Mammoth Lakes Basin

Mammoth Lakes Basin

by Sam Roberts, Board President

“The Mammoth Lakes Basin has a lifetime supply of adventures waiting for you.”


Whenever I want to get out for a hike and only have a few hours, my favorite outing is a scramble up Crystal Crag. The route I usually take isn’t the standard rock climbing route up the north arete, but I like to explore the easier chutes and ribs on the west face that rise above Crystal Lake. The approach hike starts at Lake George and follows the trail to Crystal Lake.

This section of trail gets very heavy use and Friends of the Inyo, in collaboration with Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA), has done much trail work here. I remember being on one of the Summer of Stewardship days where we rolled several large logs in place to stop the erosion occurring due to the cutting of switchbacks on the trail. We earned our lunch that day! It’s really great now to hike by that area and see those logs still in place and doing their job. In fact I think the best part of doing one of Friends of the Inyo’s stewardship days, aside from the trail improvements and good food, is to hike past the hard work you did at some later date and see the positive effect on the land.

From Crystal Lake there are many ways to go, and soon the summit is reached. Sitting on top I see a view that brings back lots of memories. On Panorama Dome we installed signs and placed rocks to define the trail. Up on the Duck Pass trail we put in water bars to prevent wash outs from the spring runoff. Further up the trail we moved huge boulders to anchor a sign for the Emerald Lake lateral trail. At Lake Mary, which, from this vantage point seems like I could dive right in to, we picked up wads of fishing line. All of these projects were on Summer of Stewardship days—good hard work with strangers who became lifelong friends.

Check Out The Views

But work isn’t the only memory that comes to mind; there were lots of play times in the Mammoth Lakes Basin as well. Scrambling along the Sherwin Ridge, backpacking to the Deer Lakes, skiing the lifts on Mammoth Mountain, skiing the backcountry down in Red Cone Bowl—so much to do here! And with the number of boats on the lakes, it looks like others are enjoying the recreational opportunities here as well. With the number of people on the trails, on bikes, on skis, in boats, are we loving this place to death?

Much has been written about sustainable recreation lately. In fact it is the most important economic driver in the Eastern Sierra and is the lens through which last summer’s Forest Service plan was viewed. Sustainable recreation management is about providing recreation opportunities in a way that meets the needs and desires of people today without affecting the ability to meet the needs of future generations. As public land managing agencies’ budgets shrink, the partnership roles filled by organizations like Friends of the Inyo will be more important than ever to see that the impacts of increasing users are being properly addressed.

So join us for a morning of good trail work, then get out and get on those trails! The Mammoth Lakes Basin has a lifetime supply of adventures waiting for you.

*Photos courtesy, from top to bottom: Friends of the Inyo Mammoth Lakes Trail Stewards 2014, Ben Wickham, and Shelby Pracht.