11 Chill Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes in Winter
Have you been looking forward to a winter vacation far away from the peaks and valleys of life? Find your mood peaking at Mammoth Lakes in winter!
Surrounded by a mountain with an 11,000-foot peak, Mammoth Lakes is warm and inviting in the wintertime, making it a great escape for active skiers and laidback winter enthusiasts alike.
This town founded on a thousand-year-old lava complex has a relaxed small-town feel, coupled with beautiful amenities for the traveler looking for a great California winter getaway.
With snow arriving as early as November and staying until as late as June or even July, Mammoth Mountain is a wonderful place to grab winter by the horns and live in a snowy paradise.
Not surprisingly, Mammoth also offers a huge variety of activities in the winter. What follows are some of the most amazing winter activities Mammoth Lakes (and Mother Nature) has to offer!
11 Epic Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes in Winter
Shred the slopes of Mammoth Mountain
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Mammoth Mountain is not named for its epic slopes it offers skiers and snowboarders or because it was founded on thousands of old geologic rock and volcanic rock formations, but it does offer both!
In actuality, the name most likely came from an old mining company which operated in the area during the 19th century, but hey, it sounds cool, right?
Mammoth Mountain is also home to 3,500 acres of forest land for individuals to ski and snowboard on, which is the main draw for visitors to Mammoth Lakes in winter.
You could visit Mammoth in winter for a week and still not finish skiing all the trails on this mountain! Some trails are as short as three minutes, and others take as long as 40 minutes to ski or ride down. There is truly something for everyone here.
With an average of over 400 inches of snow a year and over 300 days of sunshine a year, Mammoth Mountain is a ski bum and snowboard addict’s winter paradise for bluebird days!
If you do choose to come ski for more than a week, make sure to buy a season pass. Day tickets can cost up to $79 for adults aged 23-64, making skiing in Mammoth Lakes quite pricy. With child’s tickets, ages 5-12, costing $32, hitting the slopes as a family can rack up to be expensive.
Consider buying a season pass and staying for a week or more to maximize your money and experience’s worth. Once you do spend money, enjoy the ride – you will not forget this powder paradise!
Grab the golf clubs for winter golfing
It may sound counterintuitive to golf in the winter, but Mammoth Lakes in winter boasts splendid views.
With the average temperature hovering in the mid-forties during the day with plenty of sunshine, grab a North Face jacket, ditch the golf cart, and walk the 18-holes for a tremendous workout that will keep you warm and admiring the views of the surrounding mountains all day.
Sierra Star Golf Club offers 18-hole golfing at a par 70 course, while Snowcreek Golf Course offers 9-hole golfing at a par 35.
With the Snowcreek Golf course, golfers will be treated with views of the Eastern Sierra Mountains, while Sierra Star Golf Club offers views of still mirror lakes, evergreen trees, and rolling hills and mountains as a backdrop.
If golfers are willing to drive 40 minutes a bit out of Mammoth to nearby Bishop, drivers (no pun intended!) will be rewarded at Bishop Country Club.
With views of the White Mountains and Eastern Sierra Mountains, Bishop Country Club also offers bunkers, a driving range lit at night for an evening round of golf, a chipping area, and putting greens for practice.
Rise above the rest with a gondola ride up Mammoth Mountain
Want the best view of Mammoth Lakes in winter?
Take a scenic cable car trip up the mountain on Mammoth’s Scenic Gondola ride. At an elevation of 11,053-foot, check out the stunning views of the surrounding lakes and winter landscape from the top.
While there, visitors can enjoy a treat at Eleven53 Café — how does a hot cocoa and an epic view of Mammoth sound?
With 360-degree views of the valleys, peaks, and town below, the Scenic Gondola ride might be the best way to see the entirety of Mammoth Lakes in winter as well as the Eastern Sierra Mountain ranges in the background — without the fuss of carrying all your snow gear.
The ride usually takes about 10-15 minutes each way, and it is advised to layer up for colder temperatures as the gondola reaches the top of the mountain.
Adult prices range from $23-$30, tickets for youth aged 13-18 cost $22, and up to two children, both ages 7-12, can ride for free with paying adults.
For the more adventurous and athletic, there is also a hiking path that takes visitors from the top to the bottom of the gondola. You will likely want snowshoes for this!
Either way, enjoy the ride up, down, or both ways. The views do not disappoint in the least!
