Traveling east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is like stepping into an aqua wonderland — massive mammoth-size lakes and old mining trails with waterfall views.
Similarly, traveling through this neck of the woods will take you into a small town in Central California cratered by natural beauty, national forests, and friendly accommodations.
So accommodating, there’s an activity for everyone no matter the time of the year. However, the best time to visit Mammoth Lakes is in the fall, towards the end of September.
Although the summer temperatures prove temperate and arid, never genuinely reaching over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the fall season offers cozy layers of sweater weather and breathtaking panoramas.
Are you ready to visit Mammoth Lakes? Keep reading to find your perfect season.
Why You Should Visit Mammoth Lakes
Before you enter Mammoth Lakes, you’ll enter the small alpine town, the Town of Mammoth Lakes. In the late 1870s, this town discovered a 3-year Mammoth Lode of gold and silver in the Lakes Basin.
After all the mining operations sufficed, miners left, and the old town popped up alongside the highway after World War 2, leading into what you know today as Mammoth Lakes. But Mammoth Lakes doesn’t just have a rich history running through its veins.
It has a heart-centered community of friendly mountain folk, retail shops, restaurants, and the famous Mammoth Brewing Co. — award-winning microbrews crafted with local ingredients and a delicious eatery menu to go along with it.
Overall Best Time to Visit Mammoth Lakes
The best time to visit Mammoth lakes is in the fall. The fall season helps keep traveling costs low when traveling out of state.
And since the area receives just under 275 days of sun, you don’t have to worry about much rainfall in September. Although, it would be wise to bring your raincoat along for the ride. The first snowfall usually arrives in mid-October.
Back to 200 days of sunshine, Mammoth Lakes has an unforgettable fall season of emerald forests spackled with golden Aspen trees and snowy granite peaks that mirror the lakes.
The view alone elevates fishing and paddling experiences on the lake. Anglers can expect October to be the best time to find red-bellied brook trout at lower elevation lakes such as Twin, Mary and Mamie, and Heart Lake.
However, late-season anglers can find rainbow trout in mid-October at Convict Lake and June Lake Loop. And fly fishermen can enjoy the view between the aspen walls and the canyon at Silver Lakes.
All fishing aside, boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding also bring sightseers to the lakes. With over 300 species of birds singing music throughout Mono Lake, you may also hear bald eagles and spot black bears crossing the shoreline.
Cheapest Time to Visit Mammoth Lakes
The cheapest time to visit Mammoth Lakes is in the fall. So that booked campsite that you were looking at finally has availability. And that luxury hotel that was too expensive to splurge on is now within your price range.
So much so that you can budget some of Mammoth Lakes’ fall festivities to kick back into and support the community’s local arts starting late September to the end of October.
And Mammoth Lakes offers the best outdoor stays for any style — tent, RV sites, Cabins, and unique lodging getaways. If pitching the tent with the best views is your thing, the Coldwater, Lake Mary, and Pine City Campgrounds line the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
But if you’re looking for accommodations closer to town Camp High Sierra and New Shady Rest Campground sit in between the mountains of Mammoth lakes; the Mammoth Mountain RV Park is the best for RVs.
And you’ll find the best cabins year-round, snow and sunshine, at family-friendly Mammoth Mount Chalets and the historic Tamarack Lodge and Resort sitting on Shores Twin Lakes.
When settling in and getting cozy, remember to stop into town for a craft beer that beer lovers love or taste a variety of local breweries at the June Lake Autumn Beer Festival with live music and delicious food at Gull Lake Park.
And adventurers can tour the backcountry with guided off-road adventures. But that’s not all. Mono County is happy to welcome all friendly visitors to help bring in the fall festivities.
Least Busy Time to Visit Mammoth Lakes
October is by far the least busy time to visit Mammoth Lakes. At this time of this year, the peak of the summer season is finally ending. All summer getaways are returning home, and the winter travelers haven’t quite put their winter travels into motion for January and February.
Fewer crowds mean more time to enjoy the scenic trails you’ve always wanted to see — so remember to pack your camera into your bag. Put on your layers, grab your daypack filled with water and snacks, slip on your hiking boots, and pull out that map.
You’ll want to mark these trails as you trek through the beautiful Sierras. The June Lake Loop is a moderately challenging 4.2-mile, two and half hour, dog-friendly loop trail that takes bikers, hikers, and runners, to a nice view of June and Gull Lakes.
But, if you’re looking for more accessibility, drive the June Lake Loop and stop by the June Lake Overlook, June Lake Beach, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake.
