Inyo Craters Trail in Mammoth
Date Hiked: June 21, 2010
Best Season: Autumn Spring Summer
Check Trail Conditions: Inyo National Forest (760) 873-2400
- Distance: 1.25 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 177 feet
- Route Type: Out-and-Back
- Trail Type: Dirt
- Difficulty: Easy
The final Mammoth area stop on our Historic Highway 395 road trip last June took us to yet another geological wonder. Inyo Craters are the southernmost craters in a 25 mile long chain that stretches from Mono Lake to Mammoth Mountain. The first two (which we hiked) both hold small lakes. The third is located on summit of Deer Mountain. All three were formed in the mid-14th century.
To access the craters, head west on Highway 203 (Main Street) from the town of Mammoth Lakes, to Minaret Road heading towards Mammoth Mountain. Turn right on to the Mammoth scenic loop, until you come across a sign marking the turnoff to Dry Creek Road. Follow the dirt road until you reach a parking lot, where you will see vault toilets and the trailhead sign.
The hike to the first two craters is a short scenic trail heavily shaded by a steady canopy of trees, and you can expect to see quite a few people here — including young children. The trail skims the perimeter of the first crater, where you can step down to an observation area to take in the intense views of the spectacular turquoise waters set against the backdrop of Mammoth Mountain. Continue following the trail as it makes a slight climb up to the second crater, which holds a smaller darker lake and is a bit more obstructed by trees. Retrace your steps to return to the parking lot.
View Inyo Crater Lakes in a larger map