20 signs you learned to drink in Mammoth Lakes, California

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1.You ski moguls better with two beers in your hand… Okay, you ski everything better with two beers in your hand.

2. You’ve hooked up with more foreigners than locals.

3. You know exactly how many drinks it takes to make you drunk at any elevation.

4. You have been to a ski school party, even if you don’t work there because that is the only place in town with an even guy-to-girl ratio.

5. You have gotten kicked out of and then re-accepted into employee housing for under-aged drinking, at least once.

6. Your go-to drink when you are short on cash is the PBR-Fireball combo from the Clocktower Cellar.

7. You always rally for first chair in the morning, no matter how hung over you are.

8. You have the schedule of best weekday happy hour specials at each bar memorized.

9. You have gone to more ‘House Parties’ in second and third homes than first homes.

10. You usually see your former teacher, your friend’s parents, and your boss when you go out and they are usually drunker than you are.

11. You always see at least one person you have slept with every time you go out.

12. You have probably chugged a beer out of an old ski boot as a rite of passage.

13. You make all your city friends do a shot ski during their first visit.

14. You know the dress code. You never go out in heels or a dress or a skirt because you wouldn’t risk looking like a SoCal tourist.

15. Walking home on the iced over and unlit neighborhood streets is your best self-check sobriety test.

16. You have memorized the entire bus schedule to more effectively bar hop without having to wait in the cold.

17. Your best and worst nights always end at Lakanuki.

18. You have your own special strategy for completing the Mammoth Mountain bar crawl.

19. You celebrate New Year’s about two weeks after New Year because you and everyone else had to work a double on the actual holiday.

20. You know that alcohol is the most lucrative bartering tool for any maintenance you need on your boots or skis in town.


For our stay in Mammoth Lakes we decided on New Shady Rest Campground. For reasons we don’t entirely understand, this campground seems to be first come first served for most of the summer. We arrived at the beginning of June so the sites had just opened up and we got a sweet spot at site #93. Later in the year, reservations can be made at the federal portal here.

Like any mountain destination that early in the year, Mammoth Lakes was beautiful one moment.

And brutal the next. That is snow.

By any measure this is an enormous campground, and that doesn’t even include Old Shady Rest Campground across the street. Sites are somewhat narrow but heavily forested and well groomed. All pads and roads are well maintained pavement, though the roads are nerve-wrackingly tight and we witnessed more than one 5th wheel scraping the trees. Traffic was moderate and noise was middling. Oddly we found campfire smoke from surrounding sites to be especially bad here, but we did stay on the east end – maybe prevailing winds take the smoke there.

Water is available in a number of locations along with an RV fill-up and dump station at the entrance to the campground. Bathroom facilities were old but well maintained and clean. While we were staying there the dump station was temporarily closed but a self-service station is available at the Mammoth Lakes Community Water District just down the street.

On the reservation front, I can only speculate, but I wonder if the no-reservation policy is to keep booking fair, since Mammoth Lakes is essentially between the two megalopolises of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Whatever the case, it worked to our advantage and we had a glorious two weeks there.

Mammoth, CA – Hot Springs

Within about a 20-30 minute drive of Mammoth Lakes are a number of hot springs overlooking some of California’s most scenic vistas. The hot springs tend to be small – either natural pools or concrete. The roads are often rough to reach these hot springs and an all wheel higher clearance vehicle is recommended – although if the roads are dry and you are careful – you can reach any of the ones listed below with a 2wd vehicle. Often people camp at or near some of the hot springs in the area. It is also common for people to show up in the evenings, soak and then leave. Hot springs enthusiasts are ‘soakers’.

All of these are are well listed on Google maps and are fairly easy to find – surprisingly ATT cell service often works in and around the hot springs listed below (although is spotty at times). And note, Google maps shows even the most basic dirt roads in the area.

We do NOT recommend visiting any of these hot springs on holiday weekends in the spring or summer. It gets to crowded, parking is often limited and the hot springs are generally very small. If you are visiting during these times of the years, the best opportunity to use the hot springs without them already being filled with people is in the very early morning hours around sunrise.