Other scenic hiking trails that you can expect to have all to yourself in November near Mammoth Lakes Include:
- 3.2-mile out-and-back Crystal Lake Trail. This trail is rocky, with views of mountains, forests, lakes, and valleys.
- 3.1-mile out-and-back Skelton Lake Trail. The trail travels uphill to waterfall views of Arrowhead Lake.
- 10-mile out-and-back Duck Pass and Pika Lake Trail. Avid hikers and ambitious backpackers will find these trails challenging but rewarding.
- 5.4-mile out-and-back Barney Lake Trail is easy to follow and tours all four lakes.
Worst Time to Visit Mammoth Lakes
The worst time to visit Mammoth Lakes depends on the activities that you want to enjoy. When you’re trying to avoid the snow or want to go camping, avoid Mammoth Lakes in the winter season.
The winter season gets topped with nine meters of captivating white snow that turns the colorful fall into a snowboarder’s dream winter wonderland. Gremlins Gulch and Paranoid Flats are favorite ski runs among winter travelers.
However, dog sledding in the backcountry is a thing if you’re not into winter sports. It’s also best to deter from Mammoth Lakes in February if you’re on a budget.
Winter is one of the busiest times. That means that your favorite cabin will book up fast and that the winter season that you always wanted may be sold out.
In addition, January is full of snow activities. So, if you don’t mind the door-height mounds of snow, booking your stay months in advance, or being a tourist among tourists, incorporate a budget winter fun into your getaway budget.
Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowcat tours, and hot springs at Mammoth Lakes are worth experiencing at least once.
Things to Consider
Now that you’re looking forward to getting on the lakes at Mammoth Lakes, there are a few things that you should consider before heading this way.
First, the best time to visit Mammoth Lakes is in the fall, so remember to travel with layers of clothes, gloves, and a hat, and bring along a warm jacket.
Second, if you’re traveling towards the end of November , consider throwing tire chains in your trunk. Sometimes the weather can cause early snowfall; the last thing on your mind is figuring out how to maneuver through a snowstorm without proper vehicle foot gear.
However, if you don’t have any, tire chains are usually available at local Mammoth gas stations. Third, monitor the weather and road conditions. Especially if you’re planning a winter stay. Mammoth gets the best snow in the area.
Other housekeeping considerations you should abide by include the following:
- Embrace Leave No Trace Practices. Leave the park in good condition to maintain the health and wellness of the park for future visitors.
- Visit the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center before you get comfortable. The center gently welcomes you into the Inyo National Forest.
- When planning to cook your food, grocery shop before the evening. Vons grocery store tends to be busy later in the evening.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things! Mammoth has easy access to local transportation. And a free Village Gondola that takes you to Canyon Lodge slopes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s that noise? It sounds like the Mammoth Lakes calling — but before you answer the call, check out these frequently asked questions to help you map out your itinerary for the near-perfect trip to one of America’s most beloved destinations.
Can you swim in any of the Mammoth Lakes?
You may enjoy swimming at Crystal, June, McLeod Lake, and Mammoth Lakes Basin. Mammoth Lakes welcomes swimmers all year long. However, if you want to avoid swimming in the wild or the weather is too cold, you can access the Snowcreek Athletic Club indoor venue.
What is the best lake in Mammoth Lakes?
You must see Lake George– the second largest lake in the area, with access via the Crystal Lake Trail or by car. The second best, must-see lake is Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is 10 minutes from downtown, easily accessible by car, and sits right next to the Twin Lake Campground.
What is the biggest lake in Mammoth?
Lake Mary is a large lake stretching over one mile inside Mammoth Basin, with over 50 campsites along the shoreline from June to September. The lake is easily accessible by road. However, the area has an easy-to-hike 2.2-mile Lake Mary Loop that offers beautiful views of the trail.
What is the most beautiful lake at Mammoth Lakes?
Lake George is the most beautiful lake at Mammoth Lakes for its accessible and unique beauty. If you’re willing to hike, the Crystal Lake Trail will incline to the top of lakes cliff to show you a sensational view of Lake George. Or you can park at the Lake George Campground and walk down to the lake.
Is Mammoth Lakes better than Lake Tahoe?
When looking for that small-town feel, Mammoth Lakes is better than Lake Tahoe– Lake Tahoe is like a luxury mountain escape.
Although Mammoth is smaller, the area offers amenities, eateries, and outdoor activities and adventures families of any size can enjoy. On the other hand, Lake Tahoe has many more retailers and award-winning eats in more locations.
So, When Should You Visit Mammoth Lakes?
Despite Mammoth Lakes’ year-round beauty, September, October, and November is the best time to visit. Especially if you don’t mind the sunset colors of alpine forests and crystal blue lakes that you have to see in person. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!