of Benton Crossing Road you’ll find a large parking lot with  a wooden boardwalk that beckons you to this hidden gem in the high desert.

Surrounded by uninterrupted mountain views and the quiet solace of nature, soaking in Wild Willy’s Hot Springs feels like stepping into another world. These warm waters have soothing the bodies and souls of travelers for more than one hundred years, and possibly Paiute communities in the region long before that.

The allure of these hot springs isn’t just their warmth; it’s the backdrop they offer—stunning vistas that change from dawn till dusk.

Nineteenth-century writer and conservationist John Muir fondly referred to the Eastern Sierra as “The Range of Light.” As steam rises from the water against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, and winter skies lit pink and orange, time seems to stand still at Wild Willy’s.

Journeying Through June Lake Loop

If picture-postcard views are what you’re after, then taking a drive around June Lake Loop will feel like stepping into one—a serene stretch dotted with alpine lakes nestled against dramatic mountain backdrops ready to leave visitors spellbound at every turn.

In winter months especially, when snow blankets everything in sight turning landscapes into monochromatic masterpieces broken only by blues of frozen lakes; photographers find their haven while families enjoy slower-paced activities like fishing on accessible parts of waters still liquid beneath ice or simply playing in pristine snowy fields beside roads less traveled during colder seasons.

The quaint, mid-century vibe of June Lake’s town center is a marvel of its own. Be sure to grab a pint (or two) at June Lake Brewing and savor some Eastside Aloha at Ohana’s Food Truck.

Mono Lake: A Saltwater Marvel

Mono Lake stands as another testament to nature’s artistry. This vast saltwater lake is fed by snowpack from the Sierra. However, the lake has no no outlet, which causes alkaline salts to accumulate, making Mono Lake three times saltier than the Pacific ocean.

But what makes Mono Lake truly unique is the eerie limestone formations rising starkly out of the lake. These formations, known as tufa towers, rise up against clear blue skies providing scenery unlike any other place on Earth. In fact, many who visit Mono Lake, compare it to a moonscape.

The high alkaline levels of Mono Lake also attract millions of migratory birds who stop over each year. It has become a critical habitat for stops along Pacific Flyway routes, making it a popular destination for bird watchers.

Other adventurers come exploring trails leading closer look among these ghostly spires emerged thousands years ago from underwater springs.

When fresh water rich in calcium mixes with Mono Lake’s carbonate-rich water, they form calcite, a solid material. This calcite accumulates around underwater springs over years, eventually creating the towering tufa formations visible above the water today.

This captivating destination isn’t merely about observing wonders afar but also for discovering ecosystems that thrive in conditions we might consider inhospitable. A perfect excursion for reflecting on how wonderful winter can be.

Activities Beyond Skiing in Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes is not just a ski paradise. Mammoth Lakes transforms into a magical snowy realm, brimming with alternatives beyond the usual ski exhilaration. Mammoth Lakes caters to all, from families seeking bonding moments, adventurers in pursuit of thrill with comrades, to lone wolves desiring a serene communion with the wilderness.

Ice Skating at Mammoth Lakes’ New Rink

Ice skating is a quintessential winter activity and the brand new LA Kings Ice at Mammoth Lakes is within an easy walk from Sierra Meadows Ranch.

This Olympic-sized indoor rink is perfect for families, friends, groups and solo explorers alike, offering an array of ice skating programs designed to cater to all skill levels and interests.

To locals and visitors alike, the LA Kings Ice is the newest hub of the recreational community where the excitement of healthy, active lifestyles and the warmth of community spirit merge.

Whether you’re drawn to the graceful world of figure skating, the rough and tumble of competitive hockey, or the unique challenge of curling, there’s a place for you here. The rink’s inclusive programming and instructional opportunities ensure that everyone, from adults to youth, can find an activity that resonates with them, all at an affordable cost.

