Su­per-sized fun for all sea­sons

Travel Guide to California - - MAMMOTH LAKES - BY BILL FINK

TWO HOURS NORTH of Mount Whit­ney, the Con­ti­nen­tal United States’ high­est point, and only 45 min­utes from Yosemite’s east en­trance, the Mam­moth Lakes re­gion is an epi­cen­ter for out­door ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the year.

Sum­mer Fun

Up in the hills and mead­ows of the East­ern Sierra moun­tain range, hik­ers and bik­ers can ex­plore the ex­ten­sive Mam­moth Lakes Trail Sys­tem, whether it be for rugged multi-day ad­ven­tures or a gen­tle walk through a park. Golfers en­joy ex­tra-long drives in the high el­e­va­tions of Sierra Star and Snowcreek Golf Cour­ses. The Mam­moth Lakes area is well known for fish­ing, so much so, that many lo­cal mo­tels fea­ture fish-clean­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Fly fish­ing in streams, and lure-based fish­ing in lakes (in­clud­ing Con­vict, Crow­ley and sev­eral lakes in Mam­moth Lakes Basin) gives ev­ery­one a chance to try their spe­cialty or pick up a new skill. The full “grand slam” of trout—rain­bow, brook, brown and golden—await your ar­rival. Or you can skip the fish­ing, and sim­ply pad­dle a kayak, ca­noe or stand-up pad­dle board through the lakes and take in the scenery, or even try out a float­ing his­tor­i­cal tour of Mono Lake. Ex­plore the won­ders of ge­ol­ogy at Devils Post­pile Na­tional Mon­u­ment and gaze at its tow­er­ing basalt col­umns, then cool off in the spray of the hun­dred-foot-tall Rain­bow Falls just down­stream. Sum­mer is also fes­ti­val time, the cal­en­dar filled with music events and food and drink gath­er­ings, in­clud­ing the com­bi­na­tion of “blues and brews” for Mam­moth’s Fes­ti­val of Beers and Blue­sapalooza each Au­gust.

Win­ter Sports

As the name sug­gests, Mam­moth Moun­tain ski re­sort is gi­gan­tic, with ter­rain de­scend­ing from mul­ti­ple peaks pro­vid­ing runs suit­able for all lev­els of skiers. The re­sort cre­ates more than a dozen ter­rain parks for snow­board­ers, and hosts reg­u­lar com­pe­ti­tions for those who just want to watch. Ta­ma­rack Ski Cen­ter and the Mam­moth Lakes Nordic Trail Sys­tem are des­ti­na­tions for cross-coun­try ski en­thu­si­asts. For non-skiers, Mam­moth Lakes also con­nects vis­i­tors with dogsled rides, snow­mo­bil­ing, snow­shoe tours, fat-tire snow bik­ing and even snow­cat rides to scenic pic­nic spots. Small kids too can come to en­joy Mam­moth’s tub­ing park, fes­tive win­ter pa­rades with mas­cot “Woolly” or a scenic gon­dola ride. June Moun­tain, a 20mile drive from Mam­moth Lakes, is a laid-back lo­ca­tion for down­hill fun (and kids 12 and un­der ski for free!). If it’s too cold out­side, check out Mam­moth Rock ’n’ Bowl with its bowl­ing lanes, golf sim­u­la­tor, bar and restau­rant, or maybe even par­take in the East­ern Sierra Brew­ery Tour of three lo­cal mi­cro­brew­eries.

Spring Ac­tiv­i­ties

Of­ten con­sid­ered just a “shoul­der sea­son” be­tween ski­ing and fish­ing, spring around Mam­moth Lakes of­fers great deals on lodg­ing and ac­tiv­i­ties for those look­ing for some late-sea­son sunny ski­ing (Mam­moth Moun­tain of­ten stays open past Me­mo­rial Day), or some early bik­ing and fish­ing. Some peo­ple try for the “spring triathlon” of ski­ing, bik­ing and fish­ing in a sin­gle day. Spring is also a good time for bird­ing, when vis­i­tors can see many of the 300 species of lo­cal and mi­gra­tory birds that have been spot­ted in the area, in­clud­ing the horde of 50,000 Cal­i­for­nia gulls nest­ing at Mono Lake each year.

Fall Col­ors

Fall fo­liage is a treat for the eyes around Mam­moth Lakes. En­joy hik­ing through the col­ors in the crisp fall air on the Mam­moth Rock Trail or the Heart Lake Trail, or even stay for a cou­ple of days amidst the trees at the Sher­win Creek Camp­ground. Go for a drive around wind­ing moun­tain roads of the June Lake Loop to see the spec­tac­u­lar col­ors in groves of as­pens and cot­ton­wood trees be­low tow­er­ing pine forests. You can soar above the col­ors on he­li­copter tours. Or go back in time and join a multi-day horse­back ride down from the hills. For a spooky Hal­loween, or any quiet day, visit the ghost town within Bodie State Park, the aban­doned rem­nants of a gold min­ing set­tle­ment about 60 miles north.

FLY FISH­ING AT MAM­MOTH LAKES, op­po­site; win­ter ski and board fun at Mam­moth Moun­tain, right; Mam­moth Lakes is moun­tain bike heaven, bot­tom.

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