Mammoth has been a popular recreation destination for people from southern California since the 1950s when ski resort’s first chairlifts began to tow adventure-seekers uphill. Since then, it has maintained popularity for a number of reasons, one being that the trip from Los Angeles is a straight and simple five-hour drive.
The town of Mammoth Lakes has stayed cool and grounded throughout its history, just as other western U.S. ski towns have grown into decidedly upscale enclaves. That said, there is a chic Westin hotel here, and 2003, the Village at Mammoth was added to the heart of the four square mile town to create a welcoming city center for skiers and non-skiers.
Skiers and snowboarders historically choose Mammoth over other California winter destinations because of ample snowfall that totals an average 400 inches per winter, and terrain that is rugged and challenging. Influence from southern California surf and skate culture is impossible to miss, both on the resort, where there are 100+ acres of terrain parks, and off the mountain, where a lively culture exists in board shops, laid-back eateries, and a renowned skate park.
First-time visitors generally share an amiable relationship with Mammoth “locals” (including many second home-owners from southern California who identify as locals) – who look forward to being asked, “Is there anything to do in the summer here?” An outdoor lover’s head might spin with the huge variety of answers to this question. “One comes for the winter, and stays for the summer,” is a common refrain.
Summer activities include mountain biking on the ski area’s steep descents, the endless hiking trails, trout fishing galore, golfing among the pine trees, vibrant music festivals, outdoor wine tastings, day trips to Yosemite National Park, hot springs, majestic Mono Lake, rock climbing, road biking, lake kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. Scenes from Mammoth autumns are especially enriching, with leaves the color of a vibrant mountain sunset lining each alpine lake and trail.
With flights available from LAX to Mammoth airport, some visitors fly here, but many prefer to travel by car, which proves easier for toting mountaineering gear. Whichever the way of transport, and whichever the season, a visit to Mammoth is likely out of the way – just as you’d want your mountain destination to be. For more specifics, see the Transportation section (in the yellow bar above).
Mammoth Lakes is dry, windy, sunny and cool. Located at a high elevation (7,880 feet), the region typically has blue skies when a storm is not occurring. Winter: 20-30 degrees with snowstorms likely; Fall and Spring: 60-70 degrees with rain and snow possible; Summer: 70-80 degrees with sun very likely.
Winter: November-March (high season; ski season)
Summer: June-August (high season; fishing season)
April (third Saturday): Fishing Season Opening Weekend
June (second week): Mammoth Motocross
July (second week): Jazz Jubilee
August (first weekend): Mammoth Festival of Beers & Bluesapalooza
December (third Saturday): Night of Lights on Mammoth Mountain
December (last day): New Year’s Eve party and concert on Mammoth Mountain
January (1st): New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February (third Monday): Presidents Day
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July (4th): Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day
(not the same as Native American Day, which is only celebrated officially in two states, on September 25th)
November (11th): Veterans Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December (25th): Christmas
Mammoth Lakes, Calif. is located in the Pacific time zone.
To check the local time in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. click here.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the spring (on the second Sunday morning of March at 2 a.m.). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (on the first Sunday morning in November at 2 a.m.), clocks shift back one hour to standard time. The entire U.S. (except Hawaii and most of Arizona) participates in this ritual of ‘springing forward’ and ‘falling back.’
The most common trip expenses spent on traveling to Mammoth Lakes include lodging (hotel, condominium or campground), airfare, vehicle rental and gas, dining out, equipment rentals (skis, snowboards, mountain bikes, kayaks), lift tickets and shuttle passes. Additional items to purchase might include a fishing license, overnight backcountry permit, guide services and concert tickets.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $150 for a double
$$ => Rooms $150–$300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $16–22 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $23 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.
Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transportation, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Open the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. You need to apply for membership and download the app in advance. Memberships cost about $7 a month; rentals are about $8 to10 per hour; gas and insurance are included. Foreign drivers can apply and you don’t need to pay a monthly fee if you’re an occasional driver (from $25 per year for a membership).
Ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)
Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day. By the way, when renting in California, there are no additional driver fees by law.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical: Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework; check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance: If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.
