Summer’s hot and crowded days have passed, and many of us are seeking relaxing fall escapes into nature. Here’s a tip: head east over California’s mighty Sierra Nevada to Mono County and the Mammoth Lakes region for a big dose of high elevation mountain scenery—think rushing streams, dense forest, serene lakes and fall color.
Autumn is an ideal time to visit the eastern Sierra. Crowds are light, temperatures are cooler and, even better, the region’s aspen forests provide a dazzling, albeit brief, display of fall color. (Find the latest details on those hues and a map of where colors are nearing peak display at
One of the best ways to immerse oneself in Mammoth’s abundant natural splendor is to overnight in a rustic cabin and live like a pioneer — 21st century-style.
There are many cabin choices in Mammoth, from historic lakeside cabins in the dense woods to more modern tiny homes set in mountain meadows. I recently spent two nights at the Alpenhof Lodge, located near Mammoth’s Village complex, and another two nights at the Double Eagle Resort & Spa at the base of 10,908-foot Carson Peak on the June Lake loop.
After a week of cabin life, I can attest that there’s no better place to plunk yourself down and bathe in nature than a cozy wooden house in the woods. Here are some of the best rustic cabin options in the Mammoth region to try out this fall:
Cabins at Mammoth Lakes
After an unhurried, day-long drive from the Bay Area over the Sierra’s dramatically steep and scenic Sonora Pass, we arrived at Mammoth Lake’s Alpine-style Alpenhof Lodge, whose entrance is embellished by an oversized Willkommen in German-style lettering.
We stayed in one of the lodge’s two-bedroom cabins, equipped with a small kitchen and fireplace and set in a woodsy setting alongside the main lodge. While not in the deep woods, the Alpenhof is in an ideal location right across from the Mammoth Village, where resort-style restaurants, bars and shops beckon, and a free open-air trolley, equipped with a bike trailer, can transport you to the world-famous Mammoth Mountain bike park and to the spectacular Mammoth Lakes Basin for picnics, fishing, hikes, mountain bike and horseback rides, and refreshing lake swims.
Just across the street from the lodge is the paved Lakes Basin multi-use path that winds five miles up into the mountains. It’s perfect for walks, runs and road and mountain bike rides. (Class 1 e-mountain bikes are also allowed on the path and are a popular choice with cyclists.)
Enjoy the Alpenhof’s lively Clocktower cellar bar, whose multiple craft brew taps and whiskey selection are popular with the locals, and Petra’s, an excellent bistro and wine bar. Details: alpenhof-lodge.com
Mammoth Mountain Chalets, right next to the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge, has numerous hiking and biking trails right from your doorstep — and a nearby shuttle takes explorers to Reds Meadow and Yosemite National Park. Each cabin has a private deck and a wood-burning stove. Details: mmchalets.com
Historic Tamarack Lodge and Resort is the grande dame of Mammoth Lakes Basin and oozes charm with its cabins and a rustic main lodge set on the shore of pristine Twin Lakes. Its popular, upscale Lakefront Restaurant has attracted visitors for decades. Details: mammothmountain.com
Several rustic, historic lodges also can be found in the Mammoth region. Secluded Crystal Crag Lodge, set at 9,000 feet on the shore of Lake Mary has drawn visitors here for almost a hundred years. That’s in large part thanks to the lodge’s incredible setting: a trout-filled lake, the pure mountain air and the countless tree-lined hiking and biking trails on the edge of the High Sierra backcountry. These rustic cabins are very popular and often booked a year in advance. Details: crystalcrag.com
The Wildyrie Lodge on Lake Mamie offers lakeside cottages with full kitchens, bathrooms and spacious sun decks with barbecues. Built in 1928, Wildyrie was one of the first hunting and fishing lodges in the Eastern Sierra. It also served as a local post office and general store. Details: wildyrielodge.com
Lake George’s Woods Lodge has rustic cabins with full kitchens and fireplaces, and many have dramatic views of the stunning scenery surrounding the property. Details: woodslodgemammoth.com
Sierra Meadows Ranch offers tiny home-style cabins with one bedroom and one bath and set in a scenic, wide-open meadow on the outskirts of town. Each cabin offers a full kitchen, living room and a private bedroom with queen bed, bunk beds and a sleeper sofa. Details: sierrameadowsranch.com/lodging
Just south of the town of Mammoth Lakes, Convict Lake’s cabins, each named after local fish species and landmarks are set in an aspen forest. This is one of the top spots in the region for lakeside fall color. Details: convictlake.com
Cabins at June Lake
The Double Eagle Resort & Spa is just 12 miles from the eastern entrance to Yosemite Park and 22 miles northeast from Mammoth Lakes. The resort’s 16 cabins offer charming, rustic luxury in an aspen and pine forest.
Many are set by a trout-filled pond and a rushing creek at the base of Carson Peak, a steep-sided Sierra edifice of almost surreal beauty. Horsetail Falls, perched midway on the peak, was a torrent of snowmelt, flowing like a burst water main out of a granite wall, when I was there. Wagon wheels and old mining equipment decorate the grounds, which also houses a spa, indoor pool and the excellent Eagle’s Landing restaurant. Details: doubleeagle.com
Silver Lake Resort, just a few miles from the town of June Lake on the June Lake Loop, was established in 1916 and is one of the premier destinations for trout fishing in the Sierra. Some 17 cabins offer the perfect retreat for anglers, hikers and outdoor lovers. Details: silverlakeresort.net/cabins
The dining scene
Alpenhof Lodge, Tamarack Lodge, Double Eagle Resort and Sierra Meadows Ranch have restaurants on property. You might also want to treat yourself to some of the many excellent restaurants and brewpubs in Mammoth Lakes. Here are some suggestions:
Set at the busy intersection of Minaret and Lake Mary Road, the spacious Mammoth Brewing Company brewery and pub offers a wide menu including ale-battered fish and chips, barbecue chicken flatbread pizzas, crispy chicken and jalapeno griddle cakes, hearty pub salads and fried chicken sandwiches with sriracha cabbage slaw. Check out details and the menu at mammothbrewingco.com.
Dos Alas Cafe & Lounge favors “Cubarican” dishes such as sandwiches with roasted garlic pork and ham and cheese, as well as Spanish pollo en escabeche (pickled chicken). It’s located at Sierra Meadows Ranch. Find details and peek at the menu at dosalascafe.com.
And the Warming Hut offers classic comfort food in an airy setting in Mammoth Lakes. Try the Chicken n’ Waffle for breakfast, the Cubano sandwich for lunch or the flatiron steak for dinner. Take a look at the menu at thewarminghutmammoth.com.