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For a long weekend or cool summer vacation, these five mountain towns are easy to get to and even easier to love

Mammoth Lakes, California

Cyclists bike on a path around Mammoth Lakes
Photo: Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Illustration: Ryan Vellinga

Lay low — or raise the adrenaline level — in the High Sierras

Mammoth Lakes, a quaint locale nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, is a central California go-to for outdoorsy Las Vegans, perhaps because it’s only a six-hour drive away. The return on that road-trip investment is a picturesque ski town with mountain views and towering pines. Originally a mining community, the mountain got its first official ski area in 1955 due to the efforts of entrepreneur and skier Dave McCoy. Today, Mammoth (as it’s known to familiars) is replete with both indoor and outdoor leisure opportunities, making it a good compromise for a family made up of people with different vacation priorities. Take mine, for instance, who spent our last summer getaway before the pandemic there. There was so much diversified fun that we were all (mostly) still talking on that six-hour drive home.


Among the town’s famed resorts, a Davis family favorite is The Village Lodge, a self-contained wonderland where you could spend an entire Mammoth vacation without ever leaving — or running out of things to do. The downtown hotel features direct gondola access for skiers, fitness and game rooms, cozy fire pits placed around the lodge, full kitchens in each room, and outdoor balconies. The lodge is also connected to a walkable shopping area, which is a cool intro to the town for newcomers and a reliably fun evening for repeat visitors ($215 and up, .
For something a little less civilized, book a spot at the historic Camp High Sierra basecamp, which offers tent sites, RV hookups, and Cabins with outdoor amenities ($39 and up, mammothmountain com).


For fine dining and live entertainment, make a reservation at the exclusive Lakefront Restaurant ( If you’re feeling healthy, head to Elixir Superfood and Juice, a vegan- and paleo-
friendly restaurant serving gluten-free and locally sourced eats in a fast-casual environment ( For more of a novelty, visit Eleven53 Café, propped atop Mammoth peak, and nosh on Asian-inspired lunches at 11,053 ft (

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Those taking it slow can catch live entertainment and see photos and artifacts from Mammoth’s previous eras at the Mammoth Museum at the historic Hayden Cabin ( For those on the faster track, a ride on the scenic gondola to the peak of Mammoth Mountain is one of the town’s highlights. At over 11,000 feet, it’s the highest ski resort in the state. The truly adventurous can indulge in Black Diamond skiing and snowboarding from there; the rest of us disembark at the Eleven53 Interpretive Center for spectacular views of the Sierra Nevadas and the still-snowy ground in the middle of summer ( For families, Mammoth’s Adventure Center has ziplines, access to junior biking trails, rock climbing walls, and plenty of other ways to run the afternoon zoomies out of little ones (


I’m a romantic introvert, so my idea of a perfect day starts with renting a canoe at June Lake Marina and taking it out on the sparkling body of water surrounded by mountains. Once on the water, I’d sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of summer in the Sierras ( ).

For more information about Mammoth Lakes, go to