We spent every weekend in October playing in the mountains from Tahoe to Mammoth to Yosemite! It was a fall full of foliage, posing for pictures, hiking and a few SUP adventures, and we wanted to share our Mammoth experience as dear Mammoth holds second place in Momma’s heart (behind Tahoe OF COURSE!).
Mammoth has a great person manning the Instagram account and over the fall, they regularly provide foliage updates so that people can really try to maximize their leaf peeping in the area (since the general Mammoth area is quite big). Based on their suggestions, and the fact that our daddy had to make a last-minute weekend trip to Montana, momma packed us up in the car and took us to Mammoth without putting too much thought into the trip other than what she’d seen on the foliage update from Visit Mammoth IG.
We left really early in the morning so we could miss the Sacramento morning rush hour, and both Lolo and I were expecting it to just be another trip to Tahoe since we drive to Tahoe before heading south to get to Mammoth. So imagine our surprise when we just kept on driving! Eventually momma pulled over for us to eat breakfast on the side of the road. But you can’t complain about these views! Or the fact that it’s super high desert and we are ALL desert rats during the winter time 🙂
After our short break we continued to our first stop which was Lundy Canyon. The drive into Lundy Canyon was just beautiful, with so many golden trees on both sides. The last little bit up to the trailhead was narrow and parking options were slim, but we lucked out and grabbed a spot and went off. The hike was in some dense forest for part of the time, and then opened to amazing canyon and waterfall views. We eventually saw a sign that indicated we were really on the backside (and could connect) to 20 Lakes Basin, which is probably one of our ultimate favorite places in the world, so that was really kind of neat!
We stayed on the trail and kept climbing up and along the waterfalls. Momma was super annoying about making me stay OUT of the water so my foot wouldn’t get wet. We were aiming for some high alpine lakes, with Lake Helen as our turn-around destination and were on our way there when it suddenly got SUPER steep and rocky. I mean Lolo was like “I’m a billy goat, this is fine” but I was giving momma ‘the look’ and she insisted we keep climbing.
But then, she looked down and was like “WTF” it was so scary straight up! I think she should have realized that using your hands and feet on the way up means it’s gonna be even scarier on the way down! So she told us to turn around and we did, but we didn’t go very fast because she basically was crawling back down to the bottom of the steep part. She didn’t take any pictures in the scary part because, well, she needed all her faculties to not plunge off the side and die! She kept thinking of how much trouble she’d be in if anyone got hurt since no-one really knew where we were!
We made it back to the car and drove to Silver Lake, which was the campground momma wanted to stay in for the weekend. We drove around looking for the best walk-in site available and set up camp before we explored down to the lake which was full of folks fishing. Mammoth is definitely a fishing destination all summer and fall long! It was stunning but a bit windy, so momma decided we wouldn’t try to SUP until tomorrow, which was an extra good idea because the sun disappears behind the mountains a little after 3 p.m. which made it get really cold, really fast. Little did we know just how cold it was going to be!
We woke up to all our water being frozen and even the pipes in the campground were frozen solid. Momma put Lolo and I in the car so we could stay warmer than just sitting around outside while she took care of chores before we headed out for our hike for the day, Little Lakes Valley up to Gem Lakes. It was a bit slow going getting there because just getting out of the June Lake Loop momma kept stopping to take more and more pictures! I think all her years of living in the south and not having THIS kind of foliage makes the Sierra leaf peeping that much more exciting for her!
It’s hard to describe just how beautiful it is on the Little Lakes Valley trail which goes up into the John Muir Wilderness. It’s a popular and easy trail to do even though it’s not a foliage bomb like a lot of other parts of Mammoth. Although the road to get up to this trailhead IS a very popular spot for early fall foliage – we saw plenty along the way!
Even with seeing plenty of people on a sunny Saturday along the way, we somehow were the only ones up at Gem Lakes where we lunched and lounged for almost an hour! The views the whole way up and down are like from the movies. Lolo and I had such a great time and he got to do a ton of swimming.
When we got back down we decided to pass up the Convict Lake area, which was a tough choice for momma because she had already paddled Convict Lake so she really wanted to do Silver Lake. I’m sure both would have been pretty, and if time allowed we would do both, but the sun and weather make a lot of difference when the weather is cooling so we had to choose so we went back to Silver Lake to inflate the board and SUP around the lake.
As you can see, it was brilliant and we got most of our SUP in before the sun slipped behind the mountains. We had another cold night at camp, but luckily without daddy there we could snuggle up in his zero degree bag so we were fine until daybreak when we had to do chores and break down camp.
For our last hike momma took us on a trail right across from our campground that climbs up to another lake called Gem Lake. The views while climbing were stunning and full of fall color. The trail was pretty rocky, which was not the best feeling for my foot, but I was tough and didn’t complain. The first lake we got to was a reservoir so momma didn’t even encourage us to check it out because it was so low for the season and not that scenic.
When we finally got to gem lake she was pretty devastated to see that it was also a reservoir and very low! It looks pretty in the pictures but I’ll be honest – we were very hot and were all dying to go for a swim! I encouraged momma to continue on to see if we could find a good access point and we did keep hiking along the lake for a long ways until she decided we should turn around because we didn’t know if we’d ever get down to the water and we still needed to drive all the way home!
On the way home momma stopped at Mono Lake, which is a super salty and very iconic lake in the area. She always saw the lake and said “someday we will paddle there” but once we got out of the car and smelled how horrid it was I think she changed her mind! We walked down to the edge of the lake to take some pictures before we had to was our feet off before getting back into the car. I’m not sure if it is smelly like that all the time or what, but holy hell that was not what we expected!
All in all, another super trip to Mammoth – nothing like a trip that makes you want to get back there ASAP!!!