This is a family-friendly 2-day itinerary for Mammoth Lakes in the summer. The first day consists of activities in Mammoth Lakes itself, and the second day includes activities on the drive back from Mammoth Lakes to LA/ Southern California area. All hikes included are easy to moderate.
Mammoth Lakes is a popular ski resort area in the winter, but it also offers a variety of outdoors activities in the summer. It is a great place to stop over for a night or two on the drive from Yosemite National Park via the Eastern Sierras to LA.
There are no reservations required to visit any of the sights in this itinerary, but Devil's Postpile/ Rainbow Falls hike is very popular and could get crowded. Please protect yourself and others by wearing a face mask in public areas and practice social distancing.
Day 1 Stop 1: Convict Lake
Convict lake is an easy drive off of Highway 395 and it is a popular spot for fishing, hiking and watersports. It is a serene lake with crystal-clear waters and reaches a depth of up to 140 feet. If you fancy doing some watersports, you can rent a kayak/ paddleboard from Convict Lake Resort!
Day 1 Stop 2: Twin Lakes
This picturesque spot is another popular location for fishing in the summer. There is a family of ~30 black bears that live in the area, so don't leave any scented items or food in your car!
Day 1 Stop 3: Devil's Postpile National Monument
At Devil's Postpile, you will see exposed columnar basalt formed almost 100,000 years ago when lava erupted in the valley. From the parking lot, it is a 1-mile roundtrip hike to the base of Devil's Postpile, but you can also continue hiking to get to Rainbow Falls (see next sight). This site is closed in the winter to cars, and in the summer, the parking lot can fill up quickly.
Day 1 Stop 4: Rainbow Falls
After seeing Devil's Postpile, you can continue to this beautiful waterfall on an additional 5-mile out-and-back trail. This trail is suitable for all levels and dogs kept on leash are allowed.
Day 1 Stop 5: Minaret Vista
Visitors can drive up to Minaret Vista in the summer for a breathtaking panoramic view of surrounding peaks. This vista offers views of the Minarets, the White Mountains and Mammoth Mountain. It is a fantastic spot to view sunset and for stargazing at night!
On the drive back from Mammoth Lakes to LA/ SoCal area, you will pass by these sights in the Eastern Sierra valley. The itinerary includes short hikes to help you stretch your legs to break up the 5-hour drive from Mammoth to LA. Beware that temperatures in the Eastern Sierra valley can reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit/ 35 Celsius during the day in the summer!
Day 2 Stop 1: Erick Schat's Bakkery
Famous for its Original Sheepherder Bread, this bakery has a great selection of bread, pastries, donuts, sandwiches and more! Because of the pandemic, the bakery has limited the number of people in the bakery at a given time, so be prepared to wait in line to enter but it is well worth it if you love bread!
Day 2 Stop 2: Manzanar National Historic Site
This site was one of the ten camps where Japanese Americans were held in detention during World War II. The visitor center and exhibits are closed during COVID-19, but the self-driving tour path and parking lots are open. Given the extreme summer heat, it is probably easiest to drive around the grounds and do the auto tour.
Day 2 Stop 3: Mobius Arch Loop Trail
This easy 0.6-mile loop trail is located in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. It offers scenic views of Mount Whitney and has many interesting rock formations, including a natural rock arch. This is a popular location for filming, notable films shot here include Gladiator, Iron Man and The Lone Ranger. Be warned that the drive includes an unpaved dirt road for the last mile or so.
Day 2 Stop 4: Cottonwood Creek Charcoal Kilns
Back in the 1870s, these kilns made of clay bricks were used to produce charcoal for silver miners in Cerro Gordo near Lone Pine. This is just off of Highway 395. where you drive down a mile or so of unpaved dirt roads.
Day 2 Stop 5: Hagen Canyon Nature Trail
This easy 1.2-mile loop trail is right off of Highway 14 and runs alongside colorful red cliffs. This was also a popular filming destination for notable films including Jurassic Park!
From this destination, it is a 2-hour drive back to LA.
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