Ride away on a Sno-Cat tour
Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean you should stay at home by the fire the entire time you’re visiting Mammoth Lakes in winter if you’re not a skier or snowboarder. There’s a lot you can do without hitting the slopes!
Mammoth Mountain offers a variety of vehicles for those wishing to experience sightseeing of the stunning landscapes that Mammoth Lakes in winter offers, for those who don’t know how to or don’t want to ski or snowboard.
If visitors feel like being in a heated vehicle but exploring the great winter outdoors, a Sno-cat tour is available! This Sno-cat tour can seat up to twelve people, and the company offers tours in the morning at 8 AM and also at mid-day at 11:30 AM from Friday to Sunday and on select holidays.
Take this snowcat tour to Minaret Vista to see the Minarets, Ritter Range, and other scenic spots on Mammoth Mountain. All these views and more are in store for those who feel like the comfort of a heated, indoor vehicle to sightsee Mammoth Mountain in winter!
End the tour at the vista with a toast and spread of delicious food, such as wine, cheese, and charcuterie platters. Are children coming along? Not to worry: while wine may be off the menu, hot cocoa, fruit, and cheese are available for the kids, too!
Snowmobile your way through backcountry slopes
For those wishing for a more outdoorsy experience and an active way to see the area’s nature in winter, Mammoth Lakes also offers snowmobile tours. Guided snowmobile excursions take visitors through snow-covered meadows and evergreen-laden mountainside slopes.
Snowmobile tours are open seven days a week from 8 AM – 4 PM from December 10, 2020 to April 2021, with weather and conditions permitting up until late spring.
Single person snowmobile tickets can be somewhat pricey, but Mammoth Mountain offers one and a half and one-hour tour for reasonable prices when you bring a buddy, date, or family member along with you!
You bring your warm clothes, and they will provide the snowmobiles, helmets, and guides. Grab a snowmobile and take a deep breath of clean, crisp, and quiet winter white while you weave your way through spectacular mountain backcountry trails.
Relax and unwind with a deep tissue apres-ski massage
For those wishing for all the beauty of nature without all the cold, Mammoth Mountain offers a soothing, relaxing, and deep apres-ski massage.
Whether you’ve spent a fun full day of exercise on the slopes, enjoyed the quiet views of beautiful mountains while hiking, or just need a massage after dealing with traffic to get to Mammoth, Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa as well as Snowcreek Athletic Club offer amazing massages as well as lounging areas within their resorts.
In addition, both also offer a delicious array of dining options after your stay at the spa.
Kick back, relax, and enjoy a bite at The Bistro East Restaurant at Snowcreek Athletic Club or at either Red Lantern, Jimmy’s Taverna, or Rafters Restaurant & Lounge at Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa.
After a long day in the cold, you deserve a treat — so enjoy these woodsy lodges for a treat of pampering and self-care!
Dive in to delicious brews and burgers at Mammoth Brewing Co.
The fun-loving Mammoth Brewing Company sums up the personality of Mammoth Lakes perfectly: cheerful, rustic, and quirky, yet also inviting and friendly.
With operating hours from 10 AM – 8:30 PM from Sunday to Thursday and staying open an hour later on Friday and Saturday, Mammoth Brewing Company is a wonderful place to start or end a day in Mammoth Lakes in winter, no matter the occasion.
The Brewery crafts its own microbrews, and with 13 varieties of beers on tap, from cloudy IPAs, pilsners, Kolsch brews, and brown stouts, Mammoth Brewing Company has something for everyone.
For visitors not interested in drinking alcohol, don’t worry — you won’t be left out. You can enjoy Mammoth Brewing Company’s very own Imperial Root Beer brewed and sold at both the restaurant and brewery.
Perhaps you are hoping for something to eat as well? Just next door is The EATery, open from 11:30 AM – 8 PM on Sundays to Thursdays and an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays.
Try the house-made pork rinds or the brewery bread fries for a taste of this restaurant’s unique take on appetizers and finger foods.
If you are desiring something a bit heartier, a few great options are the smoke stack sandwich, fish and chips, and their “Veggie Burger Damn Good Too” for those looking for lighter or veggie-friendly fare.
Whatever your tastes may be, Mammoth Brewing Company and The EATery offers brews, views, and food for the whole family!
Break out the snowshoes for a winter hike
Want to get active outdoors while visiting Mammoth Lakes in winter but don’t know how to ski or snowboard, or don’t have the budget for a pricy ski pass? Snowshoeing is a phenomenal alternative!
