Mammoth Crest is the long sweeping ridge that forms the southwestern rim of the Mammoth Lakes Basin. The eastern end of Mammoth Crest is composed of dark jagged peaklets that are rarely visited, but the northwestern end has a half mile granite cliffband with a sandy forested top.
The cliffband above McLeod Lake has many seldom used climbing routes that are described is the guidebook, 'Mammoth Area Rock Climbs', and routes have also been established on the Ship's Prow near the eastern end.
Mammoth Crest is best known for its hiking and scrambling though. There are many ways to ascend to the ridge from McLeod Lake, Crystal Lake, and TJ Lake through alpine forests and up through mixed talus and rock outcroppings. The hiking trail from Lake George to the Red Cone atop the northern end of Mammoth Crest is very popular in the summer, with many hikers wandering around the twisted pines on the plateau and heading back down.
One of the best hiking loops in the Mammoth area travels nearly the entire length of the ridge, rewarding the hikers with great views up and down the Sierra. The Mammoth Crest Loop follows the trail from Lake George to the Red Cone atop the crest (2 miles, 1400 ft), then continues south and east along the ridgeline to Deer Lakes (5 miles, 2400 feet). From Deer Lakes, the route follows a use trail east over a saddle to Duck Pass, then down the Duck Pass Trail to Coldwater Campground in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. One variation is to take a use trail from Skelton Lake west to Emerald Lake, then a maintained trail to Barrett Lake and back down to Lake George, thus avoiding Coldwater Campground and eliminating the need for a car shuttle.
Eastern Mammoth Crest
Travel west on Main Street in Mammoth Lakes through the stoplight at Minaret. Main Street becomes Lake Mary Road and begins to head south toward the Mammoth Lakes Basin. You will see Crystal Crag ahead as you pass Twin Lakes and the Pack Outfit on your right and Lake Mary on your left. Then turn left at Pokonobe Lodge and then right just after the bridge. Lake George is just up the hill with the trailhead on the west end of the parking area.
Other routes up Mammoth Crest can be accessed from Horseshoe Lake at the end of Lake Mary Road, and Coldwater Campground south of Lake Mary.
Wilderness Permits are required for overnight stays along the Mammoth Crest Loop. They are available at the Mammoth area visitor's center just east of Mammoth Lakes on Hwy 203.
Deer Lakes is a popular backpacking and horse packing spot during the summer. Campsites in the alpine basin can fill up on the weekends, but more great campsites can be found in the meadows below the lakes.
Lake George Campground and Coldwater Campground are obvious choices for car and tent camping. More camping is available at Lake Mary and Twin Lakes. Inyo Forest Campground Page