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