Often soakers will enjoy the hot springs in the nude.

And one last note – these intimate hot springs are a great place to meet other people, most commonly many people from Los Angeles, Europeans traveling through on road trips and to a lesser extent, people from the San Jose Bay Area.

Crab Cooker Hot Spring
is located at the end of a fairly rough and rocky dirt road – from the primitive dirt parking lot, it is a short hike down to the hot spring. Not as easy to find as some of the other nearby hot springs but well worth the attempt. This gets our top pick as one of the most scenic hot springs locations in the area. The jagged often snow covered peaks of the nearby mountains form the backdrop – in Spring the landscape nearby is a bright green. Plenty of open space for camping.

This tiny hot spring pool is about ideally sized for just a few people. The soak pool is not right at the source of the water – (the water is piped in from a short distance away) – a water valve that is very difficult to turn allows one to control how much hot water is let into the tub. Sometimes the water level is to low and is not able to be piped over from the source. After the pool is drained and then refilled the water is often to scalding to be able to enjoy right away.

Hot Creek
Just a few miles south of Mammoth Lakes on the 395, just past the airport, there is a road that leads east. Take it – it is called the Hot Creek Hatchery/Airport road. If you are driving south from Mammoth Lakes, you will have to first turn into the median lane and cross the oncoming traffic. This road leads to Hot Creek which is a creek that flows over bubbling cauldrons of hot gases mixed with hot water. The road is paved for the first part and then becomes dirt. It passes a fishing ranch.

In the winter, there may be snow blocking this road and you would have to cross country or snow shoe into the actual springs. Much of the creek is fenced off near the main entrance (there is a parking lot with steps leading down to the actual river). The reason why much of the creek is fenced off and closed for soaking is that many of the bubbling vents and hot water pockets are so hot they will scald and burn you.

Several people have died in this creek over the years from the burning water and their are warning signs posted at the entrance about not straying into the fenced off areas.

Some years the water is so low that you can simply wade over to the hot water pockets. Other more unusual years after high rainfall and snow pack – the water will be a strong current and you will have to swim over to the hot water. Once you have crossed the cold water and are in the hot water its a great feeling. The water is hot enough that when you swim back across the cold water – it can sometimes feel quite pleasant.

Little Hot Creek Hot Springs
This ‘hot spring’ can be a bit confusing to find due to its somewhat isolated location and access via numerous dirt roads – some of which are in really bad shape. These are good factors if you are looking to ‘escape’ from some of the more visited easier to find hot springs in the region. Located in a small meadow surrounded by low gentle rolling hills. There are several nearby pull out areas for camping sites off of the dirt road.

A concrete tub is fed via a long pipe (with a valve that can be used to shut off the water). While not technically a hot spring, the water source is Little Hot Creek – which is very appropriately named due to its small size and the fact it’s waters are fairly hot (during a visit we found the waters were very hot but not quite scalding). A narrow wooden footbridge crosses Little Hot Creek to the actual soak tub. Several wooden slats are located next to the tub – useful for storing clothing in case you decide to get naked (as well keeping any other items you might have off of the dirt).

Rock Tub Hot Spring
This intimate hot spring is fairly easy to find and quite accessible from Mammoth Lakes. As a result due to its tiny size combined with ease of access can sometimes get crowded here. Comfortably seats just a few people – the water source is piped in. Often a brush or two will be on site in case someone wants to drain, clean and then refill the tub.

Sometimes people camp here although it’s not that private of a place to camp with people coming and going. The water isn’t that deep. If you sit with your back leaning on the north side of this little cement tub you will have excellent views overlooking the jagged mountains of the eastern Sierras. More of a family friendly environment here and we have often seen children with parents. As a result, not as popular for nude bathing as some of the other hot springs located more to the east of here.

Shepherd Hot Spring
We love the fact you can back up your car right next to this particular hot spring, open the door and literally fall out into the water! Fairly easy to find from the 395. Located in a picturesque meadow. Several nearby flat areas are conducive for camping, we have seen tents in close proximity to the springs. Also a fairly short trail connects this hot spring with the nearby Crab Cooker Hot Spring.

