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As seen on Oprah's Favorite Things!
Photos by Serafina LoGiacco
Mammoth’s motto is come for the winter, stay for the summer. It was my second home growing up, and I eventually lived there for a stint in my twenties. A magical slice of the Eastern Sierra, the mountain town is a playground of backcountry adventures, tucked-away hot springs, and fresh alpine lakes. Here's my insider guide to the top trails, the best breakfast in town, and why a gas station needs to be on your itinerary.
Can’t-miss hiking trails:
Best spots for watersports: If you’re hiking Crystal Lake, save some time to take a dip. It feels amazing on a summer day. Lake Mary has plenty of rental options for kayaks, canoes, and fishing. It's also a great spot to stand-up paddleboard. I recommend getting on the lake for sunrise before the water gets choppy.
Family-friendly activities: Rent a boat on Lake Mary and cruise around the water. Or pack some food and hike McLeod Lake Trail to McLeod Lake. It’s a 1.8-mile loop and the lake is a beautiful spot for a picnic at the top. Rainbow Falls via Devil’s Post Pile hike is also a must-see. It’s an easy 5-miler and the kids will love the waterfall at the end.
Breakfast: Stellar Brew is the spot for coffee and a grab-&-go breakfast. I always get the acai bowl and a veggie wrap.
Dinner spots: The reality of a seasonal mountain town is a lot of restaurant turnover, so things are constantly changing. But a few nearby options that have stood the test of time (for good reason) are:
Beer and cocktails: Support local, craft options! Mammoth Brewing Company shares a space with The EATery and has a fun outdoor patio. If you really want to live like a local, head to Clocktower Cellar Pub. It’s a fun late-night option with a loveable dive bar vibe.
Campsites: You can’t go wrong with any of the campgrounds in the Lakes Basin or Reds Meadow Valley. If you like being close to town for food or quick trips to the market, go with Lakes Basin. Summer spots can fill up fast, so make sure to book early for those months. But no matter where you camp, DON’T FEED THE BEARS. They’re harmless but unfortunately have learned to rummage through the campgrounds and dumpsters. Store your food properly in the campsite food storage locker or rent a bear-resistant canister from the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center.
Top areas for vacation rentals: I’m partial to the area around Canyon Lodge because that’s where I stayed growing up. It has beautiful places whether you want a modest condo or a larger house and it’s centrally situated between Lake Basins and town. If you manage to stay near one of the stops, there’s a trolley which makes for a convenient (and free!) way to get to town.