Mammoth Lakes

Summary  Link to more information about summary

Difficulty 1-2 Beginner to beginner-intermediate
Length 5.0 miles round trip to Horseshoe Lake
8600 feet
+650, -650 round trip to Horseshoe Lake
Navigation Road
Time Half day
Season Mid-November through early May
Snowmobiles Use Not permitted through mid-April. Moderate after mid-April. Contact Forest Service for transition date. [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Crystal Crag, Bloody Mountain
Start Lake Mary Road near Twin Lakes where the road is no longer plowed. The plowed parking area is just past (south of) the turn to Tamarack Lodge and Resort.

Description   Link to more information about description

Mammoth Lakes, commonly referred to as the Lake Basin, is an idyllic ski touring area consisting of numerous small lakes located at the base of Mammoth Crest. If you were fortunate enough to ski here when cross-country skiing was in its infancy, you could enjoy this area in peace and quiet. Nowadays the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center grooms trails, and on weekends and holidays this area is busy and crowded.

If you wish to tour in this area, purchasing a trail pass entitles you to ski on the prepared tracks. Without a trail pass, you can still ski anywhere, including on the roads, as long as you avoid the prepared tracks and the small sections of private property.

Although the U.S. Forest Service prohibits the ski area from grooming the full width of Lake Mary Road, a public access route, the ungroomed portion is often tracked by numerous skiers or by Sno-Cats. During or immediately after a snowstorm are the best times to find good quality snow on the ungroomed portion.

While the tour to Horseshoe Lake is the most popular tour in the Lakes Basin, there are many other roads one can follow throughout the area with some easier than the tour to Horseshoe Lake. There are also opportunities for leaving the roads behind.

Mammoth Lakes is the starting point for several excellent backcountry tours, including Mammoth Pass, Red Cones, and Duck Pass.

Mileage Log   Link to more information about mileage log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Waypoint 1 to 2
Miles: 0.0 - 0.6
Elevation change: +150

From the trailhead (1), ski south on Lake Mary Road for 0.6 mile until you reach the turnoff (2) on the east (left) side of the road to the site of the mining town of Old Mammoth and present-day Old Mammoth.

Waypoint 2 to 3
Miles: 0.6 - 1.3
Elevation change: +300, -50

Continue south on Lake Mary Road for 0.7 mile until you reach the first turnoff to Lake Mary (3).

Waypoint 3 to 4
Miles: 1.3 - 1.6
Elevation change: -50

Continue west and then northwest on Lake Mary Road for a total of 0.3 mile until you reach the second turnoff to Lake Mary (4).

Waypoint 4 to 5
Miles: 1.6 - 1.9
Elevation change: -50

Continue northwest on Lake Mary Road for 0.3 mile until you reach an overlook above Twin Lakes (5). This point is at the north end of Lake Marnie.

Waypoint 5 to 6
Miles: 1.9 - 2.5
Elevation change: +50

Continue northwest and then west on Lake Mary Road for a total of 0.6 mile until you reach Horseshoe Lake (6). Do not be tempted to seek refuge out of stormy weather in the well of the trees or structures located near the lake. Escaping toxic gases from the extinct volcano that formed this area can accumulate in these depressions.

Return to trailhead
Miles: 2.5 - 5.0
Elevation change: +150, - 500

Retrace the route for 2.5 miles back to the trailhead (1).


Print version of map for tour