Trip Recommendations from a Local: Mammoth Lakes
As someone who lived there for many years, I can say with certainty that summer is an incredible time of year to be in Mammoth Lakes, with perfect summer weather and so many activities to choose from. My husband, Andy, and I were thrilled to be able to spend Fourth of July weekend there after having moved to Reno this past year.
We participated in the Town of Mammoth Lakes parade, truly an old-fashioned small town experience – fun for locals and visitors alike! Andy ran the Freedom Mile and beat his time last year by one second, finishing at 6 minutes, 9 seconds. Yep, that’s my guy!
We also took a few long hikes, and one of my favorites is the trail to Rock Creek Lake out of Tom’s Place. The trail snakes around streams and boulders, and ends up at this gorgeous lake with amazing views. It’s always such a challenge deciding which hike to do; the choices seem limitless. My all-time favorite photo is of Lake Mary with Crystal Crag in the background, even after living in Mammoth for 12 years, this view still takes my breath away.
Most visitors are familiar with Mammoth Mountain Ski resort, started by Dave McCoy in 1945 with the first chairlift opening in 1955. Mammoth’s history goes a lot farther back than that though. The first settlers arrived in the mid-1800s, and through a little research on sites such as visitmammoth.com and mammothtrails.org, I discovered a wealth of information about Mammoth’s history.
Starting in the late 1870s, the first settlers were actually prospectors seeking gold and silver on Red Mountain at the base of the Sherwin Range. That led to the establishment of what was then called Mammoth City, which at its height boasted about 500 residents. With the harsh winters and weak mineral deposits, mining didn’t last that long and by the early twentieth century, tourism took over as the leading industry.
As Mammoth locals, we discovered through the years great-unknown back hiking trails, where remnants of mines and settlements can still be seen, such as the stamp mine near Skelton Lake. Taking off near the Tamarack pack station, after hiking a few miles, hidden in the trees are several locomotive cars. The first time I was taken to this site, I was truly blown away. I’m still amazed at how the miners were able to get those cars up there.
Of course, there is also the Mammoth Consolidated Heart Lake mine, which has easy access right from the Duck Pass parking lot and is popular with visitors. At the mining camp there is plenty of signage with historical facts and several of the buildings still exist. This mine was active from 1927 and was abandoned in 1933.
The Mammoth Mining Company stamp mill site is pretty cool to see and only a quarter mile walk from the dirt parking lot below the gate on Old Mammoth Road, about two miles from town. The massive flywheel still stands and is 20 feet in diameter.
As early as 1910 tourism began to spring up, as a destination by automobile and visitors began to experience all that nature had to offer, from the majestic views of the Minarets to the Lakes Basin, and beyond. As skiing became a big part of the area’s recreational culture, the informal Town sprang up at the base of Mammoth Mountain. What we now know as the Town of Mammoth Lakes was incorporated on Aug. 20, 1984.
More than 100 years later, visitors are still experiencing that natural majesty in all sorts of forms, including fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking and more. I’ve just mentioned a few of the historical sites and history to be found in the area. The Hayden Cabin, run by the Southern Mono Historical Society is a wealth of knowledge, and I highly suggest a visit next time you’re in Mammoth. For that matter, I highly suggest a visit to Mammoth Lakes in general. You can find even more destinations recommended by locals by checking out www.SierraNevadaGeotourism.org.