Mammoth Mountain is the ultimate weekend ski destination for California residents. With over 3,500 acres of ski-able terrain, 28 lifts (including 3 gondolas) and an average snowfall of 33 feet per year, it arguably rivals the popular Colorado resorts. However, even if you don’t ski or snowboard there are plenty of other fun things to do in Mammoth in winter that make for an epic weekend trip!
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Mammoth Trip Overview
- PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 0-2
- Nights: 2-3
- Cost: $$
How to Get to Mammoth Lakes, CA
The drive to Mammoth from LA is easy and scenic, and takes about 5.5 hours depending on traffic getting out of the city. There are some amazing stops you can make on the way that make the drive to Mammoth totally worth it.
Tip: Check the weather conditions before making the drive to see if you’ll need snow chains. If you do, there’s a spot to pull off on the side of the road to put your chains on when you’re about 15 minutes from town.
If you’re coming from out of state, or just don’t feel like driving, you have the option to fly into Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH). The airport is located about 25 minutes from Mammoth Mountain, and you can get a shuttle from the airport for about $22.
There are often deals from Alaska Airlines and United for a free lift ticket if you ski the same day you fly in, so definitely check that out if you’re planning on flying.
How to get the Best Deal on Mammoth Lift Tickets
Normally, I recommend buying your Mammoth lift tickets from either REI or Costco for a better deal. However:
For 2021, your best bet is to buy the Ikon pass. If you’re able to ski/snowboard 6 days of the season, the pass is worth it. Due to COVID, if you don’t have the Ikon pass, you have to reserve a lift ticket in advance online. I’ve noticed that it sells out very quickly, so it can be hard to snag a lift ticket reservation unless you plan far in advance.
Where to Stay in Mammoth
If you’re going with a group, Airbnb is your best option. There are several condos in the village and surrounding area, but make sure you book in advance as they book up quickly! This Canyon Village Condo looks awesome – the ski lifts are right outside your door!
There are also several hotels and lodges in the area. Get one as close to the village as possible for convenience – you can then walk to the gondola, shops and restaurants! I’ve heard great things about the Westin Monache Resort (located just steps from the gondola!)
As an alternative to the somewhat-expensive Mammoth lodging options, definitely consider McGee Creek Lodge. This 8-room, 2-cabin lodge is just 13 minutes away from Mammoth in a super scenic location right across from Crowley Lake. It’s beautiful! I’ve stayed here before and had the best time. Watching the sunrise/sunset from your bed is amazing!
Where to Rent your Ski/Snowboard Gear
While renting your gear at Mammoth Mountain may seem convenient, it’s actually not so convenient when you arrive at the mountain in the morning and see the huge line of people all waiting to get their gear! Also, it can be more expensive to rent from Mammoth than from other spots in the area.
Pro Tip: Buy your Own Gear!
If you live in SoCal and envision yourself going to Mammoth a few times per year, I recommend just buying your own gear. You’ll end up saving time and money after just a few uses! You can even find pretty good snowboards or skis on Amazon, like this Burton Genie Snowboard or these K2 Skis. Also check out these snowboards from REI – they have great sales!
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Your Mammoth Mountain lift ticket is actually good at June Mountain as well, which is a smaller mountain about 45 minutes past Mammoth. While this resort isn’t as big as Mammoth Mountain, it’s good to check out every now and then especially if you want to escape the crowds. We went one day last year when Mammoth was super crowded, and we felt like the only ones on the mountain at June!
Awesome Things to Do in Mammoth Besides Skiing/Snowboarding
There are plenty of fun things to do in Mammoth besides skiing and snowboarding. Even if you do ski/snowboard, I recommend including an extra day into your Mammoth trip to check out these beautiful places in Mammoth Lakes!
1. Natural Hot Springs
Mammoth Lakes is known for the many natural hot springs that can be found in the area. One of the most popular and easiest to find is called Wild Willy’s Hot Spring.
It’s about 20 minutes from the village at Mammoth Mountain and is on the way back towards LA (off of Highway 395). If you type “Wild Willy’s Hot Spring” into Google Maps, it will take you there. The small gravel road that leads to the parking lot near the hot springs is sometimes closed off if there is a lot of snow. If this happens, park on the side of the main road and walk on the snowy road for about a mile and you’ll reach the hot springs (trust me- it’s worth it!).
Once you get to the parking lot, you’ll see a boardwalk heading straight for about 0.2 miles. This will lead you directly to the hot springs.
There are two different hot spring pools to choose from, both with warm water and great views. The first pool on the left is about 10 feet wide and 2 feet deep, and is shaped like a heart. The next pool on your right is bigger and a bit shallower than the first one. Bring some beers, soak in the spring and enjoy the panoramic view of the Eastern Sierras!
There are quite a few other hot springs to choose from, including “Crab Cooker” and “Hilltop Tub”, however they are harder to find than Wild Willy’s Hot Spring and are much smaller. Wild Willy’s is great if you have a few friends with you as it can hold a large group.
If the road is closed due to snow and you don’t want to hike to get there, another option is to go to Keough’s Hot Springs which are about an hour past Wild Willy’s, towards Bishop. There won’t be any snow there so you’ll have no trouble driving straight up to the springs. This natural hot spring creek is a lot smaller than Wild Willy’s, but it’s a nice alternative!