Snowshoe rental is cheap (and buying your own snowshoes is an ultra-affordable yet fantastic investment) and best of all, winter trails are free!
You can rent snowshoes and disembark on different snowshoeing trails from Tamarack Lodge Ski Center, which is a great starting point for all your snowshoeing adventures in Mammoth Lakes!
Check out the nearby hot springs
Mammoth Lakes is in Mono County, the county of California with some of the state’s best hot springs!
There is no shortage of incredible hot springs waiting for you in Mono County, but Travertine Hot Springs and Wild Willy’s are two of the most popular. A few more offbeat options include Rock Tub Hot Springs and Whitmore Hot Springs.
Nothing beats soaking in naturally heated geothermal waters while gazing out onto an epic view of the snow-covered Sierras while crisp winter air brushes against your face!
However, do be careful though to not go after a fresh heavy snowfall as these roads are not well-maintained in winter, and if you’re going, try to go in the morning or on weekdays to have the best chance of getting to enjoy these hot springs in peace and quiet.
Enjoy a chill day in a cozy mountain cabin
Of course, part of the fun of visiting Mammoth Lakes in winter is just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful cabins and condos in the area which promise a calm getaway from your everyday life.
Whether you opt for a Mammoth Lake condo or cabin or want a little more peace and quiet with these June Lake cabins just a 15-minute drive away, nothing is better than cracking open a bottle of California cabernet in front of your own fireplace after a long day on the slopes!
So get relaxing!
Go fishing in Hot Creek
Wait… fishing in winter? It’s absolutely possible, even when the rest of the landscape is totally snowed over, due to the unique geothermal waters at Hot Creek.
The heat from the geothermal waters manages to keep the banks of the creek totally free of snow (since any snow will melt practically on contact).
This means that you can stand by the creek and fish for hours on end without having cold feet standing in the snow, all while being surrounded by a gorgeously snowy landscape!
You may think that you escaped to Yellowstone or even Iceland with the fumaroles and geysers, but this is all California!
Most people try to catch trout in Hot Creek, but it’s actually quite a difficult place to fish since most fish can see you coming due to the creek’s depth and clarity. Also, note that Hot Creek is catch-and-release only, so unfortunately, you won’t be able to eat your catch!
You can get to the creek easily by snowmobile, snowshoe, or cross-country skis. However, note that unlike the hot springs mentioned above, however inviting the creek may seem, you are not permitted to swim or bathe in it due to the potentially unstable temperatures of the geothermal magma-heated water.
Tips for Driving in Mammoth Lakes in Winter
Because Mammoth Mountain tends to be covered in and layered with snow for most of the year from November until sometimes as late as July, it is important to be ready with all essential gear prior to driving up the mountain.
Visitors will definitely want to bring snow chains. Even though mountain roads are regularly salted and cleared to make way for vehicle traffic, the weather can be as warm as 63 degrees Fahrenheit one day and dip to near zero degrees Fahrenheit the next day… meaning black ice is possible.
Visitors will want to be prepared with extra car lamps in their car should they need it on a dark road at night, as well as a first aid kit, safety triangle or emergency flare, and warm blankets just in case your car doesn’t make it all the way to Mammoth and you need to spend some time awaiting a tow.
Since Mammoth Mountain is located in the Eastern Sierra Mountains, it is important to travel by day so as to avoid the bulk of night driving in relative darkness due to its remoteness. Bishop, a town 42 miles away from Mammoth, is the closest major city to Mammoth Lakes.
Where to Stay in Mammoth Lakes in Winter
Luxury: The Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa
For a four-star stay complete with all the comforting amenities you’d dream of for a winter getaway, The Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa is a fantastic choice for a luxurious trip to Mammoth Lakes in winter.
If you’re looking to get away from it all in a place that’s fit for Hollywood stars who vacation here frequently, this is the place! On the premises, you’ll find 3 different restaurants, a billiards room, miniature golfing, and an on-site spa with a steam room and sauna.
Some rooms come with fireplace complete with plush armchairs perfect for enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day, and others come with kitchens in case you prefer to cook a meal for yourself at the end of a day out.
Photo courtesy of Airbnb
The Stonegate house epitomizes luxury with its incredibly spacious interior and every amenity you could possibly think of. It fits 14 guests in a 5 bedroom house, so it’s great for large groups. The open floor design further emphasizes the size of the house, and there’s more than enough room for everyone to move around.
The sitting area has a beautiful fireplace, perfect for quality time with your family and friends, and the gorgeous chandelier looming over the dining table will make you feel like you’re in a fancy restaurant while eating.
Enjoy a round of foosball in the loft or fire up the Xbox in the den area. Stepping outside, you’ll get a beautiful view of the property, a barbecue grill, and a jacuzzi.
You can hike around and explore, or get to a number of scenic landmarks by taking the shuttle. The house is located just by Sam’s Woodsite, a popular venue for all manner of events in town.
Budget: Cozy Studio
Photo courtesy of Airbnb
This comfortable and well-put-together studio apartment is the perfect hub of operations for exploring Mammoth Lakes in winter from your cozy home for two.
The interior is simple, yet elegant – the sleeping area is incredibly spacious, and you can step outside onto the deck through a glass door in the cozy and well-illuminated ‘living’ area. Walking along the large deck, you can see the surrounding forest in all of its splendor and enjoy a morning coffee.
The property is part of the Hidden Valley Complex, meaning you’ll be within seconds of a hot tub, sauna, swimming pool, and spa!
What to Pack for Mammoth in Winter
Waterproof Parka: In the snowy weather and freezing temperatures of Mammoth Lakes, you’ll want something like this wonderful North Face parka. I’ve had this one for ten years and it’s held up beautifully from everything to biking in NYC in winter to visiting north of the Arctic circle in Tromso and Abisko. It’ll certainly do you just fine in Mammoth in winter!
Waterproof Pants: If you’re doing any winter hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, etc. (basically, anything more intense than just a stroll around town) you’ll want waterproof pants: trust me, jeans just won’t do when you’re dealing with snow this deep.
Thermal Layers: Underneath whatever clothes you choose to wear, you’ll likely need some thermal layers to keep you warm in the Mammoth winter cold.
Snow Boots: For snow boots for walking around Mammoth Lakes town, I suggest these cute and cozy Sorel boots for women, which are waterproof and warm but also have plenty of traction. Add some Yaktrax to the bottom for grip on icy surfaces and pathways. These are a godsend!
Winter Accessories: No matter what the temperature, winter accessories like a hat, gloves, and scarf are always a good idea! They help you layer and protect your most sensitive parts (ears, head, fingers) from the cold. I love
Camera: You’ll want a camera to capture all that California winter beauty! I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh your pack down.
Headlamp (and extra batteries): Mammoth Lakes in winter can get dark early — and quickly — due to the early sunset time plus the mountain horizon making it get darker even before that . Bring a headlamp in case any hikes take longer than expected or if you are planning any sunset hikes! This Petzl headlamp is highly-rated and affordable.
Alternatives to Mammoth Lakes in Winter
If Mammoth Mountain is too crowded for winter activities due to increased traffic during the holiday season, visitors would be wise to check out its younger and less-crowded, but equally beautiful sibling, June Mountain, a mountain a mere six and half miles away and 15-minute drive up the road from Mammoth Mountain.
With fewer crowds and cheaper prices for mountain skiing and snowboarding than Mammoth Mountain, skiers and snowboarders will be rewarded with a more spacious experience of winter sports activities of the mountain landscape than at Mammoth Mountain during the peak winter holiday season.
We also have winter guides to nearby Yosemite National Park and as well as Sequoia National Park. Big Bear in winter is another great choice for a Southern California snow escape!
Final Thoughts on Visiting Mammoth in Winter
Either way, Mammoth Lakes in winter offers so much in terms of landscape, views, activities, food, and relaxation that half of the battle is just making your way up there.
Once you are up there, sit back, relax, and breathe in the crisp mountain air. Mammoth Mountain will be waiting!
Pin This Guide to Mammoth in Winter
Allison Green is a travel blogger, writer, and podcaster who grew up in the Bay Area of California. She has spent time living in New York, Prague, and Sofia, but has returned to live in the East Bay. She has traveled to 60 countries before the age of 30 while running several digital travel publications. Her writing and podcast have been featured in Forbes, CBC Canada, National Geographic, the Huffington Post, and CNN Arabic, amongst others. She’s obsessed with bouldering, houseplants, other people’s pets, and anywhere she can see the ocean.
