Magical Mammoth Lakes

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Located in the east-central portion of California lies one of the more beautiful parts of that state. Known to many Southern Californians as a fantastic ski area in the winter, Mammoth is also a wonderful play land in summer.

To get there from Arizona, take the I-95 north out of Las Vegas to the 266/166 and head west through Lone Pine, and then turn north on Hwy. 395 and there will be signs directing you into Mammoth Lakes.

What is there? Just about everything you could desire in a high mountain location. You are in the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountain range.

There are towering peaks, beautiful lakes, green pastures, wildflowers and fun. There are bubbling streams, bike paths, hiking trails and golf courses.

This is not a formal location so you can just kick back and be yourself.

The dramatic mountains line the valleys, so you can enjoy the many sporting activities available in the aspen and pine forest. Fishing is one of the favorites of travelers to this spot. Cast your lines into Lakes Mary, Twin, Mamie and George and get ready for a fish fry. You can fish in the San Joaquin and Owens Rivers. Fish from shore or rent a boat.

Just remember, you will need a California fishing license, which you can pick up at a local fishing shop. While there you can ask about the best fishing spots and where they are biting. You can also hire a local guide.

Trout is plentiful in the area. Take the kids, too.

You have many more outdoor options – go horseback riding on the many trails; pack a lunch and stay the day in the scenic wilds. You’ll find streams, meadows and wild life.

You don’t want to be too active the first couple of days. The area sits at an altitude of 8,000 feet, which will slow you down until you acclimate.

You will want to try the wilderness trails, rugged paths and dirt roads. This will be a vacation not that far from home yet, very different in many ways.

Biking is not unusual and you can rent them locally unless you take your own.

Golf? Sure. The two highest golf courses in California are located in Mammoth Lakes – Sierra Star and Snowcreek Resort.

Sierra Star is in a mountain location that California black bears call home and where the fairways are lined with mountain streams. Sound inviting? There will be fields of wildflowers and giant pines. The 18-hole golf course is open to the public and golfers at all levels are comfortable playing on the fairways. Cal Olsen designed it.

Ted Robinson designed Snowcreek Resort Golf Course, which is tucked beneath the Sherwin Mountain range. Staggering views are available from every hole of this course. It is a public nine-hole course, par 35, which plays 3,306 yards from the back trees.

After a day of playing, why not time in a spa? Feel good with a massage, yoga and perhaps a facial for the ladies. In the town of Mammoth Lakes you’ll find these and other services.

And, in town there are fine selections of art and crafts and artists can be found selling one-of-a-kind pieces. Visit the Mammoth Lakes Arts Center where you will find more arts and crafts plus festivals of music. There are also wine and food promotions at various times, which are interesting and tasty as well as beer festivals. Check out visitmammoth.com or phone (750) 934-2712 for specific information.

The Sierra Classic Theatre’s Murder Mystery Dinner is fun in the fall, along with other forms of entertainment in the local pubs and eateries. There is a Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee as well as chamber music.

If you choose to visit during the winter period the scene changes to skiing activities with many events themed for the snowy land.

The landscape is vast and varied and most interesting. Devils Postpile National Monument is 10 miles from Mammoth Lakes and features thousands of columns of basalt formed 100,000 years ago when a lava flow slowed and then cooled and cracked.

You can visit an earthquake fault fissure, which was formed when the Inyo Craters erupted millenniums ago. It is located just off Highway 204 on the way to Mammoth Mountain.

It is said that over three million trout are raised at Hot Creek fish hatchery each year and then released into the areas lakes and streams. Freshwater warm springs combine with the cold waters of Mammoth Creek to provide perfect conditions for the breeding trout.

There are bubbling hot springs, geysers and fumaroles (gas vents), which create colorful sulfur deposits and formations as well as brilliant pools with scalding hot water at Hot Creek.

A massive explosion heated rock and ground water 600 years ago, causing a large blast zone at Inyo Craters. Today, snowmelt and rainwater form the Inyo Crater Lakes.

A volcano rose from the earth six million years ago and is now known as Lookout Mountain, a peak of 8,352 feet with a 360-degree view of Crowley Lake, Glass Mountain, Mono Craters, the White Mountains and Mammoth Mountain.

The Mammoth Lakes Basin is made from five glacier-carved lakes consisting of Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, Lake George and Horseshoe Lake. You can reach all by automobile for your fishing, picnics, horseback riding and trail hiking.

Mammoth Mountain scenic gondola rides take you to the top at 11,053 feet where you can enjoy the Top of the Sierra Interpretive Center with displays of the area’s geology, hydrology and volcanic history.

At Minaret Vista you will see sharp, jutting spires of the Minarets that form the skyline of Mount Ritter at 13,157 feet and Banner Peak at 12,945 feet and are two of the tallest peaks in the region.

Just two miles downstream from Devils Postpile are the amazing Rainbow Falls cascading over a 101-foot drop. You can take the shuttle bus from the Main Rainbow Falls Lodge and then visit the Bodie Ghost Town, which is un-restored and the largest ghost town in the West. No one lives there and it is located in the sagebrush hills north of Mono Lake. In 1877, more than 100,000 people made the town home, lured by gold and silver mines. You will see deserted saloons, bordellos and gambling houses. There are old mines and some may be visited today

Just 30 miles north are the salt waters of Mono Lake, where tiny brine shrimp and alkali flies provide food for millions of migrating birds.

Not too far away is famed Yosemite National Park and if you have never taken the time to visit here, do it while you are in the area. You will not be disappointed.

In all, this is prime mountain region and scenic thrills await. A camera on this trip is a must.

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