2. Hot Creek Geological State Park
If you’re looking for even more beautiful scenery to explore, head to Hot Creek. This geothermal creek is about 20 minutes from the village at Mammoth Mountain, in the same direction heading towards LA. You can put “Hot Creek Geological Site” in your Google Maps to take you there. There will be about 3 miles of dirt road that turns to a gravel road where you will then see signs, a small parking lot and restrooms. From here you are right at the overlook where you can view the geothermal creek from above.
You’ll see signs about the scalding water – you cannot swim in this creek! It is way too hot. There’s a short switchback trail that takes you down to water-level so you can walk alongside the creek and check it out and see the steam rising above the water. It’s beautiful!
3. Convict Lake
Convict Lake is absolutely beautiful, and is an easy 15 minute drive from Mammoth Mountain. You can park right up next to the lake and take the paved walkway trail that meanders along the waters edge. Spend some time here relaxing and enjoying the views!
4. Snow Tubing
If you don’t ski or snowboard but still want some thrilling snow action, try snow tubing at Willy’s Tube Park at Mammoth! It cost about $50 per person for an hour, but it is so worth it. You get pulled up the hill on a conveyor belt type of thing, and then get spun down the tubing track! It’s way more fun than I expected.
Best Places to Eat and Drink in Mammoth
Best Happy Hour in Mammoth – Clocktower Cellar
My absolute favorite place to go for happy hour after a day on the slopes is Clocktower Cellar, an underground pub across from the village that has a true mountain town bar feel. This local hangout spot has the best happy hour deals in town, and also has pool and foosball tables. Note that they are currently closed for COVID.
Best Brewery at Mammoth – Distant Brewing
If you like craft beer, you’ve got to try this place! They’re a “nano-brewery” which produces beers in smaller batches than a micro-brewery. In addition to a great selection of craft beer, they also have great outdoor seating with heaters. Their food menu is super minimal, so if you’re hungry but also want craft beer refer to my next category:
Best Brewery that also has Good Food: Mammoth Brewing Company
I have mixed emotions about this place… it’s in the village so it’s super convenient, but it’s also a bit touristy and can get really crowded. However- it’s a fun atmosphere, the beers are good, and the food is tasty.
Best Dinner Spots
Mammoth Tavern is a great spot for a sit-down dinner. It has great food and amazing cheese fondue. Perfect after a day at the slopes!
This hole-in-the-wall spot has AWESOME tacos. It’s located at the bottom of an apartment complex, and is a latin market with tacos in the back for about $2 each. Some of the best I’ve ever had!
Noodle-ly is located in the Vons shopping plaza and has awesome noodle soup dishes, as well as Thai tea options. What more could you ask for after a cold day on the mountain?
Fun Things to Do on your Drive Back from Mammoth to Los Angeles:
If you are driving back to LA from Mammoth, there are a few fun stops you can make along the 5.5 hour drive:
1. Schat’s Bakery in Bishop, CA
There is a Schat’s Bakery location in Mammoth, however that location is much smaller and is not the original. The one in Bishop has a bigger selection. This bakery has been making bread since 1938 and still makes everything from scratch with no preservatives. Fun fact – they actually make 6x more bread daily than they have residents in the town! They have both savory and sweet baked goods, as well as a deli stand for homemade sandwiches. I normally stop here and grab a few things to-go. My favorite thing to take home is the Cherry Streudel. Pop it in the oven when you get home to warm it up – SO GOOD.
2. Mobius Arch in Alabama Hills, CA
About an hour past Schat’s Bakery you’ll reach the town of Lone Pine, which is where most backpackers stop before hiking Mt. Whitney – the highest summit in the contiguous U.S. Just outside of town is the area of Alabama Hills, which has the most epic view of desert boulder landscape with snow-capped mountains in the background. The Mobius Arch, located in Alabama Hills, is a naturally-occurring rock archway that perfectly frames Mt. Whitney in the background. If you put “Mobius Arch” into Google Maps, it will take you to the trailhead, where you can take a quick 10-minute walk to the arch. It’s seriously awesome.
3. Indian Wells Brewing Company
About an hour past Mobius Arch, you’ll arrive at this little brewery in the middle of nowhere, right off Highway 395. This microbrewery brews their beer with pure artesian spring water and they also bottle their own sodas. While I wasn’t crazy about the beers I tried (a bit too sweet for my taste), I still found it to be an enjoyable spot to break up the drive and have a drink with a view (just make sure you have a D.D) and support a local business!
4. Red Rock Canyon State Park
One of my favorite things to do on the way home from Mammoth is to stop at Red Rock Canyon State Park. About 30 minutes past Indian Wells Brewery, you’ll arrive at Red Rock Canyon State Park right off Highway 395. If you have time, park at the campground and take one of the many short hiking trails to the top of the rocks and check out the view. It’s beautiful! We actually camped here on our way to Death Valley National Park.
5. Musical Road
About one hour past Indian Wells Brewing Company, you’ll arrive in Lancaster where you can check out Musical Road. (You can just put “Musical Road” in your Google Maps to take you there). This short road was built in such a way that when you drive over the strategically-placed grooves with your windows down, you’ll hear the music of “William Tell Overture”. Apparently driving at a speed of 55mph produces the optimal sound quality.
6. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
If the right circumstances occur (based on the amount of rain/temperatures), a “Super Bloom” may happen, where the Southern California desert landscapes are covered in wildflowers. If you are driving back from Mammoth at the right time of year to see this, definitely stop by Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve (about 15 minutes from Musical Road) to check it out.