The Easiest Backcountry Access Points in Mammoth Lakes

The Easiest Backcountry Access Points in Mammoth Lakes

Now that the storms in the Eastern Sierra have started stacking up, more and more people are heading into the backcountry. There are so many staging areas to access the backcountry around Mammoth Lakes it is hard to know where to start. This post will focus on some of the easiest places to find parking, slap on your skins or snowshoes, and start hiking up the mountain for some untouched pow.

A couple things to note: Venturing into the backcountry is super dangerous. You should never go into the backcountry without a shovel, probe, and beacon. These are necessary life saving items you should bring with you and know how to use. It is highly recommended you take an AAI Avalanche Course or Intro to Backcountry course, such as this offered by International Alpine Guides. We also highly recommend getting a guide book for your area, we absolutely love the guide book titled BACKCOUNTRY SKIING CALIFORNIA'S EASTERN SIERRA. You can find it local ski shops that carry backcountry gear or online. You should also check out the daily avalanche report from the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center before you make any decisions about where you are going.

Easy Mammoth Lakes Backcountry Skiing and Splitboarding

The Sherwins via Sherwin Creek Rd. aka The Propane Tanks

One of the easiest places to start exploring the backcountry in Mammoth Lakes is at the winter closure of Sherwin Creek Road. Just turn left off Old Mammoth Road and proceed to the closure where you will see a large parking lot on the right. The access is so easy that many people jokingly refer to this area as Sidecountry because it is too easy to be considered real backcountry. This is a popular starting spot for snowshoeing, winter hiking, backcountry access, snowman building, and dog waking. From here you can access some classic Mammoth Lakes runs including the Tele Bowls and Punta Bardini. The hike to the Tele Bowls is less than 2 miles, so it is a great beginner route and the perfect option if you only have a few hours. There are also a number of smaller hills on your way into The Sherwins if you just want a quick and easy run. More experienced skiers and splitboarders will ascend to the top of Punta Bardini and ski/ride the Bardini Chutes or continue along the crest to access a variety of other runs.

The Sherwins Backcountry Access Mammoth Lakes

The Shewins via End of Old Mammoth Road

Another super easy backcountry access point in Mammoth is at the end of Old Mammoth Road. Just drive down Old Mammoth Road to a plowed area leading to the winter closure. Park along the side of the road and head up the hill. Here you can access Mammoth Rock Bowl, Poop Chute, and many other backcountry runs. This section of The Sherwins is also referred to as Sidecountry because of the ease of access and the relatively short uphill hikes. You can also hike along the top of the ridge and find tons of different spots to drop in, but you can get into some cliff areas and heavy trees, so make sure you know where you are going.

Mammoth Crest via Lake Mary Road (see cover photo)

One of the most popular areas for backcountry skiing and splitboarding in Mammoth Lakes is the Mammoth Crest. To get there, drive straight into town on the 203 and continue up Lake Mary Road to the winter closure. There is some street parking near the closure and a small parking lot by Twin Lakes. This is also where Tamarack Cross Country Skiing is located. The hike into the many different descents in the Mammoth Crest can be a slog. You'll go a few miles before you even hit the base of the mountain you want ski. Then, after your run, you'll have a few mile hike back to your vehicle. The Mammoth Crest is where you can access runs like Red Cone Bowl, TJ Bowl, Jaws, and an unlimited number of other runs. The hikes can be long, but the runs are super amazing in this area and there are less and less people the further you go, so it can be worth it.

Mammoth Scenic Loop Backcountry Staging

Mammoth Scenic Loop

The Mammoth Scenic Loop is a great example of being able to backcountry ski or splitboard anywhere you see a hill. There are not a lot of named runs in this area, but there are plenty of options for skiing or boarding. Most people just find a spot to park on the side of the road or in a small plowed area near a cross country ski trail. Once you park, head up one of the many peaks along this scenic drive. You can access this backcountry area from Mammoth Scenic Loop which is on the way to Mammoth Mountain Ski area. There will be a sign telling you where to make the right turn and then just drive down the road until you see a spot you want to ski or ride.

Obsidian Dome Backcountry Access Mammoth Lakes

Obsidian Dome Road

This is another area that isn't really in any of the guide books because it isn't really considered hardcore backcountry. None the less, there is almost always an established skin track to follow to the prominent peak directly in front of you while hiking at the groomed cross country ski trail. Obsidian Dome backcountry access is located about half way between June Lake and Mammoth Lakes right off the 395. The parking lot is well marked by a large sign pointing to Obsidian Dome Road. This is a fun little area for those who don't want to spend a whole day hiking. The run down is super fun, although it isn't as gnarly as many of the others covered in this post. At the top of the peak adjacent to Obsidian Dome there are some amazing 360 degree views, multiple descent lines, and an easy hike back out to your vehicle.

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