There’s also a range of special events scheduled throughout the winter season. Imagine skating alongside Santa during the holiday season or ringing in the New Year with a family-friendly celebration on the ice. These events, along with promotions like Free Skate Night and the showcase of local talent during the Winter Youth Hockey Classic, highlight the rink’s commitment to enriching the community’s recreational life.

Practical amenities like skate rentals, and a cozy indoor warming area ensure that your visit is comfortable and convenient. For those looking to improve their skills, the rink offers skate sharpening services and various learn-to-skate aids, including the adorable Bobby® seal training aid, making it easier for kids and beginners to enjoy their time on the ice confidently.

Snowmobile Excursions Into Uncharted Territories

Few things will give you more access to the unparalleled beauty of the Eastern Sierra than a snowmobile adventure.  Exploring winter landscapes on a snowmobile offers you more than just a ride; it promises a deep connection with the natural world.

Mammoth Lakes, with its 80 miles of public access groomed trails and an open expanse of 75,000 acres, stands as a premier destination for snowmobiling enthusiasts.

The diverse terrain and the stunning vistas that unfold at every turn cater to a wide range of explorers, from seasoned veterans to those looking to immerse themselves in the winter wilderness for the first time. This is where the grandeur of nature invites you to explore, offering experiences that are as enriching as they are thrilling.

  •  Adventures in a Forest at Shady Rest Park. This easy to access hub of three meticulously groomed trails (A Trail, B Trail, and K Trail) sits at the edge of town. These paths serve as your entry point to a wider network of trails just outside Mammoth Lakes, where the thrill of discovery awaits. Trails connecting to places like Dead Man Summit are a must on the bucket list. Keep in mind, the adventure here relies on the whims of Mother Nature, as the trails’ availability hinges on snow conditions.
  • Explore Beyond with OSV Area Trails. For those seeking to venture further, the Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) area along Hwy. 203 opens up a world of possibilities. Here, you can access the C Trail leading north, or take the F Trail to Minaret Vista, offering stunning views and a cooler, windier high-altitude experience. These trails, groomed for snowmobiling, are shared with cross-country skiers and snowshoers, adding a communal spirit to your exploration.
  • Guided Tours and Rentals: Your Gateway to the Uncharted No adventure is complete without the guidance and expertise of local tours. DJ’s Snowmobile Adventures and Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures offer guided tours that unveil the hidden beauty of Mammoth Lakes’ surroundings. From family-friendly excursions to quests for untouched powder stashes, these tours cater to every adventurer’s dream. For those who prefer to carve their own path, both guided and self-guided tours, along with rentals, are available, ensuring your journey is nothing short of unforgettable.

Snowmobiling in Mammoth Lakes is not just about the thrill of speed or the conquest of snow-clad peaks; it’s a journey into the heart of the wilderness, where the beauty of nature is matched only by the spirit of adventure. So gear up, set out, and let the wild expanses of Mammoth Lakes transform your winter into an epic saga of exploration and discovery.

How to get to Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes is accessible by car, with routes such as US 395 offering scenic drives through the Eastern Sierra. Winter conditions can vary, so it’s essential to check road conditions and carry chains.

For those preferring to fly, you’ll find two conveniently located airports close to Mammoth Lakes. United offers commercial flights to Bishop and Chartered flights are available to the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport.

Once in Mammoth Lakes, local transportation options, including shuttles, make navigating town when the snow flies  easy, ensuring a seamless start to your winter getaway.

Drive to Mammoth Lakes

Driving to Mammoth Lakes offers a scenic journey along US 395 any time of year. However, driving in winter requires preparation. Winter weather can bring snow and ice, making road conditions unpredictable. Travelers should check the latest road conditions, weather forecasts, and carry necessary snow chains or tires. It’s also wise to have an emergency kit in your vehicle, including blankets, food, water, and a flashlight. Caltrans provides real-time road and traffic information, essential for a safe journey.

