Updated: Jan 11, 2020
Since I moved to SoCal, I've been hearing about how rad Mammoth Lakes is from friends that rush to the mountains every year as soon as the first snowfall hits the ground.
Well, now I am a believer too and want to share it all with you. I had never seen such scenic alpine landscapes before, it is truly jaw-dropping.
Mammoth Lakes is a winter adventureland and here's a travel guide with everything you need to know to plan your next snowy getaway. Let's go!
5h from LA
6h from San Francisco
3h from Reno, NV
Mammoth Yosemite Airport is only 10min from town.
LAX has year-round non stop flights to Mammoth and other airports in California also offer flights, seasonally.
Whether you are looking for a luxury escape, a cozy cabin or a conveniently located lodge, Mammoth's sure to please all tastes.
However, it is a small town, so booking in advance is a must to get the best deals and availability, specially during high season.
We booked our hotel about a month in advance and there were not many affordable options available, so do keep an eye out. I always opt for cabins when we're traveling to the mountains but could not find any in our price point for the desired dates.
We stayed at the Shilo Inn, mainly because it is pet friendly and we wanted to bring our kitty, but I'm pretty sure there are better options for the price of $190/night if you make reservations in advance. The room we stayed in was huuuuge and very clean, but I'm honest and should tell you that the hotel looks outdated and is not within walking distance from the Village (you want to look for places around this area as there's a free gondola to the ski lodge from here, and also restaurants, shops and bars).
Some lodges (owned by Mammoth Mountain) offer packages that include ski lifts, and you might want to consider it if you're traveling with the fam.
THE GOOD STUFF
So, what to do in Mammoth during winter time?
Well, for starters, it's winter for quite a long time around here. For instance, this season alone, Mammoth already got over 47 ft of snow and the ski lifts are expected to be open until at least 4th of July. So yes, there's plenty of time to enjoy the following activities. Happy shredding!
The city's biggest attraction on winter is Mammoth Mountain with its massive, freaking rad trails.
There are 4 lodges, and a LOT of trails, for all levels.
If you've never done skiing or snowboarding before, you'll be surprised on how expensive it can get. For instance, if you don't have your own gear, you've got to start by renting clothes (pants, jackets, gloves, goggles, helmet) plus the equipment (skis or snowboard and boots). You can rent those right there in the Mountain or get a better price by renting somewhere else around town. Several ski shops offer sweet deals, specially if you're renting for multiple days.
The pricy thing here really are the lift tickets. So, here's some intel that can help you save a bit on your next trip:
1- Book in Advance!
If you buy 7+ days in advance, you can save up to 20% on window rates, plus up to another 20% if you buy multi-day tickets. Don't wait till the last minute and plan ahead.
Now, these sports are very hard on the body, and keep in mind that the mountain is open from 8:30am till 4pm, a full day of action. The lodges have restaurants and places to rest, but you'll want to spend most of your time enjoying the powder party!
2- Afternoon Tickets
Afternoon tickets are only available for purchase at the ticket window starting at 12:30pm on the day you want to go, but they are 25% cheaper than regular full day tickets. So if you are only looking to spend a couple hours in the mountain, this might be a better option for you.
3- Beginner Tickets
Now, the beginner tickets are the best thing I found out during my research. They cost only $69 per adult and grant you full day access to chairs 7, 11, 15 and 17, which also include a few gnarly terrain parks.
Of course, if you are an experienced rider and want to drop only black diamond trails, this won't be the best option for you. But if you are a beginner/intermediate rider and want to have fun without breaking the bank, I totally recommend this.
We went with the beginners and it was the best thing, in our opinion. These chairs are in different lodges so you can enjoy many trails and really experience some amazing parts of the mountain. We spent 2 full days snowboarding and it wasn't enough to drop all of the trails we had access to with the beginner tickets.
Bring your own skis or rent from one of the many ski shops and go explore Mammoth's trail system. There are endless groomed trails as well as off the beaten path areas to go.
Another option is to enjoy the free, endless winter hiking opportunities since pretty much everywhere you'd want to go is open for snowshoeing in Mammoth, except for paid ski resort areas.
If you're not into skiing or snowboarding, you might enjoy snowmobiling, and the good news is that Mammoth has hundreds of snow-covered scenic trails proper for snowmobile exploration. Prices average $159 for a double snowmobile on a 1.5h guided tour.
There's an ice skating rink in Mammoth, which I believe is already closed for the season, but one special way to enjoy this activity is to ice skate on a frozen lake. Make sure to check at the Visitor's Center which, if any, of the area's lakes are safe to skate during your trip. If they're not, don't do it.
A scenic ride all the way up to 11,000ft at Mammoth Mountain's peak. There's also a interpretive center up there and a restaurant, the Eleven53 Café.
Tip: check weather conditions before heading out. If it's too windy the gondola will shut down operations for security purposes, and if it's snowing, visibility from the top of the mountain can be affected.
Click here for tickets.
The Village is the coolest place in town! There's always some event going on, and pretty much everything happens around this area.
The 15 eateries and 13 retail stores offer a variety of options for dining and shopping, and the views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking.
You can walk to Mammoth Brewing Co (my absolute favorite hang) and the free gondola takes you right up to the slopes (Canyon Lodge).
Note to self: Next time I'm staying right here.
This is such an incredible stop year-round! On spring and summer, the views are breathtaking (I can't wait to visit) and during winter, though the lake is covered in snow, it's incredibly beautiful in a very special way.
Also during warm months, another must is the Twin Falls Overlook.
To get to Twin Lakes Vista, enter on your GPS: Lakes Basin Bike Path, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
Mammoth Lakes sits on the edge of an ancient volcanic caldera, so guess what? There's a bunch of natural springs in the area.
I haven't been to the hot springs and I must say I'm a little skeptical about it, but I've researched and seen so many wonderful pics that do make me want to try it out.
If it wasn't for the extreme weather, we would've for sure visited at least one of them.
Here's the top 2 that I've found closest to Mammoth:
- Wild Willys Hot Springs
- Hot Tub Springs
DRINK & EAT
I came here twice during my stay and would've come back more if I had the time.
Super cool vibe and beers and food. Said it all right?
Order the "damn good" burger and my favorite, the Wild Sierra Saison beer.
We loved this brewery and tried a couple different brews over Jenga. They don't have food there, however, you can order and the restaurant next door will deliver to your table.
We ordered their 3 for $20 appetizer (olives, salami and roasted cauliflower) and were quite full before our pizzas even arrived. Rustic Italian well served and yummy food! Location is just perfect by the gondola at Mammoth Village.
Schat’s Bakery Mammoth Lakes
Obsessed with their pastries, truffles and cakes. We had the eclair and it was out of this world. Hubby tried the and their sandwiches are amazing as well. You can choose different types of bread and meats, cheeses and salads to fuel up before you hit the mountain.
A good homemade breakfast place that makes you want to come back always. They have all the classics and the decor looks like a cozy grandma house, in a lovely, heartwarming way. Super recommend.