|Date Visited: August 4, 2011|
|Check current conditions: Convict Lake Marina (760) 934-3800|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
View Mammoth Lakes Vacation in a larger map