  • Driving to Mammoth Lakes from Los Angeles: The journey from Los Angeles to Mammoth Lakes is about a 5-hour drive, covering approximately 310 miles. You’ll typically take the US-395 N, a route that offers striking views of the Eastern Sierra. This scenic route offers a glimpse into California’s diverse natural beauty.
  • Driving to Mammoth Lakes from San Francisco: Driving from San Francisco to Mammoth Lakes involves a roughly 6-hour journey, spanning about 330 miles. The most common route involves taking Highway US-50 E or Highway US-80 E through Lake Tahoe then onto US-395 S. Winter conditions can make this drive challenging, so be prepared with chains and stay updated on road and weather conditions. The drive is beautifully scenic, providing a memorable start to your Mammoth Lakes adventure.

Flights to Mammoth Lakes

For air travel to Mammoth Lakes, you have a couple of convenient options. United Airlines operates flights to Bishop, providing an alternative gateway to Mammoth Lakes, especially during the winter months. Additionally, for a more personalized travel experience, there are chartered flights available directly to Mammoth Yosemite Airport, offering a quick and comfortable way to reach the slopes of Mammoth Lakes. Both options provide a seamless transition from air to the breathtaking landscapes of the Sierra Nevada, catering to different preferences and needs.

Where to Stay in Mammoth Lakes

Finding the perfect spot to snuggle up after a day on the slopes or trails in Mammoth Lakes doesn’t have to be like finding a needle in a haystack. If you want to get away from the noise and hustle of modern life, but still want easy access to the best restaurants and shopping Mammoth has to offer, we’d like to invite you to stay at Sierra Meadows Ranch during your next winter adventure to Mammoth Lakes.

A Cozy Retreat At Sierra Meadows Ranch

Located right on the edge of town, Sierra Meadows Ranch offers panoramic mountain views and right-outside-your-door adventures. It might seem like we’re off the beaten path,  yet we’re a short walk from dining, shopping and cultural points of interest. The serene atmosphere of the meadow that surrounds Sierra Meadows Ranch  lends itself perfectly to those seeking peace quietly amidst natural beauty Sierra Nevadas. Whether you plan to take an easy stroll (or snowshoe tour) along a groomed public trail or want to embark on a backcountry adventure, Sierra Meadows Ranch makes a comfortable and cozy basecamp with every modern amenity.

FAQs for Mammoth Lakes in the Winter

What do you wear to Mammoth Lakes in the winter?

Dress in layers with a waterproof outer shell. Don’t forget thermal underwear, gloves, and a warm hat.

Do I need snow chains for Mammoth Lakes?

Yes, during snowy months. Road conditions can change quickly. Always check before your trip and carry chains.

How do you get to Mammoth Lakes in the winter?

Fly into Mammoth Yosemite Airport or drive via US-395. During winter storm weather, roads may be icy; travel safely.

How many days do you need in Mammoth Lakes?

A minimum of three days lets you explore key attractions without rushing through the beauty of it all.

Remember These Adventure Must-Haves

Want our top hits for Mammoth Lakes in the Winter. Here is our must-see and must do list for travelers who want more out of their trip to the mountains .

  1. Keep the feelings close. Remember the thrill of skiing down Mammoth Mountain or the serenity of escaping to the quiet of the forest on cross-country skis or snowshoes.
  2. Relax by Nature.  Wild Willy’s Hot Springs lets nature’s warmth seep into your bones. Find that peace that only nature can fully restore..
  3. Ponder on unique spots. Take a half-day trip to Mono Lake or Rock Creek Geological Site; the beauty you’ll find there isn’t just about looking, but about being fully immersed in the experience.
  4. Find a cozy cabin. Lodging in Mammoth Lakes  isn’t just about a comfy bed,  it’s about easy access to adventure and making memories to last a lifetime.

We invite you to let every snowflake remind you of the magic waiting in Mammoth Lakes each winter. Start planning your return; those mountains are calling your name, again.