Also in this area is the trailhead for Rainbow Falls. The hike is only 1-1/4 miles and re-enters the national monument. The San Joaquin River broadly plunges 101 feet over a lava ledge and partly atomizes into a spectral-colored mist, which is best seen at midday. The rainbow in the mist of the falls is a daily occurrence, as long as the sun is shining.
This canyon is snowed in during the winter, but Mammoth Mountain is open all year. This inactive volcano is home to one of the country’s grandest downhill-ski areas. The skiing terrain is a healthy mix of 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced. Thirty-two lifts and 150 trails covering 3,100 vertical feet serve skiers of all abilities. For the borderline suicidal, there are advanced to expert runs (i.e., cliffs and near cliffs) from the summit, which a gondola reaches in 20 minutes. That gondola is also open for summer visitors who want to hike across the summit to enjoy the scenery from probably the best, most easily reached vantage point around.
Returning to the village, turn right on the Lake Mary Road to get to the Mammoth Lakes. The distinctive granite spire called Crystal Crag dominates this best mountain bikes under 300 glacier-scoured basin. The cluster of lakes here is sprinkled with campgrounds. Mammoth Mountain RV Park is one of the most popular and is open year-round. In addition to camping, visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, horseback riding and hiking.
From Horseshoe Lake, the farthest one you can drive to, you can hike to McLeod Lake in a half-mile, then on over Mammoth Pass to Reds Meadow. For a memorable meal, picnic at the Twin Falls Overlook, where the outlet of Lake Mamie tumbles over volcanic boulders 300 feet to the Twin Lakes below.
Heading back to U.S. Highway 395 and turning right (south), you can visit more Mammoth attractions. Convict Lake, a 10-minute drive from Mammoth Lakes Village, offers camping, fishing, horseback riding and hiking, including a level, one-mile long trail around the north shore, and trails into the John Muir Wilderness. Mount Morrison looms over the southside of Convict Canyon, and aspens in the campground put on a show in the fall.