Exploring Mammoth: Obsidian Dome

Date Visited: June 21, 2010
Check current conditions: Inyo National Forest (760) 873-2400
  • Admission: No charge
  • Parking: free (lot)
  • Water: No
  • Restrooms: No
  • Location: Highway 395
  • Nearest Town: June Lake, CA
  • Kid-Friendly: Yes
  • Dog-Friendly Area: Yes
  • Dog-Friendly Climb: Allowed, but we don’t recommend

Have you ever held on to a childhood memory of visiting a place, only to revisit it again as an adult and come to the realization that you somehow imagined that place to be much bigger and majestic than it actually is? Well, that was Obsidian Dome for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the Mammoth area of the California High Sierras. But, having visited and climbed it as a young child on vacation with my parents, I remembered it being much taller than it actually is. So, when Jeff and I planned our Highway 395 road trip with the kids last summer, I insisted that our Mammoth stay had to include a visit to Obsidian Dome.

Obsidian Dome is a mile-long 300 foot high lava dome that is part of the Mono–Inyo Craters volcanic chain located in the Inyo National Forest.  The Dome is essentially a big pile of shiny black volcanic glass that was formed by an explosion (a Phreatic Blast) when magma reached the water table,turned the water to steam, cooled and then turned to rock .  It is located north of Mammoth Lakes,  just south of June Lake, along Highway 395 — via a 2.7 mile dirt road to a free parking lot.

People are welcome to climb the Dome, and my husband and kids (their first time visiting) didn’t waste any time scrambling up the mountain of shiny black glass when we arrived.  I hung back down below with our Beagle, since I’d visited and climbed the Dome as a kid.  Even though my childhood memory of Obsidian Dome built it up to be more grand than what Jeff and the kids encountered, they still though it was a really cool experience and worth the very short detour off Highway 395.

Obsidian Dome

Such incredible texture and shades of light and dark in the rock!

Obsidian Dome

Jeff and the kids navigate their way to the top.

Obsidian Dome

The kids had a blast climbing along the big rocks.

Obsidian Dome

They opted to stop short of the "summit".

Obsidian Dome

Mission accomplished!

Obsidian Dome

Holly Puppy wasn't pleased about having to remain down below with me, but we weren't too sure about taking her up on the dome.

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