We recently traveled by car (10+ hours from our home in Oregon) to visit the quaint mountain town of Mammoth Lakes, California. Wanting to totally immerse myself and actually be able to relax – I went ahead and booked a condo for two whole weeks. Now it was time to plan our Mammoth Lakes family activities…
We have never visited this part of California before but I just knew it would be the perfect place for our adventurous family. In two weeks visiting Mammoth Lakes we experienced more adventure than we ever have on any other vacation.
I loved being there for that many days. It allowed us to be able to truly immerse ourselves and get a feel for what being a local may actually be like. This post is a round-up of our favorite 10 activities we did as a family. Hope it’s helpful for any of you planning your own getaway!
Here’s our personal list of top summertime Mammoth Lakes Family Activities
1. Gondola ride to the summit of Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort
My eight year old’s eyes lit up with glee and excitement like I had never seen within the first 30 seconds of our way to the summit. I knew right in that moment that this was going to be a great vacation. Highly recommend the gondola ride + lunch at the summit. Made for an excellent way to get a feel for the area and literally a bird’s eye view.
2. Hiking the trails around Twin Lakes
Less than five minutes from town is a spectacular pair of small lakes and a stunning waterfall surrounded by endless hiking trails. If you are feeling adventurous, there is a spectacular, giant lava tube you can explore on the far shore of the first lake. It’s called “Hole In The Wall” and people will actually ski through it as well in the winter. Our first thought when seeing it was that we just had to hike up and through it. Our first attempt with all 4 of us was a fail. We took a not so direct route and ended up in a never ending battle against downhill flowing scree.
So, the next day I ventured out with just my 8 year old and we were determined to tackle it. There were some hairy moments but I have never been more proud of my kiddo. If you are looking for some Mammoth Lakes family activities with a ton of adventure – this should be at the top of your list!
3. Volcom Brothers Skatepark
Neither of my kids know how to skateboard but I had read that Mammoth lakes was home to one of the best parks on the west coast. So, we checked it out one day while on a bike ride. It was so cool we ended up scouring town to find a razor scooter for them to tool around on. Mammoth is a pretty small town and nobody had scooters. There are no larger department stores. I must have called 8 different shops and got blanks every time. I didn’t let that deter us though and we ended up making the hour drive to Bishop which has a K-Mart. Metropolis!
4. Yosemite National Park
I grew up in Oregon and we traveled all over. From the Grand Canyon all the way to Glacier National Park. I was even born in Mountain View, California but I had NEVER been to Yosemite National Park. So, this was a must for us. I am so glad we made the trip. The eastern entrance to the park is actually quite close to Mammoth but what I didn’t realize was just how deep into the park was all the good stuff like Yosemite Falls and the best views of Half Dome and El Capitan.
We made a point to go mid week in hopes of less traffic. Traffic wasn’t too bad until we got to the heart of the park where Yosemite Valley Lodge is. Of all the things we did, our favorite was lower Yosemite Falls. It was the perfect way to cool down on a hot July day. We played and splashed and explored the series of pools that stretch above and below the final bridge. This was easily one of the most crowded Mammoth Lakes family activities we experienced on this trip but still worth it!
5. Kayak and SUP rentals.
Of all the Mammoth Lakes family activities we did on this trip – This is the one we could have done every day. We ended up making the short drive to Lake Mary and the Lake Mary Marina which had all the rentals you could want – motor boats, kayaks, canoes, SUP and more. I got us a two person kayak and a stand up paddle board for 1 hour. It was not enough time! I wish we had gone earlier in the day and rented for much longer. We barely made it to the other side of the lake before it was time to turn around and head back. But it was super fun and this was the first time any of us had done a SUP.
7. Snowcreek Athletic Club
This was a really nice perk from the condo we rented. We were given free access to the Snowcreek Athletic Club for the duration of our stay. They have an expansive collection of strength equipment/cardio machines, indoor basketball court, indoor pool, outdoor pool and hot tubs. Although the building was a bit dated with a lot of wood paneling and older tile work, it was well maintained and the kids absolutely loved going between the pools and hot tubs with dad while mom busted out time on the weights. They also have a small trampoline park that looked like fun but would have been an additional fee.
7. Kids Fishing Festival
We just happened to be in Mammoth at the same time as this wonderful event. Staff from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife put on a fishing extravaganza for the kiddos and it was totally free. They stocked two ponds right in town to the brim with hundreds of fish and let the kids go at it. It did get pretty crowded and there were definitely several overly ambitious parents who could have let the kids do more of the fishing but all in all it was a good time. We caught ZERO fish on all 3 of our fishing outings during this trip but the kids still said this was one of their favorite Mammoth Lakes family activities.
Ha! I was kinda feeling bad they didn’t catch anything but it really didn’t matter. Here’s the local fishing report: Eastern Sierra Fishing Report
8. Free trolley and bus rides all over town
The town has a free trolley system going all over town and there was a stop right outside our condo. We rode it to the village center and also rode the ski resorts free bus up to the gondola area. It’s so easy to get around town and you truly don’t need a car for 90% of the Mammoth Lakes family activities mentioned in this round up. All the trolleys have bike racks and it’s easy to combine the two into a really fun outing.
9. Town bike path loop
Speaking of bike rides – Mammoth has a phenomenal paved bike path that loops all around town thats perfect for kids. It is a bit hilly in sections but that’s character building for the little ones in my book. We only rode the path in sections getting distracted by parks and nature along the way. One of the most beautiful moments of our whole trip was heading out at sunset towards the east end of town and watching as the glow from sunset bounced off the peaks. Stunning! For the more adventurous, the ski resort has one of the best downhill mountain bike parks in the country.
10. Walk the village and grab breakfast at Old New York Deli & Bakery Co
Mammoth resort has built a very nice pedestrian only village full of shops and restaurants. There’s also a gondola hub here but it does not run in summer. They also host music/festivals here just about every weekend. It’s not a massive area but fun to check out, do some people watching and grab a bite to eat. We popped into the bagel shop and it was bustling. The food was excellent and came out quickly.
If you want to spend a few extra bucks on accommodations this would be a great spot for those wanting a lively scene. Condos rise above the village and have a birds eye view of all the action. There was also a very nice pool setup right in the heart of it all for guests of the Grand Sierra Lodge.
BONUS 11. Daydreaming of year-round life in Mammoth Lakes
One of my dreams is to live in a ski-in-ski-out town. And I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t one of my big motivations for going on vacation here. It truly was one of the best trips we have ever been on and the adventure was endless for our young family. I’m always checking out homes and imagining what a typical day would look like living in a town like this.
Where would I go to work on my laptop in the morning? How close are the schools to the ski lifts? How are the restaurants? Where do the locals shop and live? It’s fun for me to run these scenarios through my mind. If you have some of the same thoughts… There’s a family I discovered online that has blogged about their own experiences moving to Mammoth and it’s been a really fun read: His blog and her blog. Check em out. Especially this post and this post about bears. Crazy!
This was such an awesome vacation and we truly had a blast each and every day. Highly recommend any family looking for some adventure during summer vacation to hit up Mammoth Lakes and soak in as much as you can. You won’t be disappointed!