10 Fantastic Things To Do In Mammoth Lakes In The Winter
Mammoth Lakes is a winter sports mecca and home to one of the country’s largest ski resorts. Each year, 1.3 million visitors arrive here to ski, skate, sled, snowshoe, and more. Located in the Eastern Sierras, Mammoth is about a 5-hour drive north of Los Angeles and a 6-hour drive east of San Francisco. For those who prefer to fly, Advanced Air and United Airlines offer direct flights from several California cities.
Die-hard adventurers will be happy in Mammoth with activities like ice climbing and backcountry skiing, but there are plenty of low-key options as well, such as outdoor skating and scenic gondola rides.
Here are 10 fantastic things to do in Mammoth Lakes in the winter.
1. Ski Down The Mountain
Mammoth Lakes is best known for its skiing and snowboarding, and fortunately, there are more than 3,500 acres of skiable terrain and 150 named trails at the closest resort, Mammoth Mountain. On average, the area gets 400 inches of snow each year, making the conditions ideal. Before opening for business this year, Mammoth Mountain made more than $1 million in COVID-related improvements, including contactless rental services. Be sure to plan ahead, since advanced purchase of lift tickets is required.
Nearby is June Mountain, offering 1,500 acres of skiable terrain and 41 named trails. This is a good option for families looking to ski together in one location, since there’s a nice mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes. Advanced purchase of lift tickets is also required.
Whether you’re learning to ski or want to improve your skills, both Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain offer group and private lessons for children and adults.
2. Go Cross-Country Skiing
Some people prefer cross-country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing. Instead of speeding down the mountain, skiers glide across the snow, often on groomed trails. The Tamarack Cross-Country Ski Center offers 19 miles of groomed trails in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Don’t worry if you’ve never tried this sport before — the center offers lessons and equipment rental.
Or venture out on your own and explore the 140 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails throughout Mammoth Lakes and Inyo National Forest. If you don’t have your own equipment, head to Kittredge Sports and rent what you need. A great place to begin is at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center, which is close to the center of town and offers plenty of parking and easy access to a trailhead.
3. Slide Down The Mountain
If you’re traveling with the grandkids, consider tubing and sledding in Mammoth. Woolly’s Tube Park and Snow Play has groomed tubing runs and a lift to make the ascent easy. The runs here are known for being fast, so this is an ideal spot for adults and older kids looking for an adrenaline rush. Sessions last an hour and 15 minutes and should be booked online in advance. After tubing, relive your childhood with a snowball fight in the snow play area.
If you’re visiting with very young children and want a low-key sledding spot, head to Shady Rest Park with gentle slopes and a quiet, wooded area. The Mammoth Scenic Loop is another popular spot for sledding. While there is no dedicated sledding area, the forested areas off the scenic loop are open to the public for sledding and snow play.
If you didn’t bring sleds from home, both the DIY Home Center and Rite Aid sell them.
4. Go Ice Skating Outdoors
Located behind the Mammoth Lakes Library is the outdoor Mammoth Ice Rink, which operates from November through February. Public skating sessions are available seven days a week. Bundle up and glide along the ice while admiring the surrounding mountains vistas. If you don’t have skates, don’t worry — rentals are available. And if your own skates need sharpening, that service is available as well.
5. Walk Through The Snow
Hiking is among the most popular summer activities in Mammoth Lakes, but it doesn’t have to end just because there’s snow on the ground. Many of the area’s trails can be accessed at any time of year. The trail you choose will depend on the amount of snow on the ground.
Those new to town should try hiking the Town Loop, a fairly easy 7-mile trail that traverses both neighborhoods and wilderness. Try starting at Mammoth Creek Park. If you’re looking for a longer hike, just turn onto one of the several trailheads that can be accessed from this loop.
The Convict Lake Loop is a short but very scenic trail located just outside town. This fairly flat, 3-mile trail is frequently listed among the best hiking spots in the area. The trail hugs the lake, with the picturesque Sherwin Range providing a dramatic backdrop. The back section of this trail is sometimes inaccessible due to waterflow or snow, so it’s possible that you’ll need to turn back instead of completing the loop.
For trails covered in too much snow for hiking, try snowshoeing instead. From the Main Lodge at Mammoth Mountain, head to Minaret Vista. This 2.5-mile trail is considered moderate to difficult because of the ascent, but the views toward the end make it worthwhile. For something a bit easier, try snowshoeing the Inyo Craters. This 3.1-mile out-and-back groomed trail is also popular with cross-country skiers and snowmobilers.
Snowshoe rentals are available at The Ski Renter and Kittredge Sports.
6. Explore The Backcountry
If you feel the need for speed, then hop on a snowmobile and cruise through the snow. This activity lends itself to group gatherings, so if you’re on a multigenerational vacation or visiting with friends, you could easily spend half a day exploring the Eastern Sierras on a snowmobile.
DJ’s Snowmobile Adventures offers both rentals and guided tours ranging from 1.5 to 3 hours. Sierra Engines offers rentals by the hour.
7. Climb The Ice
The most adventurous visitors to Mammoth should consider climbing the ice. This isn’t an activity for the fearful, but it is definitely exciting for those in search of an adrenaline rush. Ice climbing is the sport of ascending frozen waterfalls. International Alpine Guides leads multiday trips to nearby Lee Vining and June Lake that include lessons and all the gear needed.
8. Get A Bird’s-Eye View
Combine relaxation and a great view by riding the scenic gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain. As you glide up 11,053 feet in the Panorama Gondola, you’ll get a 360-degree view of the Sierra Nevadas. At the top, snap a selfie with the summit sign. Be sure to allow time to check out the Eleven53 Interpretive Center to learn more about the geology of the area. You’ll want to purchase your gondola tickets in advance.
9. Have A Snowball Fight
Whether you’re traveling with the grandkids or not, playing in the snow should be on your agenda. Build a snowman, make a snow angel, or have a good old-fashioned snowball fight. And thanks to the generous snowfall in Mammoth each year, there are plenty of places to play in the snow. Mammoth Creek Park, Shady Rest Park, and the winter staging area off Sherwin Creek Road are all good options. But odds are there’s a large patch of snow to play in near your lodging.
10. Get Warm And Shop
After a day outside in the cold, it’s nice to spend time indoors in a warm shop. Before getting cozy in front of the fire, head to Booky Joint to choose the perfect new or used book. This popular shop has been in Mammoth since 1975 and has a nice selection of books about hiking, fishing, and local history.
Whether you ski, snowboard, bike, hike, or camp, Footloose Sports is ready to help. In addition to having a large selection of items for purchase, they also rent equipment during the winter and summer seasons.
Many visitors to Mammoth choose to rent condos during their stay, which allows them the use of a kitchen. Bleu Market and Kitchen is a popular place to stock the kitchen with gourmet items to enjoy after an active day, from fresh bread to charcuterie and seafood to craft beer.
What To Know Before You Go
With winter temperatures ranging from 17 to 40 degrees, it’s important to come to Mammoth prepared for the chilly weather and large amounts of snow. Bring plenty of warm clothing, and if you’ll be in the snow, be sure it’s waterproof. If you’re not used to seriously cold weather, take plenty of breaks during the day to warm up inside. Frostbite can set in quickly if you’re not careful.
If you’ll be driving, the city of Mammoth Lakes provides safety tips) for preparing your car, including the need to bring a set of chains for your tires.
Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful destination at any time of year, but the blanket of snow throughout the region makes it especially fun and appealing in the winter.
Wendy and Jason Lee are two passionate travelers based in Irvine, California. They set out to inspire couples 50+ to travel more by launching the blog, Empty Nesters Hit The Road. Often they travel internationally, but their own backyard, Southern California, also gives them ample opportunity for exploration.
Guide to Mammoth Lakes in the Winter
After living in California for almost a decade now, I’ve gotten to visit Mammoth Lakes quite a few times over the years! Each time I visit, I’m blown away by the area’s natural beauty — from the majestic mountains to the many lakes and hot springs in the area, Mammoth is a skier’s dream.
Here’s my guide to visiting Mammoth Lakes in the winter!
When to Visit Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth is truly a year round destination! The summer time brings beautiful wild flowers and green hills with plenty of options for hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and fly fishing. Not to mention, nearby Yosemite National Park is best visited between the months of May and September as many roads and trails in Yosemite are closed in the winter due to snow.
But, while Mammoth is stunning year-round, the most popular time to visit is definitely during the winter!
Mammoth Mountain has one of the longest ski seasons in North America — generally it ranges from November through Memorial Day, depending on the weather.
As with most ski destinations in the US, it can get pretty busy during the week of Christmas through New Years as well as long holiday weekends in January and February. Also, many of the school districts in California have a mid-winter break (also known as Ski Week!) so February can be busy as well!
