All of my life I have known Mammoth Lakes as just Mammoth and I always thought it was surrounded by one large lake, appropriately called Mammoth Lake.
Much to my surprise it isn’t called Mammoth, it is called Mammoth Lakes and there isn’t just one lake, there are multiple lakes of various sizes around the area.
Sixty-four years after my birth, I finally decided to visit this popular mountain town. It’s a place that I obviously knew nothing about, yet it is only a mere six hours away from where I live.
T-shirts, Lakes, and Elevation
At an elevation of 7,881, Mammoth Lakes also has a thriving ski area and numerous other attractions such as Devils Postpile National Monument, a formation of basalt columns, and the soaring Rainbow Falls.
For us, our quest was to do some fishing on the many alpine lakes and explore others that were just up the road off of Highway 395.
When we arrived in town and even before our engine had time to cool off, we set off to check out some of the nearby lakes. Some were conveniently just a few miles from the condo that we rented.
Lake Mary is only a few miles outside of the town of Mammoth Lakes
On this weekend we were only a few days into fall but the weather still had summer like conditions.
As an example, on the beautiful Grant Lake, the sun beat done on us so hard, we had to find refuge in the shade. It seems weird being up in the mountains dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. However, after the sun sets, the temperatures start to pummel to a cool thirty degrees Fahrenheit.
The next day was just as warm so we drove around a loop that took us to some of the other lakes.
Lake Mary was our first stop and we were impressed by the beautiful scenery and the sparkling blue water. Only a smattering of white snow patches could be seen at the very tip of the mountains although soon they will be fully covered in pristine white.
The pine tree-lined hills added even more color while the air was clean and crisp.
During our drive, we saw fisherman standing in different spots along the way so we too found a quiet little nook to throw out our poles. We were amazed as was the case on all but one lake, that there was no charge to enter, park, or to pay extra to fish.
The lakes close to town include Lake Mary, Lake George, Lake Grant, Lake Mamie, and Horseshoe. We visited them all and were amazed on how each one had its own personality. Sadly, none of them yielded any fish. However, that was on us…Trout rookies, we admit.
Staycationer JoJo enjoys Horseshoe Lake
There is a viewpoint where you can look over on to the spectacular Twin Lakes some thousand feet below. There is also a road that will take you down to both which of course we did in our quest to see all. We figured at the end of the trip, we saw at least sixteen different lakes.
Luckily, we were there before the weather turned cold as I heard some of these roads are closed during winter.
The elevation is no joke with one of the lakes sitting at just over 9,000 feet above sea level. The thin air at times made you feel like you just ran a mile even though you only walked up a small hill.
Although we were huffing and the puffing, it was fun discovering these lakes but, there was more to see!!!
The June Lake Loop
On another day, we ventured about twenty minutes north on 395 to see the popular Mono Lake but that will be for another story. Nearby sits another group of lakes found on the June Lake loop outside of the town of Lee Vining.
This cluster of lakes is only a few miles off of Highway 395 and starts with the amazing June Lake. Then you proceed around the loop, where there are the lakes Gull, Silver, and finally Grant where we caught our first and only trout.
These are extremely picturesque lakes with the bluest of blue water surrounded by mountain peaks and pine trees.
Some of the larger lakes have marinas where you can rent boats for the day for a reasonable price while some have kayaks and SUP’s. We choose to stay on the banks or in a few cases, small rocky beaches.
Lions, Tiger, and Bears…Well, just Bears
We were always a little cautious because we were told that bears wander around sometimes. On one of the warmer days during our trip, I was sitting there enjoying the scenery on the incredible Lake Grant. It was a calm and beautiful day and every fiber in my body was super relaxed.
A lady fishing only about thirty feet away proceeded to tell me of the time that she was sitting where we were and a bear approached her. She only knew it was there when she felt it smelling her hair. She said that she just stood still and it eventually walked away. I was amazed and just a little spooked as my eyes were now darting around.…so much for my relaxing day. They say they come by the shore from time to time looking for caught fish that are hanging on stringers.
Undeterred by the tales of bear sightings, we continued on to Lundy Lake which was a short drive from Lee Vining. All of these lakes were only one to three miles off of Highway 395 and had easy access.
Lures and Ripped Pants
The next day we headed south this time and another quick twenty minutes to Lake Crawley. This five mile wide lake is one of the largest in the area and can be seen from Highway 395.
Maybe because it’s man-made, it was the only one that we had to pay to get in, although it was only a nominal ten dollars.
This time of year they don’t allow you to fish with live bait which would be a new experience for us. Staycations activities planner, JoJo, caught everything but a fish with the newly purchased and recommended lure. Instead she caught the back of her head, a towel, a chair, a tree, her shoe, and ripped a huge hole in her pants. Casting isn’t her expertise. Either is catching fish as this was another day of no bites, no fish.
Just up the road sits Convict Lake, one of the prettiest in my opinion. Fishing allows you to just sit there and take in nature, enjoy all that is around. Convict Lake makes it easy to do that with its breathtaking high peaks and valleys surrounding by the gleaming water.
All of these lakes whether you go north or south are only less than a half hour from the town of Mammoth Lakes.
Mammoth Lakes Town
The Mammoth Lakes town is incredibly charming with shops and restaurants of every kind. The main road is where all is located and scattered about are various hotels.
We never visited the ski area but we read that you can take a gondola ride up to the summit. That sounded fun but we were always tired after an active day on the lakes.
We saw plenty of hikers and bikers as there are plenty of trails for both in the area.
It was time to say goodbye to the wonderful Mammoth Lakes and our next journey was to spend a few extra moments at Mono Lake. Stay tuned for that story.
Story and photos: Debbie Colwell