The town of Mammoth Lakes is an iconic adventure playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Situated in the middle of the eastern Sierra Nevada, it’s home to the Mammoth Mountain ski resort and some of the best snow in California. With a summit of 11,053 feet, Mammoth Mountain is a legendary recreational destination for outdoor family travel.
Mammoth Lakes is a supremely easy and natural choice for Los Angeles families to escape into a wonderful winter adventure. This charming alpine community is easily accessible from L.A., providing an impressive variety of activities. From seasoned winter sports aficionados to first timers—and even family members who don’t like to ski— everybody can enjoy a deep immersion into one of California’s crown jewels.
Getting to Mammoth Lakes
The easiest way to get to Mammoth Lakes is via Advanced Airlines, Mammoth Lakes’ newest luxury air service offering nonstop flights from Burbank to Mammoth Yosemite Airport. Tip: Advanced Airlines provides a semi-private flight experience to Mammoth Lakes in an otherworldly record time. From private terminals to skipping TSA, the journey to Mammoth Lakes was smooth as butter.
We got to fly like true jet setters with the convenience of a private air travel experience at a commercial airline cost (they have great bulk ticket prices too). Ultimately, we eliminated the long drive up to the mountains and got to spend more time unplugged in this winter wonderland—a mammoth-sized win!
By car, the 325-mile drive from Los Angeles to Mammoth Lakes takes five to six hours, depending on travel conditions. Along the way, several quaint high-desert towns remind visitors of the rural Old West while providing unique dining and road trip stops.
Where to stay
We had the pleasure of staying at Westin Monache Resort Mammoth. This hotel is directly across the street from the Village at Mammoth, right at the epicenter of everything that a family could possibly need. The Westin definitely has one of the best locations for accessing skiing on Mammoth Mountain from a hotel.
Additionally, the Westin has a ski valet at Mammoth Village, so we didn’t have to schlep our gear all the way back to our room. The Westin’s system of storing our skis and boots at one of these ski valet checkpoints, coupled with its direct access to the gondola made our stay so easy and relaxing. The Westin also has a pool, a hot tub and an easy grab-and-go breakfast station.
I recommend jumpstarting any winter sports getaway with a ski lesson to get the lay of the land and to brush up on your skills with some insider tips. My speed racer teenage son didn’t waste any time hitting up all the jumps and moguls at the snowboard park. There’s no way I could’ve possibly kept up with him, so we needed a young snowboard instructor to step in and take the reins. As such, a lesson enables everyone in your family to progress at their own pace. We rented all of our ski gear from Black Tie Ski Rentals of Mammoth, which worked out brilliantly since they came to our hotel room and fitted us.
For a little adventure within an adventure, we took the Mammoth All Weather Shuttle from our hotel and headed 20-miles north to June Mountain, Mammoth Mountain’s sister resort. With its jaw-dropping scenery, evocative of the Swiss Alps, June Mountain epitomizes the beauty of the road less taken. And with its wide runs, uncrowded slopes and short lift lines (even on a Saturday), it felt like we were skiing on our own private mountain.
Our guided excursion through the High Sierra from Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures delivered some sensational variety from physical activity. If skiing isn’t your cup of tea, this is a fun way to explore other routes around the mountain that wouldn’t normally be accessible or visible. We got to experience the scenic beauty of Mammoth, along with a hearty dose of speed and adventure. It was like being in a winter wonderland of powdery tree-lined trails and stunning meadows the entire trip.
We also scheduled an Apres Snowcat Tour that took us up to Minaret Vista, one of Mammoth’s most picturesque spots overlooking the Minarets and Ritter Range. The heated snowcat was a unique and hilarious to way to experience the backcountry. At the summit, we enjoyed some hot chocolate and toasted to the breathtaking landscape.
A taste of Mammoth
To celebrate our arrival, I savored a world-famous Mammoth margarita and fusion Mexican cuisine at Gomez. Other culinary highlights include some New American eats from 53 Kitchen & Cocktails and sampling some unique artisan spirits at the Shelter Distilling. We fueled up for our ski days with a hearty breakfast at Toomey’s and Side Door Cafe. For some tasty pub grub, we stopped at EATery, located in Mammoth Brewing Company. And to appease our appetite for a classic cheeseburger, we ate at a place aptly and hilariously named Burgers Restaurant.
With its phenomenal Bavarian-inspired menu and fun Chalet-style vibe, the Yodler Restaurant and Bar is hands-down my favorite family-friendly place to visit. We skied right up to it and sat overlooking the mountains as we tucked into our giant baked pretzel, sausage hunters platter and some chicken schnitzel. As we were eating, someone attempted to play an alpenhorn, and we were treated to a most unexpected and hilarious show.