Mammoth Lakes, California
Nestled in the heart of the Eastern Sierra Mountains, Mammoth Lakes is the perfect base camp in the mountains of Northern California. The name of this alpine retreat reflects not only its size, profusion of lakes and expanse of its valleys, but also the possibilities for exploration and recreation it presents. The community is surrounded by almost 3 million acres of national forest and parks, but you won't need to go far to find some action, whether you like to fish, hike, go mountain biking or hit the slopes.
Start at Mammoth Mountain whose summit (at 11,053 feet) boasts 360-degree views, beckoning you to hit the trails. The mountain is home to one of the largest ski resorts in the country, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Its stats will not disappoint: 150 designated trails cover 3,500 acres with 3,100 feet of vertical. That, combined with the heaps of powder and relatively easy access, makes this spot a haven for winter recreation. It's 400 inches of snowfall extends the season well into June. Our favorite trails are the aptly named Huevos Grande and Avalanche Chutes, which take you near the summit and promise steeps climbs that will have your quads burning like two logs in a fire pit.
While Mammoth is indeed a popular winter destination, locals know the best time to visit is when the snow has melted away. Average temperatures range from 70s to 80s in the summer months-perfect weather for golfing, camping fishing and pretty much anything else you'd want to do on water.
The crystal clear Sierra lakes and streams are perfect to commune with Mother Nature and take some of her bounty. Cast a line in one of the area's expansive chain of lakes for some of the most challenging and rewarding fishing in the American West. Mammoth Lakes Basin is a collection of five lakes: Twin Lakes, Lake May, Lake Mamie, Horseshoe Lake and Lake George. Rainbow, brook and brown trout are plentiful here, as are the homegrown Alpers trout that can tip the scales at 12 pounds. Anglers from around the world head to the nearby San Joaquin River, a designated National Trout River known for its fierce trout. You can keep five fish if you have a valid California fishing License, but we like to throw them back.
Not an angler? No problem. Trade your fly rod for a paddle and canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard on any of the lakes. The surrounding forests and Sierras tower above the shoreline of Twin Lakes or Lake Mary-the largest lake in the basin. If you are more turf than surf, hop on your mountain bike and take the single track Horseshoe Lake Loop, which hugs the perimeter of the lake, the only one that is open for swimming.
If you are still craving a little more action head back to the Mountain and hop on the Panorama Gondola and let it do the heavy lifting for you. The mountain comprises more than 3,000 feet of vertical from the summit, more than 80 miles of single track, and white-knuckle boulder-strewn free-ride terrain.
Mammoth Lakes originated as a mining town that helped open the floodgates to Eastern Sierra settlements. It's named after the historic Mammoth Mining Company. Thousands of years before the Gold Rush, volcanic eruptions carved out the Mammoth Lake area that we know today. You can check out remnants of this volcanic activity at nearby Devils Postpile National Monument. You'll be very tempted to climb the 60-foot high columnar basalt lava, born from fire and ice more than 100,000 years ago. Don't, it's off limits. Instead, hike to the top of the monument to get a closer view of columns and continue to Rainbow Falls, two miles downstream from the Postpile formation.
Local outfitters can help get you ready for your next great trip to Mammoth Lakes. If you want to try your hand (literally) at climbing, give the folks at Sierra Rock Climbing School a call. They offer private full-day guided climbs at great routes across the region like Cardinal Pinnacle or Crystal Crag.
When you are ready to turn in, head to Tamarack Lodge. Its LEED-certified rustic cabins are fully equipped, so you can grill your catch (if you opted against releasing them). It's a quick walk to the lakes and Mammoth's vast wilderness. Kick back, relax, crack open a beer and enjoy the view. The day may be ending, but the fun's just starting.
Measure your altitude range while skiing Mammoth Mountain with the altimeter using the PRW2500T-7. Its manual memory can record up to 14 different treks. After enjoying the slopes, refer back and compare the altitudes from each route. Check the atmospheric pressure on the lakes with the barometer to best prepare for some stellar fishing or use the digital compass for direction on a hike. With all these activities at your fingertips, who wants to stop? This solar atomic watch is self-charging, so it can keep up with you and your adventures.