6 Family-Friendly Ways to Enjoy the High Sierra
When daily life gets swamped with work and school it can be hard to really connect with the family, even more so in a world of iPods, video games and television. The perfect family vacation takes everyone out of that busy, high-tech world and gets them out into great outdoors. Mammoth Lakes is ideal for getting the kids out and active in the gorgeous setting of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Whether it’s for a family ski trip in the middle of winter, or for a summer getaway in the California sunshine, Mammoth has lots of ways to play together and experience this magnificent wilderness.
Hit the Hills
- Do: Go skiing or snowboarding
- Why: Nine terrain parks and over 150 great trails of some of the best skiing and boarding in California – not to mention more than 400 inches of snowfall and 300 days of sunshine every year.
- Kid Friendly Because: A quarter of the ski runs are beginner level, there’s a great beginner snow park and there are lots of ski lessons available for every age and skill set from ages three and up.
Mammoth Mountain is the tallest ski hill in California, and one of the most popular - It's one of our Best Ski Areas for Groups. There are so many trails that families can spend days on the slopes and still not hit them all. Mammoth has a wide variety of classes available for skiers and boarders of every age. Teens can learn new snowboarding tricks in the Stormrider Teen Sessions, the Little Pioneers group lessons teach three and four year olds the basic ski skills, and there are all kinds of lessons for every age in between.
There is child care available right in the Main Lodge, as well as combination ski school and child care packages if a full day on the hills is too much for the little ones. At the end of the day, head to Main Lodge, Eagle Lodge, or the Village, where there are numerous family friendly dining options as well as places for Mom and Dad to grab a refreshing drink.
Play in the Snow
- Do: Go tubing or play in the snow at Woolly’s Adventure Summit.
- Why: Every kid loves rushing downhill on a snow-tube.
- Kid Friendly Because: There are fun snow activities here for kids of every age, from the smallest toddler to the biggest thrill-seeking teen.
Tickets are available for two hours or a whole day, and there are free buses back and forth from the parking lot at the Village at Mammoth Mountain. Woolly's Adventure Summit is right on Minaret Road, about halfway between the Village at Mammoth and the Main Lodge.
Explore the Backcountry…on a Horse!
- Do: Go horseback riding
- Why: It’s the perfect way to enjoy breathtaking scenery without the kids complaining that their feet are tired.
- Kid Friendly Because: There are a wide variety of horseback riding adventures available, from one-hour excursions to full-day treks, and it lets kids feel like a real cowboy!
Several outfitting companies around Mammoth Lakes offer horseback riding trips into this stunning wilderness. You can get a taste of beauty on a one or two hour ride, or have an adventure with half-day and full day trips that bring visitors out to see old abandoned gold mines, sparkling lakes and rugged canyons. Two-hour trips are good for smaller kids, and include a guided visit to Convict Lake and McGee Canyon.
Sierra Meadows Ranch is popular for everything from one-hour horseback rides to all-day trips, and Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit is great for trips into the Inyo National Forest and John Muir Wilderness that range from an hour to a week long.
- Do: A high-tech treasure hunt with your kids
- Why: Geo-caching combines the latest technology of GPS with all the adventures of a great outdoor treasure hunt. It’s the perfect activity for older kids and teens who may need a little convincing that time in the great outdoors can be high-tech and cool.
- Kid Friendly Because: The kids get to run around, use tech gadgets and find cool surprises...and what kid doesn’t love a treasure hunt?
Right now, all over the Earth, in more than 220 countries, there are small waterproof containers hidden in hundreds of thousands of places, each one containing some small toys or trinkets or souvenirs. These boxes are called geocaches, and the idea of geocaching is that that anyone with a GPS can look up coordinates on the internet and set out to find these treasures. Once they are found, the geocachers can take the treasures in exchange leaving behind something of their own for the next person to find.
There are 55 geocache sites all around Mammoth Lakes, near trails, on the mountain or near historic attractions. There are all kinds of websites dedicated to geocaching with all the information to get started, and anyone with a GPS is free to take part.
Go for a Hike
- Do: Hit the trails for a nice walk with the kids.
- Why: There are hundreds of trails up Mammoth Mountain and around Mammoth Lakes, and each one offers a chance for families to get up close and personal with fields, flowers and animals.
- Kid-Friendly Because: It's is a refreshing activity for everyone from restless teens to curious youngsters to babies in baby carriers – and it's healthy and free.
There are challenging trails for older kids and easy one-hour loops for a slow strolls with toddlers. The Mammoth Mountain Trail is a three hour hike for older kids who want exercise and excellent views of the San Joaquin Valley, and the Panorama Dome is an easy one-mile hike for the kids that also has a nice valley view. Serous hikers can organize guided hiking trips with many of the same organizations that offer horseback riding trips. Trail maps are available online, at the Main Lodge, or at the ranger station. Pack snacks and be sure to bring water for a perfect day absorbing the beautiful outdoors.
Encourage a Little Shutterbug
- Do: Teach the kids how to use a camera and let them loose outside.
- Why: The Ansel Adams Wilderness Area is right next to Mammoth Lakes, and if one of the world’s most celebrated photographers can get his start here, so can your family!
- Kid-friendly Because: Kids love taking pictures, and giving them control over the camera can give them confidence and self esteem – and create some truly unique and wonderful family photos.
The Ansel Adams Wilderness area sits between Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes, and there are many stunning trails running right through its heart. Imagine the inspiration it can offer to your children.
The Sierra Nevadas are full of hidden gems for families. Our travel guides to the California Gold Country and High Sierra have even more ideas.