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Hiking the Inyo Craters in Mammoth Lakes (Trail Details!)

Hike to the iconic Inyo Craters to get a sense of Mammoth Lakes' tremendous volcanic beauty. This hike is short but dramatic, and it's well worth your time if you appreciate geologic wonders! Here's all you need to know about hiking this trail.

In California, there are 25 craters, with the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains containing some of the most prominent volcanic chains. The Mono-Inyo Craters are located along a short north–south fault system that runs from Mono Lake's north shore to the western Long Valley Caldera. The Inyo Craters in particular are consumed of three craters just North of Mammoth Lakes.

The two most southern craters, which are 660 feet in diameter and 200-300 feet deep, are accessible by hiking and snow-shoeing. Both craters include lakes, with one being a stunning teal hue while the other is a brownish-green color. Despite these variations, it's worth noting that there's a purpose for them, thanks to a specific toxic algae in the water!

In this blog I will cover these details about hiking the Inyo Craters:

Check out 4K Drone Footage of the Inyo Craters!

With my husband's Geology degree and my passion for photographing the outdoors, a trip to the Inyo Craters was a must-see during our Mammoth Lakes anniversary camping vacation! These unique craters are sort of a hidden gem among Mammoth's gorgeous lakes, hot springs, and picturesque beauty! If you're considering visiting Mammoth in the fall, perhaps my Mammoth Fall Travel Guide will persuade you!

A massive explosion of heated rock and ground water formed the craters 600 years ago, making them some of the youngest geologic features in the state. Boiling magma was on the verge of erupting, but instead got trapped just below the surface and heated the shallow groundwater, creating an explosive eruption of steam and rock. The three craters formed in succession and each has its own shape and character. Despite the fact that there is a lot of volcanic activity in the vicinity, these craters are not currently active, so have fun hiking!

It's incredible to be able to walk along the crater's edge. A railing runs along one edge of the larger crater with the blue lake, allowing you to safely get a proper view at the lake.

How Long is the Inyo Crater Trail Hike?

Two of the three Inyo Craters can be reached through the Inyo Craters Trail, which is a short 1.6 mile loop. If you work your way backwards, you can trim the route down to a half mile, but I recommend walking the complete loop because it is really tranquil and beautiful hiking through the forest.

Tip: While you're in the area, check out some of Mammoth's best hot springs if you want to unwind after your hike.

Is the Trail Dog Friendly?

Yes! The Inyo Craters Trail is dog-friendly, so remember to always pick up after your pets and carry any trash out with you.

When is the Best Time to Visit?

The optimum time to visit is between May - October, when the trail is less likely to be covered in snow. Although some people snowshoe up the trail in the winter, if you want to do so, make sure you are experienced and prepared. We came Mid-October and there was a light dusting of snow on the craters! Although, depending on the season, road closures may increase the distance of your trail; check for road closures here.

Parking and Road Conditions:

It's a one-way dirt road with some patchy spots; a high clearance vehicle isn't required, and most cars can make it up to the parking lot if the road isn't muddy. We saw multiple sedans make it up no problem.

Bathroom Info:

There are pit toilets in the parking area, and they were unlocked when we went in October. Although I'm assuming the bathrooms are locked during the off-season.

I hope you enjoyed this information about the Inyo Craters near Mammoth, California and feel free to DM me on Instagram if you have any questions! :)

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Welcome to the Brittsbellavita Blog, a California based travel and adventure community geared towards inspiring others to find their "Bella Vita." I am a Licensed Drone Pilot and Content Creator with a passion for exploring the outdoors, finding hidden gems, and getting off the beaten path. I live in Northern California, and love showcasing the Golden State, West Coast, and beyond!

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