If I asked you to make a list of popular hikes in Mammoth Lakes, I guarantee that I could guess a few hikes that would be on that list – Duck Lake, Devils Postpile & Rainbow Falls, Thousand Island Lake, Crystal Lake… the list of popular Mammoth hikes could go on and on. I mean – how couldn’t it? There are so many beautiful trails in and about Mammoth!
As beautiful as these hikes are, if you are looking for solitude, they aren’t necessarily the best contenders. After living in Mammoth during the summer, I started looking for trails off the beaten path and – no surprise here – I found some awesome, more remote trails!
Here is a list of my five favorite lesser-known trails in and around Mammoth Lakes, California. What trails would you add to the list? Comment your favorites below!
Deer Lakes Loop
Distance: 10.5 miles
Elevation gain: 2,142 feet
The Deer Lakes Loop connects two of Mammoth’s most popular trails: the Crystal Lake Trail to the Duck Lake Trail via the Mammoth Crest and Deer Lakes. The hike to Crystal Lake overlooks the Mammoth Lakes Basin and the gigantic Crystal Crag. Once you pass Crystal Lake, an alpine lake at the base of Crystal Crag, you’ll continue to gain elevation before you top out at the Mammoth Crest. For the next couple of miles, you get the pleasure of walking along the craggy Crest, passing by windows leading out to the Lakes Basin – such a unique experience! After traversing the Crest for awhile, you will head down to the glacial-green Deer Lakes before hopping on an unmaintained trail and eventually cross-countrying up to Duck Lake. From Duck Lake, take the Duck Pass trail down past Barney, Skelton, and Arrowhead Lakes to end your hike at Coldwater Campground.
This hike truly has it all – alpine lakes, ridge-walking, and even hiking cross-country over a pass! It feels like you travel through four different ecosystems, and it is the perfect hike to show you the uniqueness of the Eastern Sierra.
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation gain: 564 feet
The Heart Lake trail is a short-but-sweet trail that leads out of the Lakes Basin, through an old mining camp (so cool!), and up to an alpine lake high above the Basin. After passing through the well-kept camp, you gain altitude through fields of wildflowers and Jeffrey pines. Although the elevation gain isn’t too bad, you gain it quickly, and before long, you are high about the Lakes Basin with 360 degree views of Duck Pass, Mammoth Crest, the backside of Mammoth Mountain, and even the Minerets! I’ll be honest – Heart Lake itself is beautiful, but it isn’t necessarily something to write home about. The hike up, however, is what makes this hike so special.
Mammoth Pass to Red’s Meadow
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation gain: ~250 feet
Elevation Loss: ~1250 feet
Red’s Meadow is one of the most popular spots in Mammoth during the summer – so much so that Devil’s Postpile, located in Red’s Meadow, even has its own sign indicating whether it is open when you get off of the 395 and start heading up the hill towards town! But, many people don’t know that you can actually hike down to Red’s Meadow from the Lakes Basin! There are a few different trails that you can take, but by far, my favorite is past McLeod Lake, over Mammoth Pass, past the Red Cones, to hook up with the John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail down to Red’s Meadow. Like the Deer Lakes Loop, this trail showcases a lot of unique features of the Sierra, including the volcanic Red Cones! Best part of this trail? It is almost entirely downhill… and then once you arrive at Red’s Meadow, you get to take the bus back up into Mammoth! Be sure to bring cash – if I remember correctly, once you are down in Red’s, you can’t use a card to get onto the bus.
Distance: 9.8 miles
Elevation gain: 1,909 feet
Valentine Lake is a super beautiful, remote alpine lake with its trailhead basically in town. From the town of Mammoth, head west on Sherwin Creek Road for about two miles and you are there! There are actually two ways to get up to Valentine Lake – via the Valentine Lake trailhead and via the Sherwin Lake trailhead. The Sherwin Lake trail is a bit more scenic and adds a few more lakes along your hike, but it also adds 1.4 miles to your hike. I can’t really say that I prefer one over the other, but your legs will thank you on the hike down if you choose the shorter trail!
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
Like Heart Lake, the beauty of this trail isn’t necessary the destination, but rather the hike up. The Agnew Lake trail starts near Silver Lake on the June Lake Loop and quickly gains elevation to give you a birds eye view of June Lake! The coolest part of this hike though, by far, is once you get about two-thirds up the mountain, where the trail starts weaving through an old train track used to bring supplies up the mountain to build the Agnew Lake dam. Here, the trail is built into the surrounding rock and gets you up-close and personal with Carson Peak and Horsetail Falls. The trail up to Agnew Lake is a lot of fun for a lot of different reasons.