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Mammoth Lakes Basin

Mammoth Lakes Basin The Lakes of Mammoth are in the "Lakes Basin". It's called the "lakes basin" as many of the 100 nearby lakes were scooped out by glaciers. However when we refer to the "lakes basin" it is several lakes right in town that give the town the name, "Mammoth Lakes". The lakes basin is a large circular basin that was created by the grinding movement of glacial ice and rocks entrained within the ice. The lakes in the lower basin and most popular are Lake Mary, Lake George, Mamie, Horseshoe and Twin Lakes. The later being two smaller lakes that look like a figure 8 turned sideways. The twin lakes are the lowest and fill via waterfall from the upper lakes. You can drive right across the waterfall which is opposite Lake Mamie. It is quite the site to see. Bring a camera!

The lakes in the upper basin, include Duck Lake, Shelton Lakes, and Deer Lakes, all depressions in the underlying bedrock from metamorphosed sedimentary rocks that were scooped out by glaciers. You can hike to these lakes as they are only accessible via foot. A favorite and easy hike is to Lake MacCleod which is just a 15 minute walk from Horseshoe Lake, which also has a parking lot.

Most of the lakes are environmentally pristine and only accessible during the summer months as the roads are not plowed in winter. You can drive the lower basin by continuing on Main Street - Hwy. 203 past Minaret Road. The street change names to Lake Mary Road. Follow the road and be sure you make a stop by Twin Lakes across from Tamarack Lodge. Sit a spell, have a cool drink and watch the waterfall. If you're so inclined, you might want to ride your bicycle as there is a bike path that surrounds the entire lakes basin. It is not a strenuous ride, but you need to be able to handle our altitude.

One of the interesting geological phenomenon's are the dead and dying trees near Horseshoe Lake. Dead trees were first noticed in 1990. Since then, about 170 acres of trees have died on all sides of the Mammoth Lakes volcano, especially near Horseshoe Lake. When the soil was surveyed in 1994 for carbon dioxide gas, exceptionally high concentrations of gas were found in the soil beneath the trees. What caused such high concentrations of carbon dioxide gas? The most likely sources of the carbon dioxide gas include (1) magma that intruded beneath Mammoth Lakes during an earthquake swarm in 1989; and (2) limestone-rich rocks beneath Mammoth Lakes that were heated by the hot magma. It is not recommended to picnic in the area because of this. You'll get lightheaded.

Twin Lakes (Elev. 8,540 ft.)

The first in the group of lakes is located three miles from The Mammoth Village. At the far end of the lake, Twin Falls tumbles 300 feet into Upper Twin Lake. Short hikes lead to Panorama Dome, Twin Falls, Hole in the Wall - a popular ski run and Valley View. Be sure to stop at Tamarack Lodge and walk around and have a soda. You can also stay at the ultra premium cabins at Tamarack Lodge, which elevates "cabins" to a new level.

Lake Mary (Elev. 8,920 ft.)

The largest lake in the Basin is nearly a mile long. Lake Mary is the most popular lake for fishing inside Mammoth. It is an all pupose lake allowing one to rent or launch a boat and paddle kayaks. At the upper end is Coldwater Creek, where the John Muir Duck Lake Pass trailhead is. Hikers can hike one mile to the first of several lakes on the trail. Most people who want to picnic will be around this lake as there are two marinas with boat rentals

Lake Mamie (Elev. 8,898 ft.)

Another very popular site for fishing and boating. Only the fisherman know where the best catch is! There are picnic areas overlooking the spillway to Twin Lakes. It is quite the site to look down on the falls and definitely a photo moment.

Lake George (Elev. 9,008 ft.)

Short hikes to Crystal and Mammoth Crest or T.J. Lake along trails that lie in bowl-shaped depressions called glacial cirques. Several small streams and lush meadows provide spectacular displays of wildflowers during early summer.

Horseshoe Lake (Elev. 8,950)

This is the only lake where swimming is permitted. Other lakes supply the domestic drinking water. Trail over Mammoth Pass leads to McLeod Lake and Red Cones, or more strenuous hikes lead to Red's Meadow and Devils Postpile National Monument.

Create Your Own Tour of Mammoth

If you have some time left in your day you might want to continue your tour of Mammoth and visit some of these other attractions.


The oldest rocks in the Sierra Nevada range were discovered here. This is a beautiful spot tucked against the Sierra Range. This is a nice place for picnicking, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating and camping. Convict Lake is located 10 miles south of the Mammoth Junction on US 395, then two miles west. It is a full service area. Often when people are looking for Mammoth rental cabins we send them here, as they have the most professionally managed set up.


A man-made lake located 10 miles south of Mammoth Junction. You likely drove by Crowley Lake if you came to Mammoth from Southern California. Popular with fishermen and water-skiers, the water is cold but full of fish. First formed in 1940 as part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct system. There is a fee at the entrance for lake and parking access. There is a boat launch and Crowley Fish Camp, the name of the marina.

Mammoth Ranger Station and Welcome Center
Highway 203, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

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