COME EXPLORE AND DISCOVER THE EASTERN SIERRA
Below you will find everything you need to figure out how to get a permit to Yosemite, links to road conditions and weather, as well as links to local events and how to get around Mammoth Lakes without driving.
Within an hours drive from Mammoth Lakes you will find the largest diversity of wild areas. From Mineral Tufa to Volcanic columns to glacier carved monoliths a weeks vacation won't be enough time to explore it all. This information will help you get it organized.
You may recognize the iconic tufa of Mono Lake and wonder what’s up with that? Mono Lake is a highly alkaline lake with a salt content almost 3 times that of the ocean. As the lake does not have an outlet and the surrounding mountain runoffs deposit large volumes of dissolved salts in the lake, the salt concentration and PH level are high. Tufa are limestone columns of calcite. From the bottom of the lake subsurface waters containing calcium mix with the inorganic carbon of the alkaline lake through spring orifices and around those orifices develop the calcite tufa. They only appear to you today as the water levels have severely decreased mostly due to water divergent projects of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power since 1913. It is a fascinating history and geological investigation which you can discover more of through Mono Lake Commitee and The California Department of Parks and Recreation.
When you visit Mono Lake, I suggest starting at the visitors center as you will get an understanding of what parts of the lake you might like to visit.
Yosemite National Park…where does one start to talk about it? Encompassing over 750,000 acres of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California spanning to both the Eastern and Western slopes, you could spend a month alone exploring it’s abundance of waterfalls, hikes, vistas and wildlife. If you are a climber…well, you’ll be in paradise. From our side of the park (Eastern) you’ll go through Tuolumne Meadows at 8,585ft above sea level before descending into Yosemite Valley at 4,000 ft above. Depending on traffic it will take approximately 2 hours to get to the valley. When folks talk of Yosemite, they are thinking of the impressive valley which encompasses the incredible rock formations of El Capitan and Half Dome as well as the iconic Yosemite falls, Bridalveil falls and Vernal falls. You can hike, bike, enjoy a meal, listen to forest service talks or just lounge in the multitude of meadows watching the big wall climbers on El Capitan. Don’t however, dismiss the drive through Tuolumne Meadows. You’ll pass lakes to stop and swim in, meadows to take photos of wildlife, and so many vistas that you might want to plan a few extra hours just for the drive alone.
To enter Yosemite NP, things have changed a bit since COVID19. A reservation permit is now required to enter or drive through the park.
(Update: For 2023 there is discussion of no longer requiring a permit but there may be other restrictions in place to assist the National Park in protecting this beautiful place)
Please look here for details and plan ahead. This is one of the most magical places in the United States and hence a popular one. Have an idea of what you want to see and then go explore all the possibilities.
In 1911 by presidential proclamation, Devils Postpile National Monument was created to protect and preserve the Devils Postpile formation, Rainbow falls and it’s pristine mountain environment. The dramatic symmetry and 60’ height of the Columnar basalt towers is one of the world’s finest examples. Current studies suggest that they were formed less than 100,000 years ago when a cooling lava flow cracked into multi-sided columns. To explore the depths of this fascinating natural phenomenon further, check out it’s geology at the National Park Service.
GETTING TO THE PARK
The road to the postpile is open from spring (when the snow melts enough to plow the road) to mid October. In 2022, Oct 11 is the last day the road is open. The mandatory shuttle will end on September 5 so you can drive down after that with your own vehicle. (Be aware that the road is narrow, curvy and has a fair amount of exposure). Until September 5, you must take the shuttle from the Main Lodge of Mammoth Mountain at a cost. Please check prices at Mammoth Mountain
You will be taking the shuttle down to one of two stops at the end of the line (Red’s Meadow) depending on whether you are hiking to Rainbow Falls as well as the postpile. Both are easy hikes that any adult or child can do. You can find maps for more information here. National Park Service Maps
Bring a snack and water and enjoy your day.
No trip to the West coast of the US is complete without experiencing an iconic Western Ghost Town. As you walk down the streets and peer into the windows of houses, stores, the school and church, you’ll begin to hear the whispers of those 8,000 souls that once called this place home. In 1875, Waterman S Body discovered gold deposits in the hills above Mono Lake. By 1877, the Standard Mining Company bought the land that is now the Bodie Ghost Town and by 1882 these pioneers pulled upwards of $38 million in gold and silver from those hills. It became a state historic park in 1962. Today, as you look in those windows of the 200 abandoned structures, you’ll see what was left behind as the deposits dried up and residents departed taking only what they could carry; leaving behind furniture, dishes, tools and old vehicles. The general store is still stocked with cans of spice and lanterns, the mortuary has caskets, and the school has poems on the chalkboard with desks lined up awaiting the children that will never arrive. You get this glimpse of what life was like in this time of discovery and hardship; particularly when you visit the tombs of the cemetery. Don’t miss visiting the store/museum in the old community building where you can read their log books and see the photos and time pieces of those who lived here. You can even purchase books written by these folks for an even more in-depth experience.
*Entrance fee $8 adults $5 children payable at the stand as you enter the park.
*Open year round but once the snow falls, the road is closed to vehicle traffic. In the winter, you must snowmobile, ski or snowshoe in. You can check the road conditions for SR270 here. California DOT
*Summer hours 9am-6pm Winter hours 9am-3pm
*PDF of map, history and details of the park
*From Mammoth Lakes, it will take about an hour to get into the park. It is on a well maintained dirt road 13 miles off of 395.
*You’ll want to spend the full day exploring so bring water, lunch, snacks and plan on taking your time. This isn’t the kind of place that you can really experience with an hour stop over.