U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans have an understandably tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.
Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (ten cents) and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.
Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills.
Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any U.S. travel experience, whether urban or rural. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but other costs should also be taken in to consideration. General guidelines include:
For excellent service, plan to tip 20% on the total bill, before taxes. For less-than-stellar service, 10-15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In many states, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions.
To complicate matters, many restaurants in the major metropolitan areas — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco — are moving to a no-tipping model in which service is included. The verdict isn’t yet in on whether this new model will stick, so be sure you understand the tipping policy at each restaurant you visit.
Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included, usually for groups of six or more people. But at least it will be itemized in plain sight on the bill, if you look closely for it.
Most bell staff receive $1 to $2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5 to $10.
Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2 to $3 per day and about $5 per day in higher-end properties.
At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets around $10 to $20 per day. Concierge staff do not normally expect a tip for simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Car valet staff expect $2 when returning your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.
Sales Taxes, Lodging Taxes & Resort Fees
In California, the combined total for state and local taxes on all retail goods and services varies from 7.5% to 10%, depending on where you are. In general, cities have higher taxes than rural areas do. Taxes are not usually included in display prices, unless otherwise stated.
Lodging tax also varies by location in California, ranging from 12% to 15%. This tax applies whether you are staying at a private vacation rental, a bed-and-breakfast, or a full-fledged hotel. Taxes are not usually stated up front in the advertised room rate. Neither are the mandatory nightly “resort fees” being charged by an increasing number of hotels. Sometimes this fee covers internet access, parking, and a few incidentals, while at other times it’s merely a surcharge for amenities that should be free. Beware that third-party booking agents, especially online, often don’t include resort fees in their reservation charges, so you may be unhappily surprised by the final bill when you check out.
Airport and Airlines
Carriers including Alaska Airlines offer flights between Mammoth Yosemite Airport and major California airports
Cars are the most popular form of transportation to, and around, Mammoth. Winter driving conditions can involve ice and snow on roads, requiring drivers to demonstrate skill and caution.
Within the town of Mammoth Lakes, free shuttles run throughout town day and night. For a small fee, passengers can ride shuttles to nearby destinations including June Mountain (winter), Yosemite National Park (summer), Reds Meadow (summer).
The best places for exploring Mammoth on foot are the Village and Old Mammoth Rd.
Mammoth is a bike-friendly town, and in summer riders will find paved bike paths extending through popular wooded areas and campgrounds.
In winter, use the gondolas for transportation from the Village to Canyon Lodge, and from Main Lodge to the highest ski runs. In summer, it’s an uphill lift for mountain bikers and hikers.
Available at Mammoth Yosemite Airport
The Village at Mammoth is the main transportation hub in Mammoth Lakes with a Gondola, all shuttle lines, and major roadways joining up here.
The lively California surf and skate culture, best witnessed in on-mountain terrain parks, board shops, laid-back eateries, and a renowned skate park, gives Mammoth Lakes a cool and grounded vibe. Both skiing and snowboarding are permitted on Mammoth Mountain. The population is 8,000 year-round residents.
Native Americans were the original inhabitants of the Mammoth Lakes area, followed by Gold miners and settlers. When ski tourism kicked off in the 1950s, Mammoth became a training ground for North America’s best ski racers.
Restaurants that serve upscale California cuisine, pizza and Mexican food are popular in Mammoth Lakes.
Mammoth: The Sierra Legend by Martin Forstenzer
A Long Way Up: The Story of Jill Kinmont by E.G. Valens
My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir
Tracks of Passion by Robin Morning
Movies shot in and around Mammoth:
The Scorpion King (2002)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Summer music events include a popular outdoor blues festival held every August.
Skier info – MammothMountain.com
Lodging info – VisitMammoth.com
Activity info – Monocounty.org
Weather info – Mammothweather.com
Road conditions info –
Roads / Road conditions
Roads are paved. Winter driving conditions can involve ice and snow on roads, requiring drivers to demonstrate skill and caution. Chains may be required.