One reason why I love California is that I’m never far from somewhere beautiful, and there is always somewhere new to explore whether I go north, south, east, or west. After Thanksgiving when “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” takes over media, I always wonder why the song isn’t broadcasted sooner. Fall truly is the most wonderful time of the year. No crowds, no traffic, no heat, no mosquitos, and complete solitude with nature.
So what’s a girl to do at the end of fall and the mountains are calling? Make the hubby take the trailer out for an extra-long weekend to the mountains! But which mountains? I decided on Mammoth Lakes because (surprise, surprise) I had never been. Coworkers have embarked on epic backpacking trips in the Ansel Adams Wilderness (still on my list!), and many have skied or snowboarded Mammoth Mountain. I’ve visited Yosemite numerous times, including the nearby sites of Bodie State Park, Mono Lake, Bristlecone Pine Forest, and the Alabama Hills & Mount Whitney along U.S. Route 395.
I’m so glad I picked Mammoth.
We arrived during the late afternoon to Laurel Springs Campground, a free US Forest Service campground.
With just a few hours of sunlight left, we made our way over to nearby Convict Lake. Spring and summer photos of Convict Lake looked gorgeous, and I doubted fall with the fleeting sunlight would look decent. I was wrong!
We only strolled along the lake shores a bit before heading back to Laurel Springs to enjoy sunset.
The next morning we arrived to the McGee Creek Trailhead for our 11-mile roundtrip hike to Steelhead Lake and back. While the mileage wasn’t too long, the hike left me out of breath with an elevation at 7,879 feet and highest point at 10,353 feet! Sweeping views of the sloping mountainside along McGee Creek were the highlights of this hike.
Fall colors and half-frozen creeks!
Grass Lake and the sweeping mountains:
Steelhead Lake (all to ourselves!):
The next day we hiked the spectacular Little Valley Lakes Trail, a popular 7-mile roundtrip hike at 10,274 feet with little elevation gain. There’s no wonder why this hike is a favorite amongst many; it’s not necessary to hike far to set eyes upon the meadows and lakes framed by rugged peaks.
Despite the jaw-dropping scenery, the turnaround point at Gem Lakes was icing on the cake: Hockey players on a frozen lake!
We lucked out during our extended weekend with prime fall weather: 50s during the day (but 17-20s at night!). I remember checking the weather forecast and saw that the first snow was forecasted for the following week. Everyone who hiked at Mammoth Lakes that weekend was truly enjoying the final fall days of 2018.
I definitely need to return in the late summer/early fall to see more highlights of Mammoth Lakes: Thousand Island Lakes, the Minaret, Cecile, Iceberg and Ediza Lakes, and Devils Postpile National Monument. Simply thinking about these natural treasures (that were once part of Yosemite National Park prior to 1905!) reminds me again why I love California!