Not surprisingly, hikers find plenty of worthwhile terrain around Mammoth Lakes for both short day walks and longer backpacking adventures. The Mammoth Mountain Bike Park (1 Minaret Rd., 800/626-6684, www.mammothmountain.com/bike_ride, daily 8 a.m.–6 p.m.) includes a number of great hiking trails. For an all-downhill walk, take the Scenic Gondola up to the Panorama Overlook and hike back down to town. Just be sure to get a trail map at the Mammoth Adventure Center (1 Minaret Rd., 800/626-6684, June.–Sept. daily 8 a.m.–6 p.m.) so you can keep to the hiking areas and avoid being flattened by fast-moving mountain bikers.
Mammoth Lakes also acts as a jumping-off point for adventurers who want to take on the John Muir Wilderness (south of Mammoth Lakes to Mount Whitney, http://sierranevadawild.gov/wild/john-muir). John Muir pioneered sustainability and preservation in the Sierra Nevadas, and more than half a million acres in the area have been designated national wilderness areas in his honor. Day hikers are welcome and there’s plenty to see. Check with the Inyo National Forest service and the Sierra National Forest for trail maps of the area.
But the main attractions to the John Muir (as it’s called locally) are the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails—both hundreds of miles long and sought by backpacking enthusiasts around the world. If you’re planning an overnight camping trip in the area—on your own or with a tour or guide company—you must obtain a permit.
It’s also a good idea to plan backcountry trips well in advance, to make sure you’ve got everything you need and all the proper permits and information ready at hand.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition