Summer 2023 finally feels real, even though they are still skiing in Mammoth Lakes, California. It is the perfect destination for adventurous families seeking a memorable outdoor experience. From exploring unique geological wonders to hiking to picturesque alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls, this stunning region has something for everyone. Let’s delve into five incredible outdoor adventures that will create lasting memories for you and your family.

Explore Obsidian Dome

Plan: Obsidian Dome is a fascinating volcanic wonder, and to reach this unique geological site, follow these steps:

  • Duration: Half-day adventure
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate, suitable for kids above eight years old
  • Pack: Bring water, sunscreen, and comfortable hiking shoes
  • Trail: Start from the Obsidian Dome trailhead located off Highway 395, approximately 10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes.
  • Highlights: Witness the sparkling black glass-like rocks formed by ancient volcanic activity. Explore the dome and learn about its geological significance.
  • Directions: From the town of Mammoth Lakes drive west on Hwy 203 to the 395 junction. Take 395 north for 10 miles and take a left on Glass Flow Rd/ Obsidian Dome Rd.

While the hike to Obsidian Dome is relatively short, it offers a captivating glimpse into the region’s volcanic history. The obsidian rocks shimmering in the sunlight create a surreal sight, perfect for family photos. Don’t forget to educate your little ones about the importance of preserving these natural wonders.

people hiking in a forest
Photo by PNW Production on

Hike to Heart Lake

Embarking on an adventure to Heart Lake with your family begins at the Heart Lake Trailhead located within the Coldwater day-use parking area. This well-established trail offers a variety of fascinating sidetrips, including two left-hand forks leading to the remnants of the Depression-era Mammoth Consolidated Gold Mine, a must-see for history enthusiasts. As you start the hike, follow the right path as it leads you into the captivating John Muir Wilderness, a scenic ascent of approximately one mile to reach the stunning Heart Lake.

Numerous archaeological and historic sites hold invaluable information from our past throughout the Inyo National Forest and neighboring federal and state lands. These sites are essential cultural treasures protected by law. As you explore, please remember to respect these special places, taking only photographs and leaving only footprints behind. Should you come across any vandalism, please report it to preserve the integrity and beauty of these historical locations for generations to come. Follow these steps to make the most of your adventure:

  • Duration: half to Full-day excursion
  • Difficulty: Moderate, suitable for families with kids above ten years old
  • Pack: Carry plenty of water, snacks, a picnic lunch, and insect repellent, and wear sturdy hiking boots.
  • Trail: Begin at Coldwater day-use parking area.
  • Highlights: Marvel at the pristine alpine lake surrounded by towering peaks. Enjoy a relaxing picnic by the water and take in the breathtaking views.

The hike to Heart Lake is an excellent opportunity to introduce your kids to the beauty of the backcountry. The trail weaves through pine forests and wildflower meadows, providing ample opportunities for little explorers to connect with nature. Once at Heart Lake, allow ample time for your family to relax, take photos, and appreciate the serenity of the surroundings. This adventure will leave you with memories of pristine wilderness and quality family time.

Rainbow Falls Devils Postpile
Rainbow Falls Devils Postpile

Hike Rainbow Falls

Plan: Rainbow Falls is a magnificent 101-foot waterfall located in the Devils Postpile National Monument. Follow this plan to witness its beauty:

  • Duration: Half-day trip
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate, suitable for all ages
  • Pack: Carry water, sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes.
  • Trail: Begin at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead, accessible via a shuttle from Mammoth Lakes. The hike is approximately 2.5 miles round trip.
  • Highlights: Experience the power and beauty of Rainbow Falls as it plunges into the canyon below. Marvel at the hexagonal basalt columns of the Devils Postpile.

The hike to Rainbow Falls is family-friendly and offers stunning views of the waterfall and surrounding geological formations. Remember to bring a camera to capture the magic of the falls and the unique hexagonal basalt columns at the Devils Postpile. If you visit during midday, you might even witness the rainbow that gives the falls its name. This adventure is perfect for families seeking a mix of nature’s wonders and light physical activity.

Kayaking and Paddle boarding at Lake Mary

Enjoy a day of water fun at Lake Mary, where you can kayak and paddleboard amidst the serene mountain landscape:

  • Duration: Full-day adventure
  • Difficulty: Easy, suitable for all ages (life jackets required for everyone)
  • Pack: Bring sunscreen, hats, water shoes, and swimwear. Rental kayaks and paddleboards are available at Lake Mary Marina.
  • Highlights: Glide over the crystal-clear waters surrounded by breathtaking mountain views. Take breaks to swim or relax on the shoreline.

Lake Mary is a tranquil and family-friendly destination for water-based activities. The calm waters make it an ideal place for beginners to try kayaking and paddleboarding. Children will love the freedom of paddling on the lake and the chance to spot local wildlife. Be sure to follow safety guidelines and wear life jackets at all times. Capture the joy on your kids’ faces as they explore the lake, and cherish the laughter-filled moments spent together as a family.

Day Trips to June Lake and Tuolumne Meadows

Explore the beauty of the June Lake Loop and venture further to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite via Tioga Pass:

  • Duration: Full-day excursions
  • Difficulty: Easy, suitable for all ages
  • Pack: Pack water, snacks, a camera, and appropriate clothing for changing weather conditions.
  • Route: Drive the scenic June Lake Loop, making stops at June Lake Beach and Gull Lake for some lakeside fun. For the trip to Tuolumne Meadows, take a scenic drive via Tioga Pass Road (subject to seasonal closures) and explore the meadows, rivers, and granite domes of Yosemite’s high country.
  • Highlights: Experience the charm of the June Lake area and the iconic beauty of Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows.

Notes: The day trips to June Lake and Tuolumne Meadows offer a diverse range of experiences, from relaxing by the picturesque June Lake to exploring the breathtaking wilderness of Yosemite. The drive along Tioga Pass is an adventure in itself, with breathtaking views along the way. Once in Tuolumne Meadows, take short hikes, have a family picnic, and enjoy the splendor of Yosemite’s high country. These day trips provide an excellent opportunity to immerse your family in the natural wonders of the Eastern Sierra.

Mammoth Lakes, California, promises an unforgettable summer adventure for families seeking to connect with nature and create lasting memories. From exploring fascinating geological formations at Obsidian Dome to hiking to the serene Heart Lake and majestic Rainbow Falls, and enjoying water fun at Lake Mary, to venturing on scenic day trips to June Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, this outdoor paradise has something to offer for every member of the family. So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and prepare for an incredible family getaway in Mammoth Lakes this summer!



Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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