Another gorgeous part of the Inyo National Forest, Sherwin Lakes trail is one of my favorite hikes in Mammoth that features two small lakes and is accessible for all level hikers. Like many of the other trails in the Mammoth Lakes system, this takes you through a slow ascent up through the mountain with sweeping views ultimately bringing you to a pair of beautiful glass looking lakes. This is one of the lesser trafficked hikes, and is great to do with friends since the lakes provide a perfect backdrop for an afternoon picnic.
Length: 5.3 miles out and back | Level: Moderate | Duration: 3-4 hours | Elevation: 900
Dogs: Yes on leash | Parking: Free at the trailhead
The trail-head is easy to find- coordinates here. Located on the east side of Mammoth, and at lower elevation, you can park for free right at the trail entrance and won't need to worry about any permits or shuttles unlike some of the other popular hikes in the area. This trail is very well marked for the most part, and since only one other trail (Valentine Lake Trail) connects here it is easy to stay on track.
Quick Trail Tips:
This hike is great for picnics! Pack a lunch and plan to hang out for a bit at the lake
Dress in light layers, though the hike is not shaded and tends to get hot, it can get breezy by the lake
Best done in summer months to avoid snowfall as the trail may be closed in winter
Yes, you can swim in the lakes but the water is freezing!
As always, bring water - it is a hot hike in the summer months
The hike begins right off the parking area, and initially is an easy walk through an open field that takes you to the only shaded forested part of the trail. You'll first see a small river crossing of Sherwin River, and a cute photo op on the bridge to cross it. Enjoy the shade here, as there won't be much once you get going through the majority of the trail.
Shortly after, you'll emerge from the wooded section and begin the real ascent up the mountain. It's about a 2-mile moderate ascent uphill with a few switchbacks. There are parts that feel a bit steep but there are plenty of awesome photo ops and views along the way which make the climb so worth it!
At just about halfway up the ascent, you'll get to a vista viewpoint here on this rock which provides you with a beautiful sweeping view of the town of Mammoth. We did this hike in August, so it was definitely on the hotter side even when starting in the morning. The uphill stretch isn't complete yet, but you'll have this view until the peak levels off and you head down into the lake area.
After enjoying the amazing view, the trail continues up the side of the mountain with a few more switchbacks to the top. Eventually you will hit a little bit of a clearing where the trail starts to descend into the lake area. Elevation here is about 8,700 feet--the hike itself takes you up about 1000 from the trailhead. The lakes will become visible on this part of the walk as you make your way down.
Once you get to the bottom of the trail, it ground becomes a bit sandier and the first lake will be in view! With a clear view of Bloody Mountain visible above the treetops, the destination here at the official Sherwin Lake number one is nothing less than spectacular. When we arrived, there were only a couple of other people there so we basically had this part of the afternoon to ourselves.
As mentioned earlier, this trail is a perfect spot to hang out for awhile and have a picnic. A couple of my hiking buddies even jumped in the lake - freezing but refreshing from the heat on the hike. There are two lakes at this destination, so if you continue just short of a half mile past this one you'll find Sherwin Lake number two. If you are looking for an even longer hike, you can pursue a few more miles until this trail meets with Valentine Lake trail. Keep in mind, the trek back from Valentine Lake is about double the length back to the trailhead versus if you go back the way you came.
After hanging out for about an hour and enjoying our picnic and swim, we decided to head back the way we came. The best part about hikes that are uphill on the way there, is going down on the way back! It took us about half the time to get back to the trailhead and as it was later in the day, the weather was a bit cooler. Even though I tend to prefer loop hikes so you get a change of scenery, this hike certainly didn't disappoint.
There are a ton more trails to explore in Mammoth Lakes! DM or leave a comment with your favorites, as I'm always looking to find more. Hope you enjoy a day out in Sherwin Lakes!
Google Map Coordinates here.
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