Small like a number of the others in the area – comfortably seats 2-3 people although more can certainly fit inside its cozy confines. One of the backdrop views is a tiny shallow lake not far away. Good views of other steaming hot water slightly to the south east when the ambient temperature is cold enough.

Wild Willy’s Hot Spring
Not sure where this hot spring got it’s name – but nonetheless its an intriguing name sure to catch the attention of anyone interested in hot springs in this part of the state. Perhaps the name comes from sometimes alcohol infused visitors. Offers a bit more soaking options then some of the other area springs. The larger pool can comfortably fit quite a few people and is a bit deeper then some of the other smaller hot springs in the area. A smaller pool is hotter and comfortably fits 1 person – maybe two.

There is plenty of parking on site – access from the parking lot is on foot on an alternating dirt/wooden walkway. About a 1/4 of a mile walk to reach the springs. Gorgeous views, great place to meet other people as the main pool is large enough to accommodate several groups at once. Can be a popular drinking place later in the day. Early mornings are a great time to visit.

What to Do In Mammoth Lakes When the Mountain is Closed

It’s hard to imagine too much snow being a bad thing, but as the storms from this weekend showed it’s possible for so much snow to fall that Mammoth Mountain has to close down.

At ASO Mammoth we know that it’s hard to watch snow fall and not head straight to the mountain, but when so much snow falls that even the world class crews at Mammoth Mountain can’t safely operate you know it’s serious. To help you pass the time until the mountain is open again, the ASO Mammoth team has put together a few of our favorite things to do in Mammoth Lakes. Check it out below, stay warm, and keep your skis and snowboards ready for when the mountain opens!

Hole Up With A Good Book

What goes together better than bad weather and a good book?

Whether you’re looking for a thriller to help you pass the time or need a children’s book to help your kids go down for an early night, there are enough books in Mammoth Lakes to pass even the worst storm. In terms of local options the main two are Booky Joint and Book Chalet. While Book Chalet offers a small selection of used books, Booky Joint offers a varied selection of new and used books and genres for all ages. Booky Joint offers more than books though, as they have plenty of toys and games for sale. If a book won’t pass the time quick enough, look for a board game the entire family can play. You can always pass a few hours in the Mammoth Lakes Library too!

Grab a Drink You’ll Find Nowhere Else

It’s impossible to be unimpressed by the natural scenery surrounding Mammoth Lakes, but if the weather is too bad to get outside and enjoy it then you can at least taste it through Mammoth Lake’s craft brewery and distilling scene.

Mammoth Brewing Company is one of the most popular places to find a Mammoth craft beer. Mammoth Brewing Company offers plenty of good food, but if you’re looking for a unique taste of the area then you’ll have to try their seasonal beers as well as a few of their year round favorites like the Double Nut Brown Ale or the Wild Sierra Saison Ale. If you’re looking for something other than beer, you can also check out Shelter Distilling and Devils Creek Distillery for something a little stronger!

See a Movie

Just like when it’s too hot outside to do anything, if there’s too much snow then what better way to pass the time than inside at the movies?

In Mammoth Lakes your best option for a movie theater is Minaret Theaters. Minaret is a smaller theater so you won’t find any 3D screenings or large theaters, but you will find a selection of the newest popular releases. Plan ahead so you can find a screening that works for you!

Stop By the Ski Shops

If you’re looking to learn more about Mammoth Lakes, Mammoth Mountain, and anything going on in town then stop by the ski shops all throughout Mammoth. While we may be a little biased, the crew at ASO Mammoth is your best resource and we are happy to help by answering any questions you have about the mountain, your gear, and what you need to enjoy all the snow that fell while the mountain was closed. Stop by today and check out our shop!

Always check beforehand to see if the establishments we’ve listed above are open. Until the mountain opens again, we will see you around town!

Watch the video: ViewFinder: Guardians of the Past The Sacramento Pioneer Association


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