Getaway Guide: Weekend Road Trip To Mammoth Lakes

September 8, 2012 11:00 AM
Mammoth Lakes is known as the top of California, where the Sierra Nevada range was created by volcanoes and glaciers through the millennia. With an elevation of 7,800 feet, rising nearly two miles on the mountain, Mammoth Lakes certainly delivers that ‘on top of the world’ feeling. The 8,000 residents living around this dormant volcano are acclimated to the elevation. Wise visitors heed their recommendations. No surprise, Mammoth Lakes has produced more than its fair share of champion athletes, marathoners and Olympians.

Getting There

To get to Mammoth Lakes, cross Bay Bridge, take exit 8B and merge onto I-580 E. Continue to I-205 E and merge with I-5 N. Take exit 461 onto CA-120 E, heading toward Yosemite. The intersection of Route 395 S takes you the last 25 miles into Mammoth Lakes. The trip is about 260 miles when all roads are open, otherwise add 50 miles. There are seasonal road closures on CA-120 and CA-108, so consult highway patrol in winter months.

Where To Stay

Tamarack Lodge and Resort
163 Twin Lakes Road
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
(760) 934-2442

Price: Rooms from $149, cabins from $169, seasonal rates

Included in this resort are historic lakeshore log cabins with decks, trout fishing on the glassy lake, cross country skiing straight out your front door, the acclaimed gourmet Lakefront Restaurant and a cozy fireside to come home to. Judging from the awards collection, many agree that there is little missing in this vision. Sign up for a guided tour or fishing lesson, but be prepared to miss your favorite television show. Tamarack loves the outdoors far too much to provide any TVs. Call for pet arrangements. Tip: bring a flashlight for finding your cabin at night.

Related: Your Guide To The Bay Area’s Best Beaches

Cinnamon Bear Inn
113 Center St.
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
(760) 934-2873

Price: Doubles midweek from $119 including breakfast, wine and cheese

The complimentary full breakfast and afternoon snacks with wine are most welcome at this colonial-style bed and breakfast, open year round with an outdoor hot tub. The adventurous should ask Russ about fly fishing, dogsledding and snowmobiling. Weekend work warriors will stay in touch with high-speed internet in the common areas. There are some family rooms for larger parties. You can walk to restaurants in the village or take a free shuttle to the mountain. Tip: check the local weather before you go, just click on the website link.

What To Do

Mammoth Scenic Gondola Ride
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
10001 Minaret Road
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
(760) 934-2571

Price: Adults $24, children (13-18) and seniors $19, child (7-12) $12 (one child free), children under 7 and seniors over 80 free 

A 15-minute gondola ride to the summit offers views across 400 miles of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Get hiking information at the visitor center at the base of Mammoth Mountain after checking out the zipline and rock climbing. Depart from 9,000 feet and ride to above 11,000 feet. Dogs are also welcome to join in as long as they are on a leash. To satisfy the appetite and feed the senses, stop at the Top of Sierra Café for a bite with a view. The average snowfall up here is no less than 33 feet annually under mostly sunny skies, with ski season extending into June.

Related: Best Rock Climbing Gyms In The Bay Area

Bodie State Historic Park
Bodie Road and Bypass Road
Bodie, CA 93517
(760) 647-6445

Price: Adults $7, children (16 and under) $5

Visit an authentic ghost town with wind blowing dust down deserted streets. Bodie boomed after one of California’s richest strikes during the Gold Rush days, until the gold ran out. The formerly prominent gold-mining town was known as lawless, rough and wild. A National Historic Site, Bodie remains in a state of “arrested decay,” a moment frozen in time. Everything is preserved just as it was by the last one to leave. This town is open year round, but not accessible by car in the winter. Guided tours are offered on request.

Where To Eat

Clocktower Cellar Pub
Alpenhof Lodge
6080 Minaret Road
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
(760) 934-2725

Think college rathskeller fun. The downstairs at Alpenhof Lodge has a buzzing après-ski scene. Catch up with fellow skiers after last run, as it is directly across from the village gondola. Choose from a vast selection of imported and domestic bottled and draft beers. The jukebox, darts, big screens, arcade games, pool table and foosball attract the guys who attract the gals. Happy hour every day from opening until 6 p.m. draws large crowds.

Laurie JM Farr is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. A transplanted New Yorker, she has traveled throughout the world as the Big Apple’s official tourism representative. She served as organizer for three Royal Visits to America. As an international relocation consultant, Laurie assisted more than 400 families with overseas moves and is a proud mother of two, thoroughly bi-cultural children. Her work can be found on

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