your paddlesports destination

Mammoth Lakes in California

Trip Overview

Words cannot possibly begin to describe the beauty of Mammoth Lakes. Located among a backdrop of fragrant pines and majestic mountains, a more perfect paddling retreat could scarcely be imagined. It is one of my personal favorite paddling destinations in California.

The Mammoth Lakes Basin is located on the eastern slope of the Inyo National Forest at a 9000 foot elevation, off of US 395 and Highway 203. There are ten lakes in the basin which comprise of Lake Mary, Lake Mamie, Lake George, Crystal Crag, McCloud, Twin, Barrett, TJ, and Horseshoe Lakes.

Lake Mary, George, Mamie, Horseshoe and Twin Lakes are the only lakes accessible by a vehicle that don't require you to portage your kayak or canoe. All of the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin allow paddling. However, Horseshoe Lake is closed to camping and paddling because carbon dioxide gas has been detected in its vicinity.

Mammoth Lakes are ideal for family camping and for all levels of paddlers if a breathtakingly beautiful surrounding is all you require. The sculptured geological features of these exhilarating cold-water lakes offer awesome views of snow-capped mountain peaks from scenic campsite settings situated along shorelines rimmed with towering pine forests.

At sunrise spectacular reflective views of colorful mountains are cast onto the calm, glass-like water of these pristine lakes. Why anyone would prefer to paddle at another time of day is beyond me. These small, spellbinding high-elevation lakes offer a leisurely paddle in a picturesque wilderness setting.

Although Lake Mary is the largest of the Mammoth Lakes, it took me less than thirty minutes to paddle. All of Mammoth Lakes are so small you can easily paddle all of them in a day. In addition, the lakes are within walking distance of one another and are beautiful beyond your imagination.

I found unexpected pleasure paddling these enticing alpine lakes in one of the most beautiful mountain settings I have ever paddled. Their outstanding beauty was a welcome surprise. I could not have asked for a more perfect campsite or for a more peaceful paddle, which made my stay at Mammoth Lakes so enjoyable.

Mammoth Lakes is sure to capture the hearts of all who paddle these natural wonders. There's nothing to compare the physical, visual and emotional sense of fulfillment of paddling a gorgeous alpine destination. Once you have, you'll be hooked for life! It is truly a memorable experience.


During the weekdays is a good time to paddle if you prefer a peaceful paddle. Also, you'll have a better chance of finding a campsite because camping at Mammoth Lakes is on a first-come, first-served basis. There are campgrounds located at Lake George, Lake Mary and Twin Lakes that are accessible by a vehicle. The Lake Mary campground has 48 tent or RV sites with flush toilets and water. The facilities at Lake Mary consist of a boat launch, boat rentals (including kayaks and canoes), bicycling and hiking trails throughout the park and a marina.

The Twin Lakes campground has 92 tent or RV sites with flush toilets, and water. The lake facilities include fishing, a boat launch, boat rentals and a general store. There are 16 tent or RV sites, a boat launch and boat rentals at Lake George. Showers are available at the Lake Mary Store for a fee. Leashed pets are allowed, but due to the frequency of bears in the area, you may want to leave you dog at home or keep it with you at all times. Do not leave your pet unattended or outside at night.

The lakes only allow small boats which cut down on the noise and boat congestion. Jet and waterskiing and swimming are not permitted on any of the lakes. The shaded campsite settings, ideal paddling conditions and sensational scenery are bound to make your visit here memorable.

In addition to outstanding camping and paddling opportunities, this area offers an assortment of other outdoor recreational pursuits during all seasons. The season for paddling usually begins at the end of May through October, depending on early or late snowfall. This area receives an abundance of snow in the wintertime when the lake's water surfaces are frozen over. The campgrounds are open from the beginning of June to the end of October weather permitting.


Lake Mary, Lake George and Twin Lakes: There is a free day use and launch access for campers and a fee to camp.
There isn't any fee at Lake Mamie for day use and to launch.


From the town of Bishop, take Interstate 395 north for about thirty-eight miles. Exit onto Highway 203 and drive approximately 3.7 miles. Turn left on Lake Mary Road.

  • Duration: Day Trip, 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip