Even though Mammoth Lakes has less than 8,000 residents, our year-round tourist visitation means we have amazing events in every season for locals and visitors alike. Most weekends of the year have something fun going on, but I have a few personal favorites I recommend to anyone I talk to. Get these events on your calendar for the year to come!
If you haven’t been in Mammoth Lakes for the annual Pond Skim at Canyon Lodge before, plan to be here next year! This event is held on Canyon Lodge’s closing day (usually mid-April) and features 50 brave skiers and snowboarders trying to make it across a hundred-foot pond at the base of the ski run. Everyone who competes wears a costume, which makes the event even more fun. I’ve seen Santa, a T-Rex, Wonder Woman and everything in between. (Pond skim photo from Mammoth Mountain)
The Pamper Pedal is one of Mammoth Lakes’ most unique and fun events all year. Held in early June, this all-female bike ride goes from Mammoth Lakes to Bishop. This is a bike ride rather than a race, making it perfect for all ages and ability levels. The ride is put on by Eastside Velo, the local cycling club, and the men of the club serve as “man slaves” throughout the route helping with flat tires, mechanical issues and cold towel delivery at aid stations. The best part? The club picks a theme each year and everyone dresses up! Depending on the year, you may see tutus, flower crowns, or superhero costumes.
4th of July
Independence Day is such a fun time to be in Mammoth Lakes. Depending on the year, you might even be able to ski on the 4th of July! My other favorite holiday activities are the Lions Club Pancake Breakfast, the Footloose Freedom Mile fun run, the parade, and the Pops in the Park concert. I’ve been in the parade many times with Javier on the Guide Dogs for the Blind – Bishop/Mammoth Lakes Puppy Raisers float. The whole town buzzes with fun summer energy on the 4th. It reminds me of my childhood old fashioned parades… true Americana!
I love going to the Mammoth VillageFest every July because it combines the best of both worlds… amazing food and amazing live music! Like most of the summer festivals in The Village at Mammoth, this festival is free to attend. At “the world’s highest rib cook-off,” local restaurants enter contests for the best ribs, chicken, chili and burger. You can sample ribs for $2-$3 per order. Keep an eye out around town for the trophies restaurants win at VillageFest.
Held every August, Mammoth Rocks is my favorite throwback weekend in Mammoth. This festival is free to attend and features classic rock tribute bands covering hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Local restaurants are the food vendors for this festival’s “Taste of the Sierra.” If you’re a classic rock fan, you can’t miss this festival!
Gran Fondo Fall Century
The Mammoth Gran Fondo is a bike race through the beautiful Mammoth Lakes area in early September. Three distances (102 miles, 70 miles and 42 miles) offer options for beginner, intermediate and advanced road bikers. 75 miles of the full route is closed to through traffic, so you can really soak in the mountain scenery. Even if you aren’t interested in signing up for the race, it’s fun to be in Mammoth Lakes during this otherwise quiet fall weekend. I recommend finding a good spot to cheer the riders on — they all start from The Village at Mammoth, so that’s a fun place!
Night of Lights
Photo from Mammoth Mountain
Every December Mammoth Mountain celebrates the beginning of the holiday season with an amazing light show. Night of Lights is usually held the second weekend in December. This free, family-friendly celebration features live music, a torchlight parade with many local kids, and a fun fireworks show. It’s held outdoors, so be sure to wear warm clothes and shoes, or spring for a paid ticket for the rooftop or indoor viewing area. It’s easiest to walk or take a bus to the Village and hop on the gondola up to Canyon Lodge.
Regardless of when you come to town, check Visit Mammoth’s events calendar to see what’s going on when you’re here.
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Have you ever encountered a Host at Mammoth Mountain? You might see them skiing, walking around, riding the bus or hanging out in the lodges in blue jackets with a bright neon yellow “i.” The goal of Mammoth Mountain’s Host program is to make the guest’s experience better. They can help you get where you need to go and offer suggestions to help you enjoy your vacation.
I work as a Host part-time as a way to share my love for Mammoth Lakes with others. As you’re starting to plan your next summer trip to Mammoth Lakes, here are my insider tips.