*Check in the store/museum for the schedule of daily historical talks and Stamp Mill tours.
*Bring your camera. Every time that I visit (every family visit) I see things within my camera lens that I didn’t see before and it is truly fascinating.
*Due to the historical artifacts that are in this park, please collect nothing to take home as a souvenir. You can purchase items in the store/museum.
*If you become a member of the Bodie Foundation many special events will open up to you such the “Friends of Bodie” day in august where members come dressed in the era to enjoy what life would have been like or the evening “Ghost Walks” that occur 3 times per summer.
Each season in Mammoth Lakes brings it's own sense of beauty. Whether your thing is snow, lakes or forests we've got it all.
With the melting of the snow in spring (Typically May-June) the lakes defrost, the mountain trails open up and the flowers bloom. This is also the time when the Tioga Pass (Hwy 120) opens into Yosemite NP. You’ll see temperatures go from mid 50s to mid 80s by September and then back down again until October/November. Our days are mostly sunny with occasional showers. We are, however, high in the mountains so the weather can change quickly. Come prepare for hot days and cool evenings. Watch the weather as you plan your visit.
In September or October, the temperatures begin to drop creating a spectacular display of orange and red as the Aspen trees begin to fade into winter. Come October/November winter starts to settle in as the nights become near freezing. This is the time for Mammoth Mountain to start making snow on a few of the main runs. The mountain tries to open with this man made snow by the beginning of November. Winter typically has numerous storms that drop an annual average of 17 feet of snow. The amount of fresh powder that we receive is a joy for everyone that is coming to play in it but can be a bit scary for those unfamiliar with driving in it. If that is you, please make sure that you are tracking weather as we approach your arrival date and cancel before your cancellation policy. We do not allow exceptions to our cancellation policies for snow storms.
As we are a mountain community we are very affected by weather and in the snowy winter the road conditions can get icy with low visibility. That being said, all services in town and on the highways have become...
…adept at managing the snow. This does not mean, however, that the roads will be free from snow and ice build up. You are coming to the mountain during this season to play in the snow and therefore need to be expecting to have to drive in it. If you prefer to come when the risk is lower, please pay attention to the weather and make your decision to cancel prior to your cancellation policy. We do not allow exceptions to the cancellation policy due to snow storms.
You are also required by law to carry snow chains whenever driving into our winter environment. Make sure that you know how to use them and be prepared to have a safe drive getting to us.
*If visibility gets tough, don’t just pull over to the side of the road. The side may not be obvious and other vehicles won’t see you well enough to avoid you. Keep moving slowly feathering your brakes as the brake lights are the easiest to see.
*Take your time keeping distance from the vehicle in front of you. Anticipate others around you sliding and feather your brakes or gas. Never slam your brakes or gas as you will most likely go into a skid yourself.
Occasionally, you will find highway 395 closed due to snow activity. (You can check road conditions here or for up-to-the-minute road updates call: 800.427.7623.) This is usually temporary depending on the situation. It could be an accident that needs to get moved or perhaps a wind gust that needs to pass for it to be safe. There are alternate side roads but if you choose to take them, know that you are taking a possibly serious risk as many of those roads may not be plowed at all. Be patient and wait until the DOT opens it up. We do not automatically allow cancellation exceptions for this situation.
There are generally no road issue in the summer (other than an occasional bear or coyote)
Coming to enjoy the pristine lakes, mountain hiking trails and biking routes doesn't mean you can't have a drink and dance ...
…the night away. Make sure that you save some energy for the many music events, art shows and races that are hosted here each year. Here are a few of the most popular ones but you can find a complete list from Mammoth Lakes Tourism.
** Mammoth Tuff
You just drove with the kids complaining "are we there yet", "Johnnys bothering me"...and you're in a snowstorm. You need a...
…break. Not a problem! Between the Free Mountain shuttle service and the Mammoth Lakes Trolley, you can get anywhere you’d like to go in town. Going up to main lodge to ski…no problem. Heading to the Village at Mammoth for dinner and music…no problem. Taking the kids to go bowling…well you get it. Maps are available in the lobby or download a copy here. We are stop 12 or 13. You can also take a taxi which will cost you a little and sorry, Uber or Lyft are not available here.
For trailheads down the Reds Meadow road, you can take the Reds Meadow shuttle to the main lodge and then the town shuttle system to us (stop 12 or 13). For any other trailheads, check with MAWS transportation, I’ve heard great reviews of their service.
BETWEEN RENO AND LANCASTER:
If you are flying into Reno or need a ride from Lancaster, check out Eastern Sierra Transit. It might take a little time, but you’ll get where you need to be.
While most people drive into Yosemite, there is another way to experience the park. YARTS will pick you up in Mammoth lakes and take you into Toulumne Meadows and the Valley. The best part is that by using them, you don’t have to get an entrance reservation. It is part of the fee to use this service.
We are fortunate to live in the mountains, forest and lakes of the Eastern Sierra. We have learned how to be in these environments in order to sustain their pristine natures for generations to come. We would like to share...
…some ideas on how to help you do the same as you enjoy exploring the area. If you would like to express your commitment to this cause, you can sign the Mammoth Lakes Promise.
Beginning sometime between May and July we get summer. HaHa. It all depends on the winter that we've had. Summer in the Eastern Sierra is, however, phenominal! Wildflowers,, Lakes to fish on, Trails....
Come sometime between October and December, the air starts get cooler and the rain turns to snow. The soft white blanket transforms everthing...
We are fortunate to live in this magical place we call the Eastern Sierra and look forward to sharing our love for the area with you!
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