How to Get to Mammoth Lakes
Getting to Mammoth Lakes from northern and southern California is typically a fairly easy one-day drive. From southern California, Mammoth is usually about a 5 – 7 hour drive (depending on where exactly you’re coming from) via Hwy. 395 and from San Francisco, Mammoth is typically a 5 – 6 hour drive (depending on traffic).
If you’re coming from out of state, your best option is likely to fly into Mammoth Yosemite Airport via United Airlines. The Mammoth Yosemite Airport is just 10 minutes from town which makes flying a fast and convenient option! JSX also sometimes has flight options to Mammoth (depending on the season and year) and may be worth looking into.
How Long to Stay in Mammoth Lakes
While most people visit for just a long weekend, Mammoth has enough activities that you could definitely stay for a week and not run out of things to do — especially if you’re really keen to explore the incredible landscape in the area. If you’re planning on skiing for a few days, I’d recommend also setting aside at least a day for exploring more of the area.
Personally, I love visiting for around 3 – 4 days so there’s time to hit the slopes as well as a few new activities or sights!
How to Get Around Mammoth
Since we usually drive to Mammoth, we have a car with us which makes it really easy to get around town. If you don’t plan on driving, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to rent a car when you arrive — especially if you’re planning to stay for a while.
Otherwise, Mammoth operates a free town bus that stops at recreational areas as well as hubs for dining and shopping, including all three Mammoth Mountain lodges, The Village at Mammoth, the Mammoth Lakes Basin, the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center and the Old Mammoth Road dining and shopping areas.
There are also a few taxi services in town: Mammoth Cabs and Mammoth Taxi, which both provide taxi services in the Mammoth Lakes area. Note that ride sharing apps like Uber are mostly not available in the area.
Things to do in Mammoth Lakes during Winter
The Mammoth Lakes area is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains making it one of the most beautiful places in California to visit! And, there are plenty of epic winter activities to soak in the beauty of Mammoth.
Ski / snowboard: with some of the best skiing in California, hitting the slopes is a must! Mammoth Mountain Resort is on the Ikon Pass, or you can buy lift tickets online and pick them up at guest services.
Cross country ski or snow shoe: another great way to see the mountain is on cross-country skis or snowshoes. Rentals, lessons and guided tours are available at Tamarack Cross-Country Ski Center where you can explore 19+ miles of secluded, groomed world-class trails.
Snowmobile: get off the beaten track and take in the mountain views on a snowmobile tour! Tours are offered through Mammoth Mountain Resort and start at Snowmobile Adventure headquarters, located behind the Yodler Restaurant. I absolutely loved this tour — our guide was fantastic and we were able to get some incredible views of the Minarets!
Snowcat tours: Mammoth Mountain also offers scenic snowcat tours! Take a heated snowcat up up to one of Mammoth’s most scenic spots with views of Mammoth Mountain, the Minarets, Ritter Range and beyond.
Dog Sledding: if you’re a dog lover like me then you may be interested in a dogsled adventure! Take in the views of the Eastern Sierras while being led by a pack of trained Malamutes, Siberian and Alaskan Huskies with Mammoth Dog Teams.
Woolly’s Tube Park: snow tubing is fun for all ages and, at Woolly’s, you can skip the hike up the hill with a lift to the top!
Hot springs: Mammoth Lakes has no shortage of hot springs so if you’re wanting to soak after a long day on the mountain, check out Wild Willy’s hot springs or Travertine Hot Springs.
Hot Creek Geological Site: I visited for the first time on my most recent trip to Mammoth and, while you cannot swim at this hot spring, it’s still worth visiting for the jaw-droppingly beautiful views!
June Lake: about 25 minutes from Mammoth is June Lake, with a smaller, family-friendly mountain and beautiful lake of its own. Drive the scenic June Lake Loop which goes through the town and past a string of small, alpine lakes.
Mono Lake: this ancient saline lake is just half an hour from Mammoth and is home to trillions of brine shrimp, millions of birds, and incredible tufa towers.
*Bonus — Alabama Hills: if you’re coming from southern California, don’t miss stopping at the Alabama Hills (just under 2 hours south of Mammoth). This range of hills and rock formations is where many western movies have been filmed and is totally worth checking out for some photos or even to camp!
Where to Dine in Mammoth
This laid-back mountain town has some good eats! From casual ramen spots to lakefront dining, there is a little something for everyone in Mammoth.
Black Velvet Coffee: my favorite place for an almond milk latte in Mammoth! This family-run coffee shop pours fair-trade coffees, espressos & craft beers.
