There are a lot of things to do in Mammoth Lakes in the summer like hiking, biking, visiting old mining ghost towns, and more. One other thing to do in Mammoth Lakes is to simply explore the scenery. Mammoth Lakes is an incredibly photogenic destination, especially in the summer when the air is warm, the lakes are liquid, and the leaves are green or just starting to turn autumn colors. When we weren’t enjoying outdoor activities, we were looking for the best photography spots in and around Mammoth Lakes. Here are some stops to add to your self-guided photography tour of Mammoth Lakes.
We hadn’t planned our trip to Mammoth Lakes around night photography, so we were a little disappointed when we realized the weekend we had chosen would have a bright moon. However, while we had very little Milky Way sighting, we did have a moon that lit up the views and made for some amazing pictures, especially at Mono Lake. We were able to walk the trail from the parking lot to the lake just by the light of the moon and didn’t turn our flashlights on once. Once at the lake, the tufa towers were perfectly lit by the moon.
Another beautiful nighttime spot is Minaret Vista. During the day, this area can only be reached by shuttle bus. But at night, you can drive and explore on your own. So we drove up Minaret Road to a turnoff just before Minaret Vista. It’s actually the perfect make-out spot. But we went for some night photography instead. From here is a great view of the Minarets, Mount Ritter and Mount Banner.
There are a number of short drives in the Mammoth Lakes area that pass photogenic lakes and scenes. One of those is the June Lake Loop. The June Lake loop passes by Silver Lake, Gull Lake, and June Lake.
Another lake grouping in Mammoth Lakes is the Mammoth Lakes Basin. There are a number of lakes to visit on this driving loop, including Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, and Horseshoe Lake. A waterfall, Twin Falls, moves water from the higher Lake Mamie into the lower Twin Lakes. The view of the falls is worth a stop in the Twin Lakes Campground. Then head up to Lake Mamie not only for a view of the lake, but also to stand at the top of Twin Falls and get an aerial view of Twin Lakes from the Twin Falls Overlook. Horseshoe Lake is interesting more for the dead trees surrounding it, as a series of small earthquakes in 1989 and 1990 released carbon dioxide from cooling magma which caused over 100 acres of tree kill.
Convict Lake is a lake with a story. It was formed thanks to glacier activity 10,000 years ago. The lake was given a different name by the Native Americans, but it gained the name Convict Lake after the famous shootout in September 1871. Convicts broke out of prison in Carson City, Nevada and six of them made it to the Mammoth Lakes area. In the shootout, the convicts killed Sheriff Robert Morrison, the namesake of Mount Morrison, and Paiute guide Mono Jim, the namesake of Mono Lake.
Hot Creek is a crazy creation of Mother Nature. Hot Creek bubbles and steams from water heated by lava coming up through crevices in the river floor to mix with the cold snow-melt river water. Most visitors to Hot Creek visit the Hot Creek Geological Site, and there are some great photo opportunities here. However, there are some other interesting photo spots farther north up Hot Creek Hatchery Road and off of Owens River Road where the road crosses Hot Creek. In these places, you can see Hot Creek wind through the flat landscape.