There was a while there during my teenage years that I went to Mammoth Lakes quite often. A few times with family but mostly every summer with church for a couple of years. It was always a fun time and I definitely loved the nature that encompasses Mammoth. Jon on the other hand had never been, so it was time to plan a trip.
First step was deciding when and then how. When was an important question as it does snow up there and while we didn’t mind a little bit, we didn’t want to go during really heavy snow season. We settled on April 5th – April 9th, little did we realize that it was still pretty snowy up there. Next was the how, now I have never been a fan of the long drive up there. To be honest, I don’t feel like the drive is all that exciting and the scenery along the way is nothing to write home about so we began to research flights. It turns out only two airlines fly into Mammoth Lakes airport, those being United and Alaska. Jon and I are partial to Alaska Airlines, we used to love Virgin America Airlines and when they were bought out by Alaska Airlines our loyalty flowed over to them. Anyway, we booked our flights leaving late out of LAX on Thursday after work and returning Monday morning. The plane was small, only about sixty seats total which I was okay with. Jon on the other hand had his reservations.
Thursday afternoon came and we left early from work to give us enough time to get to the airport. We ended up having plenty of time and decided to get a late lunch at Wolfgang Puck Pizza in the terminal which was actually quite good. It was time to board the plane and it was a full flight/ The plane was small but cozy with only about sixty seats with rows of two on both sides. We settled into our two seats and prepared for the ride. Full disclosure, I am a nervous flyer. I am one of those people who will squeeze the hand of the person I am flying with, closing my eyes and praying during take off and landing. I will not sit next to the window, and I really don’t like looking out of it if I can get away with it. At every sign of turbulence the hand squeezing and nervous looks start right back up. The take off was smooth, the ride there however was a different story. It was quite turbulent which was accentuated by the bad storm coming into Mammoth and the fact that the plane was pretty small. I do have to admit, the view over the mountains was absolutely beautiful though. In a little over an hour, we were safety handing which a gorgeous view of the snow covered mountains in the background. The airport is small, you depart the plane on the tarmac, and the luggage retrieval area, is a small designated area with no conveyor belt. There are two car rental locations in the airport itself, an Enterprise and I think a Hertz. We went with Enterprise as it is the car rental agencies we prefer and we got a good deal through Costco Travel. Jon chocked it up with the gentleman helping us, discussing his Dragon Ball shirt and the most recent episode that had just come out. I think because of the new found friendship that had developed we were upgraded from a compact car to a very useful Jeep Renegade and we were on our way. Driving down the main highway with lots of snow on either side of the road we made our way into town.
The first stop of the night was the only grocery store they have in town, Vons. It is decently sized and well stocked. We loaded up on snacks and water before settling on a place to eat for dinner. Just across the street was a Japanese restaurant called Samurai that was highly rated on Yelp. The parking lot is large, and had plenty of spots available. We picked a spot and tried to make our way in. See the restaurant itself is located on the second floor and although it appears that there are several ways that we could make our way upstairs none of them worked. Eventually, after some contemplation we realized that we had to enter through the small indoor mall to get to the second floor and finally to the restaurant. It was all worth it though because everything from the service to the food was amazing. We got a few things to share, the Gyoza and California Roll. I chose the beef rice bowl and Jon got the Udon. The beef rice bowl had to be one of the best I have ever had.
By this time it was dark and we made our way to the Seasons 4 condo we were staying at. When we walked in we noticed how nice and cozy it was with a cute little cabin feel. We quickly settled in and went to sleep after a long day of work and travel.
Over the next few days we ate and explored a lot hitting some really good spots along the way. I’ll summarize the rest, otherwise this blog would be about the size of a Mammoth.
- The Stove – It was a cute, quaint little restaurant that you could tell was very popular by the wait time. Luckily, as a party of two, you never have to wait that long. We were quickly seated and browsed the menu and finally settled on a couple of omelettes, french toast and some biscuits and gravy, all of which were absolutely delicious. They also have pies which looked great but we didn’t partake in.
- Latin Market Taqueria – We were intrigued right away because having been born and raised in Southern California we are obvious lovers of Mexican Food and hope to find a good spot wherever we travel. Now, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t weary of authentic, good Mexican Food in the little town of Mammoth but wow was I incorrect in my judgement. Everything we tried was delicious, from the tacos to the quesadilla. The tortilla soup and California burrito were yummy too.
- Schat’s Bakery – I have to say that everything we tried was good. I tried a Maple Bar and the Ham & Cheese Croissant breakfast Sandwich, Jon got a custom Sandwich from the the Deli area. I liked the Maple Bar and my Hubby liked the Sandwich. The croissant was just okay, they are pre-made and held in a warmer, it also tasted like it was made with powdered eggs instead of fresh ones. It wasn’t bad but I don’t know that I would order it again. They have plenty of other items that I hope to try when we go back, including some of their bread that looks delicious.
- Mammoth Brewing Company / The EATery – The beer is good (get a flight or two), the macaroni and cheese with pulled pork is to die for, the brisket burger was good but the hopped tots were eh. The atmosphere is fun and lively which makes it a neat place to hang out.
- Holy Smoke Texas BBQ – This one is in Bishop but well worth the drive. We decided on the sampler because we were hungry and wanted to get the full experience. I went with the pulled pork, brisket and tri-tip. All of them we smoked to perfection and super moist, not dry at all. I got a baked potato on the side and also the mac and cheese. The mac and cheese was super cheesy and flavorful. Each plate comes with a huge sliced of corn bread which was just what it needed to balance the meal. Jon’s choice differed from mine slightly, he got the sausage and baked beans which he said he liked.
- Mammoth Gold Mercantile – Good bubble tea and a neat little shop with knick-knacks.
- The Good Life Cafe – Skip this one, the food was mediocre and the service was odd.
- Black Velvet Coffee – Neat coffee shop with mediocre coffee.
Sights to see:
- Mammoth Scenic Route, June Lake & Mono Lake – After a very rainy morning, we decided to venture out a bit. We checked the weather near Mono Lake and it looked all clear. We started by heading out on the Mammoth Scenic Route which I have to say was so beautiful, the snow lined roads with the tall pine trees is something that can’t be beat. There are plenty of picture opportunities along the way so make sure to give yourself at least half a day for this trek. The first stop was June Lake, which is huge! They have a cute little town where you can fill up on gas, grab a drink, a bite to eat or even do a little shopping. The beach is beautiful and almost completely empty during the winter giving you the quiet serenity to reflect and relax. I highly suggest taking the loop drive around the lake to see this beauty from different views.The final stop on this leg was Mono Lake. While it was cold the weather was much different, we even got a little sun. There were plenty of places to stop but we picked one with a neat little walkway right down to the edge of the lake. This lake was unlike anything I have ever seen before with it’s own unique kind of beauty. Right across the way is the east entrance to Yosemite which was unfortunately closed during the time we went, but I heard it is beautiful and we will definitely making that a priority next time we go.On our way back on the Mammoth Scenic Route we got to see two very fluffy coyotes which was a quite a treat. While we enjoyed seeing them, we made sure to do it from the safety of our vehicle.
- Hot Creek & Fish Hatchery – I really wanted to see the Hot Creek and Jon, the Fish Hatchery. To our surprise they are located quite close to each other, the Fish Hatchery being right down the road behind the airport and the Hot Creek about a mile or so away on a bumpy dirt road. While the Fish Hatchery was neat, and you were able to see several stages of Trout it wasn’t as neat as I expected it to be. The Hot Creek was cool to see, especially just a few miles away from the snow covered mountains. There is a small hike down to see the creek close up but as there were several people fishing down below, we decided instead to enjoy it from the hill above.
- Convict Lake – This lake is absolutely beautiful and an easy shot from the airport. With the snow covered mountains in the background to the beauty of the lake, this is a must hit location. We stopped by after hitting the Hot Creek and Fish Hatchery to take lots of pictures. Jon of course was super adventurous and made it out to a log not far from the shore to ensure some great photographic shots, which I have to say was well worth the slight anxiety it gave me, LOL.
- Twin Lakes – These lakes are located right down from the Condo we stayed at. While we couldn’t enjoy all of what they had to offer as some of the roads were closed due to snow, we did get to enjoy them from afar. I think the best part of this location is the waterfall in the background and the cute bridges you can walk across.
- Mammoth Mountain Gondola Ride – The Gondola itself was pretty neat but rather expensive for what you get. Keep in mind this is not for the faint of heart, so if you are afraid of heights, this may not be for you. I wish they would maintain the windows better, they are extremely scratched and therefore the view is skewed. If you had planned to take pictures from the gondola, it’s not going to happen unless you stick your camera out of the open area at the top of the window. You have the option to get off about half way up if you would like. At the very top there is a small snack shop/restaurant that didn’t look to promising to me. The little information area they have was kind of neat, but also nothing to write home about. If the weather conditions are alright, you can go outside and take pictures at the very top of the mountain.
The flight back was a lot less turbulent, so overall it wasn’t bad and we highly suggest flying. This trip was one for the books and one we will never forget. We can’t wait to go back and explore during the summer or fall as a lot of the areas we would have like to have visited were closed due to winter conditions.