Exploring Mammoth: Boating on Convict Lake

Date Visited: August 4, 2011
Check current conditions: Convict Lake Marina (760) 934-3800
  • Hours: Call marina for hours
  • Boat Rental Rates: Check website.
  • Launching Fee: None
  • Fishing Season: Last Saturday in April through November 15
  • Location: Convict Lake
  • Nearest City: Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Parking: free (lot)
  • Kid-Friendly: Yes
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes

Convict Lake is one of the many spectacular lakes situated around Mammoth — about 10 miles away from town, right off Highway 395, across from the Mammoth/Yosemite Airport.  The lake, creek and surrounding peaks get their name from an ambush that took place here on September 17, 1871, when escaped prisoners from Carson City killed two members of the posse sent to capture them.

Convict Lake

A look down at the southwest end of Convict Lake, taken from a nearby overlook.

During our big Mammoth vacation earlier this month, Jeff and I wanted to take the family boating on one of the area lakes — something we didn’t get to do last year because there was still so much snow last June.  Many of these lakes allow boats, but they don’t all actually rent boats.  Convict Lake came up in hits when I was searching for boat rentals before vacation, and I instantly fell in love with the story behind the lake name, as well as the adorable historic cabins still rented out (alongside more modern luxury versions, too) at the lakeside resort.  When a phone call to the marina confirmed that dogs are allowed on most of the boats, we knew we found our lake.

Convict Lake

Holly Puppy sportin' her new Bass Pro doggie life vest.

We scheduled our Convict Lake trip for the day after our first full day of hiking, to allow the kids a bit more lazing around.  And we booked our half-day rental reservations for the afternoon since I knew it would be a major pain to try to get the kids up in time for a morning half-day session.

Convict Lake

The kids started off bundled up due to windy conditions.

Convict Lake

Jeff and I didn't mind the breeze at all, the sun felt great.

Initially, we booked two canoes ($80 total) for the four of us and the dog.  However, the winds really pick up on the lake in the afternoon, and it was blowing quite hard when we arrived.  So, the marina staff, actually cut off all non-motorized rentals as a safety precaution.  We went with a standard motorized boat — which only cost $60 for half a day — since our family of 4 (plus a dog) was really too small to justify a pontoon.  But, as we were making our final arrangements, we opted to go with just a 2-hour rental for $45 because the kids were already getting really cold from the wind — our son Hunter even decided against us renting him and Jeff fishing poles and gear.

Convict Lake

Cruising along the north side of the lake.

Convict Lake

Except for the very southwest end of the lake, there is very little tree cover.

Convict Lake

Rugged bare exposed mountains line the southwest end of the lake.

Convict Lake

Peering back to the east end of the lake, towards the marina, lodge and campground.

Convict Lake

Cruising around the south end of the lake, making our way back to the marina.

Convict Lake

The southeast edge of the lake is a bit more flat, bordered by gentle rolling ridges (where we took that overlook photo).

We had a great time — even Holly Puppy — cruising around this gorgeous deep blue lake.  The lake is a no-wake zone, so we couldn’t have gone super fast even if we’d had a bigger boat and motor.  But, our little motor boat allowed for enough speed for the kids to laugh, get sprayed and bounced all around whenever Jeff kicked it up to top speed in the middle of the lake.

And once we got into the more protected south end of the lake, where there was no wind, the kids felt warm enough to shed their arctic gear — a good thing, since they had to cover Holly Puppy who shivered pretty hard herself whenever the winds picked up.

Convict Lake

Holly Puppy's big floppy adorable Beagle ears catch some wind.

Convict Lake

The choppy windy middle of the lake got a bit too cold for Holly.

The southwest end of the lake — at the opposite end of the marina and boat launch — houses a beautiful little woodsy oasis where the streams feed into the lake.  It makes a for a very popular fishing spot, and we had to cruise around for a bit before we could find a spot to pull the boat ashore that didn’t intrude on anyone else’s spot.  This area is heaven.  So lush and shaded, and the clear fresh snow melt water from the creeks felt wonderful.  Because the area is so wet, there is a a long wooden raised pedestrian causeway that allows foot travelers (not horses) to keep their feet dry while walking the expanse of the area.

If we ever return to Convict Lake, I want to make sure we pack beach chairs and a big picnic basket, because I could seriously spend most of the day down in this area relaxing with a good book.

Convict Lake

The lush, shady, calm southwest end of the lake is a great spot to enjoy a picnic!

Convict Lake

There are dozens of little beach alcoves located at the far southwest end of the lake, perfect for pulling ashore.

Convict Lake

We were able to tie the boat off to a nearby tree and do a bit of exploring.

Convict Lake

Holly relished the chance to play around in the cool clear water.

Convict Lake

One of many mountain streams feeding the lake.

Convict Lake

The southwest end of the lake is filled with all these great little shady oasis where the streams run into the lake.

Convict Lake

A long raised wooden boardwalk lines the southwest end of the lake, allowing pedestrians to easily cross all of the streams.

Convict Lake

We were all in agreement that we could easily spend a whole day relaxing down here.

Convict Lake is quite the bustling center for summertime outdoors activity.  In addition to a resort, there’s a good size campground and several picnic areas — including one with a flat beach perfect for little ones to romp and play.  Anglers can be found throughout every nook and cranny along the shore.  There is also an approximately 3-mile long hiking and horseback riding trail that circles around the entire lake.  If it hadn’t been so windy that afternoon, and we’d stuck with our canoe plan, Jeff and I had planned for the two of us to hike around the lake while the kids continued to put-put around in their canoe.

The only thing missing at Convict Lake is plenty of shade.  We were surprised to discover how bare and exposed most of the shoreline actually is — except for that lush area at the far end of the lake, and a few pockets of picnic area.  Being a high Sierras lake, and such a popular resort, we expected it to look more like Lake Mary.  So if you’re planning to hike there, pack a hat and prepare for a very exposed (and sometimes very windy) trail.

But, definitely plan enough time in your next trip to Mammoth to visit the lake — even if just for a lunch and a pleasant drive.  We’re pretty sure though, that you won’t be able to resist exploring this gorgeous lake by boat.

Convict Lake

There's a great little beach and picnic area located at the south end of the lake.

Convict Lake

The three-mile long lake trail is popular with horseback riders.

Convict Lake

And it's equally popular with hikers, despite being so exposed.

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Comments

  1. says

    Looks like a great time. I am surprised how exposed it is there as well. Again, I enjoy the detailed information you put in your posts. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Thanks for the compliment, Traci!  We were surprised too — but, it’s still gorgeous and very pleasant during the cooler (and less windy) parts of the day.  I do think we’ll try Lake Mary or June Lake next visit.

  2. RKA says

    Nice pictures…what kind of camera were you using? I love to hike, but I hate carrying my big heavy Canon DSLR. Thanks!

    • says

      Just a Canon PowerShot SX110. Actually had to buy it on our honeymoon in the Canadian Rockies when our two pre-existing cameras both suffered fatal hiking injuries within weeks of each other!

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