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As a longtime Mammoth Lakes local, I get asked a lot for hiking recommendations. I love sharing my insight on the local area. I even work as a host at Mammoth Mountain so I can do just that.

I work with many families to find them the perfect home or second home in Mammoth Lakes. When they ask about hiking with their kids or with older family members, here are my favorite places to send them.

McLeod Lake

One of my favorite things about living in the Eastern Sierra is that amazing viewpoints and vistas are accessible by car or a short walk. McLeod Lake requires a short hike, but it offers huge bang for your buck.

Park at Horseshoe Lake (or take the Lakes Basin Trolley up there in the summer), then look for a sign for the trailhead. From the parking lot, it’s just half a mile to the lake. It’s moderately uphill, but you’re in the forest and mostly shaded.

The lake is surrounded by pine trees and set perfectly beneath the Mammoth Crest, a wide stretch of rock that you can see from town. McLeod Lake is a favorite locals’ spot, especially for dogs, so bring your pup along – just be sure you have a towel for the wet car ride home!

Convict Lake

three friends standing on the trail at Convict Lake in the Eastern Sierra taking photos of the sunrise on the mountains

You may notice a theme in this post… we love lakes. My dog Javier is a big swimmer, so it’s perfect that many Mammoth Lakes hiking trails head straight to beautiful lakes.

Convict Lake is accessible by car, and it’s a great place to go if you or someone in your group has mobility issues, as there’s a wheelchair-accessible viewing platform along the south side of the lake. From the parking lot, you can stay on the paved paths for great views, or you can do the full loop trail (a little less than 3 miles) around the lake. This trail takes you behind the lake to a serene boardwalk through a lush aspen grove.

Heart Lake

You can’t go wrong with a destination named Heart Lake! The trail up to the lake is just over a mile, and it starts at the Coldwater Creek day use parking area. It goes right past the Mammoth Consolidated Gold Mine (definitely worth a stop) then enters the John Muir Wilderness.

The lake itself is beautiful, but one of my favorite things about this trail is the views back toward Mammoth Mountain and the Ritter Range. Keep an eye out for wildflowers in the spring and bright yellow aspens in the fall here.

Emerald Lake

man leaping across the creek on a sunny afternoon hike to Emerald Lake in the Mammoth Lakes Basin

The Mammoth Lakes Basin is home to dozens of trails to dozens of lakes. This trail to Emerald Lake also starts from the Coldwater Creek Campground area. It winds up alongside the creek through beautiful pine forests for about a mile. Pro tip: be sure to bring bug spray for all hikes, but especially for trails like this one through forested areas.

Hot Creek Geologic Site

You’ll find endless photo ops along the short walk at Hot Creek Geologic Site about 15 minutes from town. From the start of the trail, you can see the creek winding gently through the valley, perfectly framed by peaks behind it. This is a great hike for families since the trail is short and paved. Once you get down to the creek, you can continue along the dirt path for as long as you’d like before making your way back.

From the parking lot at Hot Creek, take the paved trail down the hill to the water to get a better look. Pay attention to the signs — with the scalding hot water and unstable earth, minding the fences is a must.

Photos by Josh Wray for Visit Mammoth

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