The laid back, Eastern Sierra mountain resort town of Mammoth Lakes is most often thought of as a premier ski destination, but it's equally gorgeous in the summer. When the warm months roll in and melt the snow, visitors can spend their days hiking amid unreal views, boating on the alpine lakes, soaking in natural hot springs, and mountain biking through wildflowers; nights are for buzzing breweries, distilleries, and restaurants.
So this year, why not skip the Yosemite madness and keep on driving to Mammoth for your nature fix? We've put together our idea of a perfect adventure getaway.
Rainbow falls at sunset. Josh Wray/ Visit Mammoth
FRIDAY: A Scenic Road East
One of the best parts of traveling to Mammoth in the summer is actually going to Mammoth. The journey takes about five and a half hours from San Francisco, and cuts straight through Yosemite. Leave early to give yourself plenty of time for the trip in the daylight, as you'll want to stop and take in the views along.
Check in + hike to Rainbow Falls.
Mammoth is full of hotels and resorts that range from rustic to posh. Typically, they're busiest during the ski months, so you can often get a great deal on a room in one of the nicer resorts in the summer. We recommend the Westin Monarche Resort, which has a great location at the foot of Mammoth Mountain near the gondola that can take you to the top. Rooms have alpine views, in-room kitchens, seating areas, and fireplaces; the expansive pool area has two large hot tubs and is surrounded by the forest. Other great options for hotels include Tamarack Lodge, The Village Lodge, Juniper Springs Resort.
Don't waste much time before getting out to your first hike. You'll be heading to Rainbow Falls, one of the most popular sights in Mammoth. Open only in the summer, it's arguably the most dramatic waterfall in the region (at nearly 100 feet), and takes its name from the many colors the water reflects from the sun. Due to congestion, you'll need to take the town's shuttle bus to the Devils Postpile trailhead. From there, the hike is about 3.5 miles; it's an easy to moderate stroll, and the perfect welcome to Mammoth. At the end of the trail, you'll be greeted by the gigantic falls where you can take a refreshing dip.
Happy Hour + Dinner
After your hike, don't bother freshening up—people in Mammoth have adventurous lifestyles and usually go around in their hiking gear—before hitting your first of several breweries this trip. At less than 1,200 square feet, Black Doubt Brewing(452 Old Mammoth Rd #104), is considered a nano-brewery, but that doesn't stop the place from crafting a constantly revolving selection of brews—you can taste everything from Belgian style ales to sour beers and hazy IPAS.
Post drinks, it's finally time for some grub. Head next door to Mammoth Tavern, an institution in town that puts a California spin on gastro-pub fare. It may be best known for comforting cold-weather dishes (shepherd's pie, fondue, and braised short rib grilled cheese), but come summer there are fresher options—try the blackened ahi appetizer and the kale salad with golden beets, strawberry, and black rice. Don't miss their Moscow mules.
Craft beer lovers know Mammoth well for its breweries, but Shelter Distilling caters to beer and spirits lovers alike.(Courtesy of Shelter Distilling)
SATURDAY: Hike, Bike + Brews
Start your day off at local favorite Stellar Brew, a coffee shop that's bustling every day of the week. Expect long lines that move quickly as people grab their organic brews and home-cooked breakfasts, including egg sandwiches and burritos, smoothies, acai bowls, and pastries.
Next, it's time to head out to hike again—this time in the area next door to Mammoth in the Inyo National Forest. For stunning views, we recommend taking the Rush Creek Falls trail on the June Lake Loop, a slightly strenuous but rewarding hike through the back county. Start at Silver Lake with an initially steep ascent with views all around—a path of wildflowers will lead you to Horsetail Falls (3.1 miles). Here, if you've had enough, you can choose to turnaround—or if you're up for more, continue onto Agnew (4.2 miles) and Gem Lakes (6.6 miles.)
Lunch + E-Biking
Every good hike is followed by a cold beer, especially on a hot day. Just down the road from your trailhead sits June Lake Brewing(131 S Crawford Ave.), a relaxed and down-to-earth spot where you can hang out in the tasting room or on the patio. While there, grab some delicious Hawaiian food from Ohanas 395, a buzzworthy food truck located in the parking lot of the brewery that offers up fresh ahi poke, fusion tacos, sushi, rice bowls, and even loaded-up quesadillas.
The rest of the afternoon will be spent at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, riding electric bikes along some of 80+ miles of bike paths. This summer, the mountain became the first national park operating on U.S. Forest Service land to allow full access for class-1 e-bikes. These bikes provide pedal assistance under 20mph, meaning you still have to do some work but they give you a major boost. Drive up the mountain and park at the visitor's center—you can take them out on your own, but If you've never mountain biked before, opt for a lesson and/or a guided ride. Get ready for some major thrills as you take to the dirt trails, speeding through trees, over rocks and logs, and along side views of the Sierras.
Apres Biking Rewards
Once you dust off the dirt from the trails, head to Shelter Distilling(100 Canyon Blvd Ste 217) in the heart of Mammoth Village. This newcomer has won the hearts of locals and tourists alike with its small-batch spirits—order a flight (don't miss the gin with botanicals including juniper berries, coriander and lavender) or opt to taste them in a refreshing cocktail. The beers here are also excellent, as the head brewer originally spent years at famous Mammoth Brewing.
Walk just a few minutes for dinner at 53 Kitchen & Cocktails(6201 Minaret Rd #153), a lively bistro serving up traditional dishes with a modern take, from burgers to crab cakes, and entrees such as salmon with orange-glazed beets and airline chicken with heirloom carrots. For dessert, order the peanut butter s'more, which comes overflowing with a house-made marshmallow, chocolate ganache, bourbon peanut butter anglaise, and candied peanuts.
(Courtesy of Minaret Photography)
SUNDAY: Sunrise Hot Springs + Yoga
Today is all about getting some rest and relaxation after the weekend's activities. You'll start your morning early, as close to sunrise as possible, to beat the crowds to Mammoth's legendary natural hot springs. Some 760,000 years ago a volcano exploded where Mammoth Lakes now sits, leaving a number of bubbling natural hot springs with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. For the best photo op, head to Whitmore Hot Springs, which holds just four to six people. If you're looking for more space, Wild Willy's is much more expansive and is a better bet.
Post dip, head for a wake-up call at Black Velvet Coffee(3343 Main St), a three-story craft roaster, espresso bar, and wine bar in a modern industrial space. In addition to their fresh roasts, you can choose from a selection of pastries and protein bites.
Next, some yoga is in order and it will feel good to stretch. Sign up at Mountain Sol Yoga Studio(3399 Main St.) or Yoga Lab(6085 Minaret Rd), which both offer beginner and advanced classes along with meditation.
Before taking off, make one last stop for at Mammoth Brewing Company(18 Lake Mary Rd), a local classic that's always hopping. Taste from their large selection including the Golden Trout Kolsch, Yosemite Pale Ale, and Epic IPA. Soak it up with banh mi or carne asada fries at the brewery's Eatery by Bleu.
Post-meal, we recommend getting out of town on the earlier side again to have more time in Yosemite if you'd like—at least make sure to get out of the park before sunset. If you're staying longer, other activities to check out include kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding or the Mammoth Mega Zip, set to open later this summer and be the tallest vertical drop (2,100 ft) on a zipline in North America.