With thousands of Aspens, Willows, and Cottonwood trees bordering roadways, creek beds, and lakes in the vicinity, Mammoth Lakes, California offers some of the best fall colors in the state. You must come see for yourself the stunning fall foliage that can be found in the Eastern Sierras. This guide will show you where to discover the best fall colors and provide you tips on how to prepare your fall visit to Mammoth Lakes!
Every year for our anniversary, my husband and I try to plan a fall getaway. Since we got married in October, and Fall is our favorite season, it's a nice excuse to enjoy the enchantment of autumn during vacation. Last year we visited Leavenworth, WA, which is one of Washington's best Fall destinations, and we were blown away by the stunning fall colors! You can read up on our Leavenworth experience here.
Fall was not a season I was accustomed to growing up in Southern California, but it was somewhat of an imaginative dream that replayed in my mind. After reading about the fall colors in the Eastern Sierra mountains, I had to see for myself. Now, I'm not lying when I tell that my jaw dropped all throughout this trip; Mammoth Lakes is one of the most beautiful locations in California, especially during this time of year.
We took HWY 88 to HWY 395 on our way from Sacramento to Mammoth Lakes because we wanted to pass through Hope Valley, which is also a renowned location for its gorgeous aspen trees in the fall. There was also some road work and roadblocks on HWY 50 due to the Caldor Fire, which could have slowed us considerably, so we were happy to take the scenic route.
Where to Stay in Mammoth Lakes during Fall?
Visitors can stay in a variety of places in this adventurous mountain town. Whether you prefer to camp nearby or stay in a cozy mountain resort, do keep in mind that space is limited and fills up quickly in the fall. I recommend booking your travel accommodations at least three to four months in advance.
We camped at Silver Lake Campgrounds, which we very much enjoyed, and despite the fact that tent camping was chilly, we were fortunate with the weather in mid-October. It had snowed in Mammoth Lakes just a few days before and after we departed! We spotted a lot of RV campers and only a few tent campers on the site; yes, we were a little crazy, but it was well worth it! If you don't want to risk the cold, I highly suggest renting a cozy cabin or staying in a nearby lodge.
Best Hotels & Resorts:
Best Rental Cabins:
Best Campgrounds for Fall:
TIP: If you're going camping, bring some hand and foot warmers to sleep with at night. They are quite inexpensive and will provide you with a great deal of comfort on those frigid mountain nights. I made the mistake of having to buy some at the June Lake General store and 1 pouch was an outrageous cost of $10!! The 18-hour warmers are my favorite because they last all night and throughout my morning coffee routine!
When to Visit Mammoth to See Fall Colors?
Peak leaf peeping days vary from year to year and are influenced by a variety of factors such as temperature, rainfall and wind. Although, fall colors have a general pattern of appearing early to mid-October. You might even witness "snowliage," which is a combination of fall colors and snow. If you're going up last minute and want to go when the colors are at their optimum, I recommend utilizing the Fall Color Map to help you plan your trip.
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Where are the Best Places to See Fall Colors?
So now that we've covered where to stay in Mammoth and when to visit in the fall, let's talk about where to see the best fall foliage! The brilliant hues can be found across the beautiful valleys and mountainsides, but if you want to see some of the most picturesque spots, a trip along the June Lake Loop is a must.
Here are some of the best places to spot Fall Foliage:
This is the place to be if you want to be surrounded by aspen trees. The Silver Lake Picnic Area is the best place to park if you want to find the best trails with fall colors at Silver Lake. It's a short but easy stroll that's great for taking photos and even having a picnic by the lake if you want to!
The parking location is not clearly shown on the map, so use these coordinates here.
Note: The majority of the paths are relatively flat and short, and can be completed by hikers of any skill level. Although the Mammoth area is brimming with excellent hiking trails, I love my HOKA Speedgoat hiking shoes if you plan on doing some further hiking in the area.
If you want to get some hiking in during your fall sightseeing, Gull Lake has a nice 2 mile loop that goes around the lake and offers views of vibrant yellow trees and bushes. Parking is available at the Boat Marina, and the campgrounds feature some of the best fall color on the path.
If you are looking for affordable accommodations within walking distance to the lake, Gull Lake Lodge may be right for you!
Convict Lake is a popular spot for leaf peeping, and you'll notice that it's a little busier than most. The lake itself is extraordinarily beautiful, having been sculpted by glaciers it flaunts a gorgeous translucent blue color. Take the Convict Lake Loop trail, a 2-mile flat and easy path with several small trail cutoffs for private views of the lake and spectacular fall colors.
Stay within walking distance at the Convict Lake Resort, which has individual cabins (some with hot tubs)!
Fun Fact: Convict Lake was named after 29 convicts attempted to flee Nevada State Prison in 1871 and sought sanctuary at the lake before being caught in an old-fashioned shootout.
Fall colors are most prominent along creeks, and McGee Creek, just off HWY 395, boasts some of the most dense fall foliage. Hike up the McGee Creek trail for a view down into the valley of red, orange, and yellow, or venture down to the creek for some great photo opportunities.
Additional Fall Color Locations in Mono County:
Conway Summit: Sweeping views of fall colors in the valley!
Sagehen Saddle: Visit this area early in the season! Hidden Gem!
Lundy Canyon: Gorgeous aspen groves and great camping area!
Virginia Lakes: Drive up to any of the three lakes!
TIP: A dip in a hot spring is a terrific way to unwind after enjoying the Fall colors. Mammoth Lakes is known for its magnificent hot springs, and the fall season is a fantastic time to visit because there are fewer visitors and the weather is ideal for soaking. Read my guide to Mammoth Hot Springs!
Where to Eat and Drink in Mammoth?
A day of hiking and exploration in Mammoth is guaranteed to work up an appetite. As this touristy mountain village gets packed, make sure to call ahead and ask for reservations!
Best Restaurants near Mammoth:
Dos Alas CubaRican Cafe (GF/DF Friendly!)
SKADI (Temp Closed)
Best Restaurants near June Lake:
Where to Grab a Drink:
I hope you enjoyed this Travel Guide to Mammoth Lakes for the Fall season! If you are a Fall enthusiast like myself, you might enjoy reading about the Top 10 Fall Destinations in California.
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