Paddling through a forest – that’s probably the best way to describe being on the water around Mammoth Lakes right now.
Record levels of snowmelt in the Eastern Sierra are creating a phenomenon in the Mammoth Lakes Basin that even long-time residents have never seen before. It’s hard to describe, so definitely check out the pictures and video below, but essentially the waterline has expanded to include sections of the surrounding forest. Normally that would mean reduced water clarity, but the water is still crystal clear…
Reminder: Swift-moving high water in the surrounding streams and rivers can be dangerous.
PHOTOS (Courtesy of Sam Lindberg/ Mammoth Lakes Tourism)
Following the most historic winter on record at Mammoth Mountain, summer fun in the Eastern Sierra is finally here. Water flows from snowmelt are dictating which activities and areas can safely open in the region. Check our activity and road updates page for information on what is open and closed. Please read on if you are visiting this weekend or in the near future to make sure you plan, and enjoy, a successful visit.
Great news for all travelers! Starting this Saturday, July 22nd, at 8 AM Tioga Pass will be open! Soon you can easily access Mammoth Lakes through Highway 120 and enter the beautiful Yosemite Valley from the same route.
Please keep in mind that while Tioga Pass is opening, there won’t be any drinking water or services available on the route. Also, it’s essential to be aware that there might be delays and certain sections of the road will be restricted to one lane. Please be patient and plan extra time to journey through the park.
First, for all the campers out there, our friends from Camp Like a Pro say, plan ahead and stay safe.
- Many campgrounds remain closed or will open late. Many roads and trails are snowed in, washed out or flooded – turn around, don’t drown and don’t get stuck.
- Cold swift water kills! Be careful near waterways, do not attempt to cross flowing water, and be alert to potential flooding. Adults can get swept away, kids and pets don’t stand a chance.
- Be extra vigilant, plan accordingly and stay flexible – check all agency websites regarding closures and conditions. Respect safety alerts. The map linked does not contain temporary closure information, current conditions or identify existing hazards.
- Visit your local National Forest Visitor Centers for more information.
THINGS TO DO
If you are looking for fun things to do during your visit, check out the event page for all the events happening in Mammoth Lakes.
And of course, you’ll want to grab bragging rights for skiing and snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain after such a monumental winter, so make sure to block off time to head out on the hill.
Explore the Mammoth Lakes Basin
It’s no secret that this past winter’s effects have been long-lasting. But the road we have all been waiting for is finally open! Beginning Friday, July 14, the Lake Mary Road and roads within the Lakes Basin are officially open for the summer season.
While we are all excited to get up there, here are a few important tips to keep in mind:
- Hazard Tree Abatement will continue and so there may be temporary traffic stops along the way. Please exercise patience.
- The campgrounds are still slowly opening. The Twin Lakes campground will be the only campground for now. Other campground throughout the Basin are still being evaluated based on conditions
- Mother Nature has blessed us with an abundant amount of water, and Coldwater Creek is overflowing. Please maintain slow speeds and do not park on flood shoulders.
- While the temperatures are warm, the water is not. Please be aware that the water is much colder than it would typically be and very swift. Cold Swift water kills so keep control of pets and kids at all times around water.
- Parking is extremely limited so we highly recommend taking the FREE trolley into the area. You can find more information and the schedule at ESTransit.com.
- Services are limited – If dumpsters are full or unavailable, pack your trash out with you. Let’s work together to Keep Mammoth Unreal.
While our favorite areas are starting to melt out, Mammoth Lakes is not completely snow free yet and there are many places you will still find snow and ice. Trails throughout the Lakes Basin still have snow coverage and in some places significant snowpacks can still be found. Please do not cross any snow bridges, as they are very unstable at this time of year and the water below is much colder and much faster than it looks. Some of the high sierra lakes may even still be covered in ice.
There are plenty of trails that are also snow free and offer incredible views. Some of our favorites include: Convict Lake, Sherwin Lake, Panorama Dome, Inyo Craters, Parker Lake, Gem Lake and Fern Lake. With warming temperatures through the weekend we do expect conditions to change quickly.
While we never suggest crossing water on any trail, if you are considering it keep these things in mind:
- Cold swift water kills! We mean it. This water is very cold and very fast. Adults can get swept away, kids and pets don’t stand a chance. Be prepared that some members of your party may not be strong enough to make it through the crossing even if you think you are. Can you carry them through this crossing?
- We STRONGLY SUGGEST bringing trekking poles for all hikes, as any trails have the potential for stream crossings or snow drifts, and poles can help with stability.
- Melting snow during the day can cause creeks and crossing to be at their highest in the afternoon and later part of the day.
- It’s not worth it! We promise we can find you a great view somewhere else in the beautiful Sierra so don’t take the risk if you don’t have to.
Now, is definitely the time to witness the large amounts of water melting off from the historic snowfall. Every time we turn around there seems to be a new waterfall cascading from above. Keep your eyes open and you two may see a waterfall that may never be seen again. Here are our top tips for where to see some of these famous flows:
Rush Creek Falls: Just below Agnew Lake, on the Rush Creek Trail in the June Lake Loop, The Rush Creek Falls tumble out from the bottom of the Agnew Lake Dam whenever the spillway is open. There’s no way to know if the dam is open, just have to hike up and see for yourself. But in a year like this the falls can be seen from just cruising the June Lake Loop. For those wanting some exercise, the moderate 2.25 mile hike up to the falls will have you surrounded by one of the most stunningly beautiful and well-kept secrets in California: the spectacular June Lake region. If you don’t feel like a hike you can view the falls from the Double Eagle Resort.
Lundy Canyon: Just north of Lee Vining (and the eastern entrance to Yosemite) Lundy Canyon is a spring paradise, exploding with foliage and wildflowers. The topography creates a microclimate around the falls with a look and feel unique to the region. The Lundy Canyon Trail climbs 2.2 easy miles from the trailhead, where you’ll pass beaver ponds and several smaller falls before reaching two falls on the north side of the canyon that are worth every bit of the effort expended.
Lee Vining Canyon: Just about 30 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes on Highway 395 is the turn off for Tioga Pass – Highway 120. About 3 miles up on the left is the turn off for Poole Power Plant Road.This road navigates the floor of Lee Vining Canyon and you can follow it all the way to the back to view two tributaries of Lee Vining Creek as the converge before running down stream towards Mono Lake.
Tioga Pass: With the section between Lee Vining and the Yosemite National Park boundary open, you can take in some extra falls that appear after a big year, just because of the mass amount of snow melting and the incredibly steep Lee Vining Canyon walls. While the entrance to Yosemite remains closed, that doesn’t mean you can’t take in the views from one of the prettiest parts of the park. Because of elevation and snow, the park’s eastern boundary is one of the least developed entrances making even the quick 30 minute up and back a very worthy scenic drive.
Many lakes in the region are ice-free and ready for recreation. Please know that many higher elevation lakes still have ice, and even those without ice are much colder than they would typically be. Please check with marinas for information on operations at specific lakes.
Other activities include biking the town loop, or if you’d like to explore a little further, pedal your road bike through the Owens Valley.
Snowcreek Driving Range is open so you can start warming up your swing, for 18 holes at the Sierra Star Golf Course. For the little ones in your group, a day at the Adventure Center will have them snoozing before the sun goes down.
Of course, there are always great dining options available to fuel your adventures and plenty of open patios to take in the unreal views. Après continues on as long as Mother Natures says – sign up and join us for a locally made cocktail at one of our favorite spots.
So come on up and enjoy a different take on one of our favorite places.