MELLOW MAMMOTH

You’ll fall in love with East­ern Sierra re­sort dur­ing au­tumn

Riverbank News - - 209 LIVING - By DENNIS WYATT

MAMMOTH LAKES — Mammoth Lakes is the East­ern Sierra’s an­swer to Yosemite Val­ley.

It’s got worldly mojo, is sur­rounded by seem­ingly end­less won­ders, and is even crawl­ing with peo­ple dur­ing peak sea­sons.

And while it doesn’t quite ex­pe­ri­ence grid­lock as Yosemite Val­ley does, it is just as dif­fi­cult to get the feel of be­ing in the Sierra wilder­ness with two Star­bucks, fast food havens, as well as trendy din­ing and stores, it is def­i­nitely more ur­ban than back coun­try when com­pared to the much tram­pled Yosemite Val­ley.

Noth­ing ru­ins a day of hik­ing past pris­tine lakes below ragged peaks than pass­ing by places of­fer­ing fast food burg­ers as you re­turn to where you’re bed­ding down for the night.

Cut­ting Mammoth Lakes some slack, it is a year-round city of 8,000 peo­ple that is at the base of a world-class ski re­sort. And if the get­away you are seek­ing is a cou­ple of notches above back­pack­ing or stay­ing in a low key lodg­ing in a place in the Sierra when the only night life af­ter the sun goes down is noc­tur­nal wildlife and still be in easy strik­ing dis­tance of wilder­ness, then Mammoth Lakes is per­fect for you

Re­gard­less of the Sierra ex­pe­ri­ence you’re seek­ing then fall in Mammoth Lakes fits the bill.

Af­ter La­bor Day, the crowds thin out, the Times Square feel of “The Vil­lage” where many vis­i­tors to Mammoth flock mel­lows, and lodg­ing costs drop. And as the sea­son pro­gresses you can en­joy a con­cen­tra­tion of earth tone rain­bows of strik­ing fall col­ors tough to repli­cate else­where in the Sierra.

There are nu­mer­ous hik­ing op­tions across the spec­trum from easy and mod­er­ate to stren­u­ous.

If you just want to hike, I could fill pages singing the praises and de­scrib­ing trails in the Mammoth Lakes re­gion. The rel­a­tive lack of peo­ple and the abun­dance of hik­ing op­tions into the high coun­try is what I like about Mammoth in the fall.

But as­sum­ing you are look­ing for a re­sort­style ex­pe­ri­ence here is what Mammoth Lakes has to of­fer dur­ing the fall:

Heli­copter tours that are ar­guably the best op­tion for grab­bing in­cred­i­ble aerial pho­to­graphs in the East­ern Sierra short of char­ter­ing your own heli­copter.

In­spir­ing views from the Panorama Gon­dola at Mammoth Moun­tain ride.

The end­less moun­tain and road bi­cy­cling op­tions. Although the Mammoth Moun­tain Bike Park known for its down­hill trails and tech­ni­cal fea­tures closes for the sea­son af­ter La­bor Day, hit­ting trails and roads on a self-pow­ered two wheeler won’t dis­ap­point.

There’s plenty of events on the fall sched­ule (check out Out­side on the East­side events at www.vis­it­mam­moth) from sym­phonic con­certs and reper­tory the­atre to an Ok­to­ber- fest and var­i­ous arts and craft en­deav­ors.

Most of the pop­u­lar restau­rants now stay open in the fall mak­ing din­ing an eas­ier ex­pe­ri­ence with­out long lines and waits. An ex­am­ple is The Lake­front — a pop­u­lar din­ing spot that is dif­fi­cult to snag a reser­va­tion given it has just 10 ta­bles.

Not only is lodg­ing less ex­pen­sive but most camp­sites and cab­ins that are hard to come by in sum­mer are avail­able into Septem­ber and even into Oc­to­ber, weather per­mit­ting.

But more im­por­tant there are less peo­ple — a lot less peo­ple.

The trail­heads for some of the pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions have shut­tle bus ser­vice that is manda­tory to use dur­ing cer­tain times be­cause of the crowds drawn to what na­ture of­fers in the Mammoth Lakes re­gion. In the fall the num­bers drop off.

Among the many won­ders of na­ture that await at Mammoth Lakes are:

Devils Post­pile Na­tional Mon­u­ment that is open into Oc­to­ber. A one mile round trip hike al­lows you to take in a unique ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tion cre­ated 100,000 years ago fea­tur­ing

thou­sands of hexag­o­nal col­umns cre­ated when lava flow slowed, cooled, and cracked.

Rain­bow Falls that’s also late of the na­tional mon­u­ment. The 101-foot fall of­ten pro­duces a large rain­bow at mid­day as the sun strikes the de­scend­ing wa­ter. The round trip hike is a mod­er­ate 5 mile hike.

Hot Creek ge­o­log­i­cal site ac­cessed by a 0.4 mile round trip to see hot springs and gas vents.

The earth­quake fault fis­sure area where you can see cracks in the earth.

There are lit­er­ally more than a dozen hik­ing trails into the high coun­try to fish, and take in the stun­ning vis­tas that Mother Na­ture of­fers.

And if you don’t want to stay put in the im­me­di­ate area, there are count­less at­trac­tions within an hour or just a lit­tle more.

The largest ghost town in the West — Bodie His­tor­i­cal State Park. Mono Lake with its unique ecosys­tem in­clud­ing the eerie lu­nar like tufa tow­ers. Nu­mer­ous East­ern Sierra canyons of­fer­ing fishing and hik­ing in rel­a­tive soli­tude. The Owens River Gorge with stun­ning vis­tas and year-round fishing.

The Yosemite Na­tional Park high coun­try with the eye-pop­ping Tuolumne Mead­ows.

Ben­ton Hot Springs that of­fers 15 camp site style “rus­tic” spots to soak in the earth’s hot tub wa­ters.

But the real fall treat in Mammoth Lakes and nearby are splashy and in­tense reds, yel­low, browns and or­anges that start pop­ping up by midSeptem­ber. It is why USA To­day in­cluded the area on its list of five best road trips in the fall and Lonely Planet has named it as one of the 10 best United States travel des­ti­na­tions. What fall color you typ­i­cally see in Yosemite Val­ley in early Novem­ber pales when com­pared to the East­ern Sierra from midSeptem­ber through the end of Oc­to­ber.

The Mammoth Lakes Vis­i­tors Guide has cre­ated a fall color guide to the East­ern Sierra that will have you dream­ing about Cal­i­for­nia’s best kept fall travel trip as op­posed to pin­ing to pay a king’s ran­som to try and tour New Eng­land in the fall.

Mammoth Lakes is ac­ces­si­ble via Tioga Pass that re­quires a $35 Yosemite Na­tional Park en­trance fee that’s good for a week. It takes just two road changes af­ter you head east on High­way 120. You turn right to head south on High­way 395 out­side of Lee Vin­ing and then turn right to take High­way 203 east into Mammoth Lakes.

For more in­for­ma­tion go to www.vis­it­mam­moth.

Pho­tos courtesy Mammoth Lake Tourism

PHOTO ACROSS TOP: Hik­ers en­joy the fall col­ors on a trail out­side of Mammoth. PHOTO BY HEADLINE: Fall color near Mammoth. TOP PHOTO: Fall col­ors at one of the many lakes in the Mammoth Lakes basin. BOT­TOM LEFT PHOTO: The Vil­lage in Mammoth of­fers con­dos for rent as well as a wide va­ri­ety of din­ing op­tions along the plaza. BOT­TOM RIGHT PHOTO: Rain­bow Falls at the Devils Post­pile Na­tional Mon­u­ment.

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