Mammoth Area Trail Report

August 20, 2013

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Summer of Stewardship Trail day at the Hot Creek Geologic Site this past Saturday! Special thanks to Boy Scout Troop 700 and their parents who were able to come and help out improving this place. With over 50 participants,  we were able to maintain 300’ of fence, removed an old kiosk, maintained and cleared 2,640’ of pathway, painted and fixed 3 picnic tables and one kiosk, restored 300’ of redundant trails, and removed 35 lbs of trash. This heavily visited area definitely needed the attention and help everyone was able to give, and the place now feels much more inviting.

The Mammoth Lakes Basin, headwaters to Hot Creek, is a popular destination for all types of outdoor recreation.  Perhaps you have seen one of the many large cross-country teams present at this time of the season?  It seems like some of their preferred training locations are the Duck Pass Trail and on the Crystal Lake Trail.  These trails are some of the most popular trails in the Lakes Basin, and for good reason.  Both provide some of the most scenic Sierra vistas and access some of our favorite lakes.  Since these trails are so well loved, you will often see a FOI Lakes Basin Steward out for a walk to answer questions and to do basic trail maintenance.  Although it may be tempting to cut the switchbacks on these trails when racing your friends, family or teammates back to the parking lot, please remember that it takes work to fix these shortcuts and they can be detrimental to the integrity of the trail. 

As we noted last week, if you’re looking for something a little longer and more strenuous consider hiking beyond Crystal Lake to the Mammoth Crest.  Here you will be rewarded with a birds eye view of Crystal Crag and you may even notice some lakes below that you never knew were there.  Once at the crest, take a minute to observe the topography up there.  It is easy to be standing on either side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at the same time.  Falling raindrops separated by only a few feet could end up in the San Joaquin River or down in Crystal Lake and into the Owens River. 

A short drive from the Town of Mammoth Lakes on Sherwin Creek Road will get you to a trailhead for Valentine Lake.  Two trail options are available if Valentine Lake is the destination.  The Sherwin Lakes Trail and the Valentine Lake Trail become one 2.7 miles before Valentine.  Since these two trailheads are a 10-minute drive outside of town down Sherwin Creek Road, they are not as heavily used as the others that have been mentioned above.  If you are looking for a great hike, don’t let the commute stop you.  A fallen tree on the Valentine Lake Trail has now been removed and some overgrown tree limbs cut back.  Take notice of the changes in tree species along the way.  See how many you can identify!  

One more reminder to be aware of is that Eastern Sierra wildlife is very active this time of year. If you are going into the backcountry, for the sake of your cars appearance and the health and safety of the bears, please do not leave food in your car.  There are bear lockers at almost all Lakes Basin Trailheads.  Duck Pass and Emerald Lake share one located at the Emerald Lake Trailhead.  Bears are not the only things running around the Eastern Sierra right now.  Three fawns still with spots have been seen throughout the Mammoth Lakes region as well. 

This trail report is provided by Friends of the Inyo with support from the Town of Mammoth Lakes – Mammoth Lakes Trails System funding. The next opportunity to get out and give back to your public lands is September 21st – Coastal Cleanup Day in the Lakes Basin. Join the Inyo National Forest, MLTPA and Friends of the Inyo for the fifth 2013 Summer of Stewardship project working to improve and maintain these popular trails. For more info contact Drew Foster at