When I visited Mammoth Lakes in early October, I was told by my barista that most visitors to the area are from LA, due to, she thought, Southern California’s lack of stellar skiing, making Mammoth Lakes their closest quality spot. Six hours from LA and four hours from Sacramento, this incredible area unfortunately gets skipped by many Northern Californians, which, if I were to take a guess based on my pre-visiting inclinations, I’d say it’s because of the long 4 hour drive and the abundance of quality ski resorts 2 hours closer.
It’s time to put Mammoth Lakes back on your radar.
The beauty of the area stunned me. The mountains dramatically rose from a landscape mixed with alpine trees and desert bushes. You look out from one spot and the semi-Nevadian terrain makes you feel like you’re in the Middle East, and then you look behind you and it looks like the Swiss Alps with a crystal lake below. There were many crystal lakes, in fact, most littered along winding roads that led you from one lake to another.
And then there’s Mammoth Lakes in fall. Bright yellow aspen trees freckle the landscape, outline the watersides, and grow amid the jagged cliffs of the mountains. It can be difficult to gauge the best time to go, but a friend who visits Mammoth often says that early to mid-October is the best guarantee of fall colors. I had a mix of bright yellow, fading green, and bare trees when I visited.
While some of the areas I saw are already past peak, it looks like, according to californiafallcolor.com, that there are spots in Mammoth that are at peak right now. Go this weekend or you’ll have to wait until next year!
I stayed in Mammoth Lakes, near the resort, and spent the first day exploring the desertesque Bodie and Mono Lake and the next exploring the lakes around June Lake. The most breathtaking views, and what made up most my photos, were at Parker Lake, accessible via a 4-mile roundtrip hike. It was a bit of a steep climb at the beginning, but so worth what came at trail’s end.
Similar to the hike, the long 4-hour drive is far for those of us accustomed to the Sierras of Tahoe, but I promise you won’t regret the stunning beauty of the Eastern Sierras that comes at highway’s end.
Photos by Bethany Harris