Schat’s Bakery: if you’re looking for fresh baked goods, stop at Schat’s Bakery for bread, croissants, sandwiches and more.
Elixer Superfood & Juice: a little bit of Los Angeles in Mammoth! Elixer offers healthy salads, grain bowls, smoothie bowls and cold pressed juices.
Mammoth Tavern: this laid-back spot has delicious salads, soups, sandwiches and a great selection of entrées and a daily happy hour.
Mammoth Rock Brasserie: I was surprised when I heard an upscale French brasserie was located inside of a modern bowling alley… but after trying it, I have to give it 5 out of 5 stars… Who doesn’t love good food and bowling?!
Bleu Market & Kitchen: I love stopping at this market when I’m in town! They have organic and all natural products, artisanal cheeses and an in-house butchery.
GOJIRA Ramen & Sushi: there’s nothing better than a bowl of hot soup after a chilly day on the mountain. This ramen totally hits the spot!
Side Door: this is a must visit every time I’m in Mammoth! Located right in Mammoth Village, Side Door has an incredible selection of wines, delicious crêpes, paninis and fondue (YUM!). Plus, they have a covered, heated outdoor area that is dog-friendly (which my dog, Thunder, loves!).
Petra’s Bistro & Wine Bar: located in the Alpenhof Lodge just across from the Village Gondola, this charming spot is always a favorite among Mammoth restaurants.
The Lakefront Restaurant at Tamarack Lodge: although it’s hard to choose a favorite restaurant in Mammoth, I think this one takes the cake! Tamarack Lodge overlooks Twin Lakes and the restaurant, The Lakefront Restaurant, is so quaint and charming. And don’t even get me started on the food — this is definitely one of the best options for fine dining in Mammoth!
Restaurant at Convict Lake: although I haven’t been (yet!), this fine dining spot is highly renowned as being one of the best restaurants in the area. And, they offer shuttle service from Mammoth Lakes for groups of four or more (reservations required).
Where to Après Ski in Mammoth
Mammoth has a vibrant après ski scene at its two main lodges (Main Lodge and Canyon Lodge) as well as at some of the nearby pubs.
Yodler Restaurant & Bar: this cute c halet-style spot with a deck is located near the Main Lodge at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort and serves traditional Bavarian dishes and beer.
Tusks Bar: take a ski break at this slope-side bar located at the base of the Mammoth Mountain Unbound snowboard park.
The Mill: located at the base of Chair 2, The Mill has a few dining options as well as a bar, making it one of the perfect on-mountain meeting spots for a drink!
Mammoth Mountain Brewing Co: if you’re a beer lover, you won’t want to miss this spot. They brew their own craft beers and have some pretty delicious food as well.
Where to Stay in Mammoth
From families to ski bums, Mammoth has lodging options for every type of traveler!
The Westin Monache Resort: centrally located near restaurants, shops, the ski gondola and the town shuttle bus, this Westin is a great choice for a ski trip to Mammoth. Plus, there is an outdoor heated pool and hot tubs — perfect for a post-ski soak!
The Village Lodge: also located within the heart of Mammoth and steps away from the ski gondola, the Village Lodge is perfect for families and groups because they offer condo style lodging with one to three bedroom options.
Alpenhof Lodge: the Alpenhof Lodge is a great option for single or couple travelers as it’s a bit more budget-friendly and is just a 5 minute walk from the Mammoth Mountain Gondola. The lodge’s Clocktower Cellar Pub serves pub-style food and has a daily happy hour with billiards and big screen TVs.
Tamarack Lodge: this charming lakefront lodge is a great lodging option for non-skiers who still want to soak in the natural beauty of Mammoth! Located on the shore of Twin Lakes, it’s surrounded by mountain trails that are perfect for winter hikes, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and more. But even if you are a skier, Tamarack Lodge is still conveniently located just a mile from downtown Mammoth!
What to Pack for Mammoth in the Winter
Ski Clothes – if you plan to visit Mammoth in the winter and hit the slopes, you’ll of course want to pack warm ski clothes! If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite affordable ski gear:
And there are a few other (and a bit random!) things that I never go on a trip to the mountains without: Liquid IV (it helps me so much with avoiding altitude sickness), hair spray (the dry weather causes hair static and having hairspray on hand helps so much!), and extra moisturizing hand cream (because I just can’t stand when my hands are dry and cracked from the harsh winter climate!).