Mammoth Mountain: 5 Summer Family Favorites
As my friends can tell you, I’m no skier. While they pack their cars for Tahoe, I set my sights toward SoCal beaches and, of course, the equator. So when I recently told them we were headed to Mammoth Mountain there was, understandably, some giggling.
Most know Mammoth Mountain as an international icon of skiing bliss, with some 150 trails and a season often lasting November through June. It’s also the tallest ski resort in North America, bringing guests right up to its 11,053-foot peak by panoramic gondola.
So what is there to do at this winter haven in the so-called “off season”? Plenty, as we discovered on our family’s recent getaway.
Only open in summer months, when liberated from high Sierra snows, “The Postpile” draws visitors from around the globe to see its 60-foot towering columns of basalt. To reach the monument, visitors must take the shuttle to Red’s Meadow, which departs every 20 minutes from the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Tickets are purchased at the Adventure Center, and children under 3 years ride free.
2. Take a hike
Hiking in the Eastern Sierras can be thirsty work, especially with the high elevation and exposure around the Mammoth Lakes area. The views and photo ops, however, are well worth it. Always bring plenty of water and adequate sun protection along for everyone-including good sunglasses. Here are a few good recommendations for families:
Rainbow Falls (moderate): This 4-mile roundtrip hike begins at Devils Postpile Monument (you’ll catch the Red’s Meadow shuttle mentioned above). The payoff? A 101-foot waterfall that generates rings of rainbows in its mist.
Convict Lake (easy): This favorite “fishing hole” among locals is pretty enough to be a wedding venue during summer months (and often is). Simply stroll alongside the lake on a fairly smooth, even trail as far as you care to and head back, or walk the whole 3-mile loop.
McLeod Lake (super easy): If you and yours want an easy walk with spectacular scenery, park at Horseshoe Lake and take the .5-mile trail to McLeod Lake. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the beach.
Mammoth’s exhilarating Panorama Gondola takes visitors to the peak at 11,053, and is a true delight for visitors of all ages. In fact, guests 6 years and younger and 80 years and over ride free (purchase tickets at the Mammoth Adventure Center).
At the top, you can treat yourself to hot chocolate or a light lunch in the Top of the Sierra Cafe, and orient yourself among the mountains in the Interpretive Center. Not to be missed.
4. Jump on your bike
As the snow melts at Mammoth, ski tracks make way for single tracks. Bikers of all ages and levels of experience will find trails to please, from smooth dirt trails for casual family rides to lift-assisted freeride trails for the serious thrill-seeker, including a 9-ft tall, 50-ft wide banked wooden structure affectionately called “The Deep End.” Visitors of Mammoth’s “Bike Park” can also take advantage of the Bike Park Shuttle, Panorama Gondola, and Stump Alley Express Shuttle. Rental bikes are available at the Adventure Center.
As guests at the Mammoth Mountain Inn, we were thrilled to discover that, in addition to three indoor Jacuzzis, they have an outdoor Jacuzzi and a swimming pool kept at an inviting 80 to 85 degrees (F).
It was difficult to convince the kids it was ever time to leave the pool area, especially difficult because we were all too happy to linger there ourselves gawking at the mountain.
Devil’s Postpile photo courtesy of leighrowan.