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Mammoth Lakes

Discover high-alpine beauty and all-seasons adventure in this laidback mountain enclave

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Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the West, residents of this Eastern Sierra town know they’ve got a good thing going. It’s a place that attracts serious outdoor lovers who take to the slopes of Mammoth Mountain in winter, then swap their skis for hiking boots and mountain bikes when the snow melts.

Fortunately, these locals like to share. Come listen to the blues and taste world-class brews during a summertime music festival. Ride Mammoth Mountain’s scenic gondola, which climbs to the mountain’s summit at 11,053 feet/3,369 meters for jaw-dropping views of surrounding high-altitude peaks. Fly-fish in clear mountain streams and high alpine lakes. Hike or ride your bike in Mammoth Lakes Basin.

Or just show up for great food and drink. Stake your claim at an outdoor picnic table at Mammoth Brewing Company, where more than a dozen artisan beers are on tap. On the menu are such exotic mash-ups as Irish kale salad and Banh Mi sandwiches with pork belly. For an island ambiance and oversized multi-person drinks, get your tiki on at Lakanuki, also in the Village, or sip on artisan whiskeys and house spirits at Shelter Distilling.

Visiting hikers in particular will love the Little Lakes Valley, a spectacular, glacier-carved canyon bursting with lakes and wildflowers. And golfers can find out if elevation affects their game at two of the highest courses in the state: Sierra Star Golf Course and Snowcreek Golf Course, where players enjoy views of the Sherwin Range, Mammoth Mountain, and the White Mountains.

In winter, Mother Nature is very good to Mammoth Lakes. The mountain town’s signature peak, Mammoth Mountain, gets more than 30 feet/9 meters of snow on average, and lifts and gondolas zoom up the mountain well into summer. Mix things up with a day on the slopes at nearby June Mountain, a local favorite that’s ultra-relaxed and family-friendly. Downhill is not the only way to go either. Take a snowcat tour in the backcountry with Minaret Vista Tours, try tubing or surf sledding after dark at Woolly’s Tube Park, where fans of snow and speed of every age can hurtle down the groomed lanes. On select dates during the season, take advantage of the park’s Electric Tubing nights under the moon, stars, and some lights.Check to see if the U.S. Snowboard and Freeskiing Grand Prix will be taking place while you’re there—Mammoth hosts it every winter or early spring, and it’s a great way to get an up-close view of serious shredding from multiple vantage points.

Or glide or snowshoe across the 19-plus miles/30-plus kilometers of groomed trails at Tamarack Cross-Country Ski Center. When you’ve worn yourself out, retreat to snowbound Tamarack Lodge near Twin Lakes. Unwind in the great room with a mug of hot mulled wine by the fire, then sit down for dinner at the elegantly rustic Lakefront Restaurant.

For indoor downtime, check out Mammoth Rock ’n’ Bowl, with its restaurant and 12 bowling lanes, a golf simulator, foosball, and arcade games. or choose from non-skiing options like motorized Snowcat tours or guided full-moon snowshoe treks.

No matter the season, Mammoth Lakes makes a perfect base camp for exploring local hot springs. Some 760,000 years ago, a massive volcano exploded in this region, creating a network of steaming water underground. Head east to Benton Hot Springs to relax in any of nine outdoor hot tubs at The Inn at Benton Hot Springs. Find your way to Travertine Hot Springs outside of Bridgeport, where you can enjoy a fabulous view of the Sierra crest while you soak away your cares. Or cruise south to Keough Hot Springs, first opened as a medicinal and health retreat in 1919. (Stop by the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center for directions to these and other hot springs.)

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