On your way into town, stop by the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center.
Many visitors drive right by the Welcome Center, but it’s well worth a stop. The staff is made up of long-time locals who are a wealth of information on the best places to go hiking, biking, camping, etc. When I was new to town, I went by the Welcome Center and learned how to decipher the marks for off-road trails. I love exploring U.S. Forest Service land, so this was a huge help for me. As you’re driving into town, just look for signs for the Welcome Center on the right side of Highway 203.
When you’re on Mammoth Mountain, look for a Host.
Hosts are people who have lived here for a long time or spend most of their time in Mammoth Lakes. They come from a variety of backgrounds — some are even experienced naturalists. In the summer and winter, Hosts offer free guided hikes and tours to share information about local history and native plants and animals. In the summer, look for the Tour sign by the gondola at Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge. This tour will teach you a ton in an easy one-mile hike on the mountain.
Don’t miss the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
I’m always amazed how many winter visitors haven’t visited the Mammoth Lakes Basin! In the winter the road closes and you can only access it by foot, snowshoe or skis, but the Lakes Basin is truly stunning in the summer. In just a 5-minute drive from The Village at Mammoth, you’ll pass six beautiful alpine lakes. If you want to stretch your legs, a short hike will get you to dozens more lakes. One of my favorite walks in the Lakes Basin is between Lower and Upper Twin Lakes — cross the pedestrian bridge and check out the adorable chapel in the woods.
Use the free bus system to get around.
I probably wouldn’t take a bus in a big city, but in Mammoth Lakes, the bus system is free, safe and convenient. You can go almost anywhere in town totally for free. It shouldn’t be an insider tip, but I’m always amazed how few people know about our amazing public transportation. In the summer, buses run to Reds Meadow, the Mammoth Lakes Basin, Vons, Snowcreek and more. You can fly to Mammoth Lakes and get around just fine without a car.
Bring Fido with you.
Vacation means your dog stays home, right? Not necessarily if you’re coming to Mammoth Lakes! In addition to having endless hiking options, Mammoth has many dog-friendly restaurants and lodging options. Check out Visit Mammoth’s list of pet-friendly activities and TripAdvisor’s suggestions for bringing your pup with you. Insider tip… a trip to Mammoth Lakes with your dog isn’t complete without a stop at Tailwaggers. Be sure to get a homemade treat for your fur baby!
Dive into the history of Mammoth Lakes and the Eastern Sierra.
I know history doesn’t sound that exciting, but trust me: spending an afternoon exploring the history of Mammoth Lakes is actually pretty amazing. You can check out the old Mammoth Consolidated Mine in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, the historic Hayden Cabin right in town, and even a ski history exhibit (featuring old ski lifts, snow plows and gondolas) behind McCoy Station on Mammoth Mountain.
Take the scenic gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain.
You don’t need any mountaineering or wilderness skills to get to the top of Mammoth Mountain at 11,053 feet. Buy a ticket for the scenic gondola ride at Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge Adventure Center and hop on to enjoy the ride to the top. Once you’re there, go inside Eleven53 to explore the interpretive center and talk with a Host. Insider tip: take a walk outside to the very far peak — the walk is less than half a mile and takes you to a scenic lookout where you can see the whole Mammoth Lakes Basin. If you’re extra adventurous, you can hike down, but for everyone else, head back to the gondola to enjoy the views on the ride down.
Hop on a bike to see the sights.
You definitely know about skiing and hiking in Mammoth Lakes, but how about biking? There are miles and miles of well-maintained paved bike trails all around Mammoth Lakes. You can even bike from town up to the Mammoth Lakes Basin, but my suggestion is to make the bike ride even easier… Hop on the Lakes Basin Trolley with your bike in the Village (the trolley tows a bike trailer behind it). Enjoy the views on the way up, then cruise all the way back down to town. You can rent traditional bikes or e-bikes from several shops in town if you don’t bring your own.
What’s your favorite insider tip for Mammoth Lakes? Have you found any amazing hidden gems over the years?
Read more about what it’s like living in Mammoth Lakes.
Photos by Josh Wray for Visit Mammoth