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Inyo Craters

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

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Inyo Craters

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  • Parking is off of Mammoth Scenic Loop Road.- Inyo Craters
  • The route to the craters follows a dirt road, and skiers must share the roads with snowmobiles during the winter.- Inyo Craters
  • Having an idea of your route beforehand is helpful as different color blazes mark the network of roads and trails in the area.- Inyo Craters
  • The route sticks to gentle rolling terrain for the most part.- Inyo Craters
  • A series of unmarked forks lies along the path.- Inyo Craters
  • Bathroom along the trail... if you're willing to dig for it!- Inyo Craters
  • One option is to take the marked snowmobile road to the craters. - Inyo Craters
  • Another option is to head into the trees, paralleling a likely-hidden summer hiking trail.- Inyo Craters
  • Reaching the saddle with views of Deer Mountain signals that the craters are not too far away.- Inyo Craters
  • Blue blazes mark the trail to Deer Mountain, though you'll have to veer from this path to reach the craters.- Inyo Craters
  • Overlooking the larger of the two craters.- Inyo Craters
  • The lake at the base of the crater is frozen over in the winter.- Inyo Craters
  • Skiing along the Inyo Craters.- Inyo Craters
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Scenic. Mixes rolling terrain with backcountry opportunities.
Cons: 
Roads used by snowmobiles.
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Region:
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Groomed trail: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
230.00 ft (70.10 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring
Total Distance: 
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,976.00 ft (2,431.08 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

The Inyo Craters lie near the summit of Deer Mountain off of Mammoth Lakes' Mammoth Scenic Loop Road. A popular summer hike, the gently rolling road to the craters is groomed during the winter months and makes one of the more popular winter trails outside of the town. 

The Inyo Craters are among the southernmost of the larger Mono-Inyo Crater chain, a series of volcanic domes and explosion pits from activity ranging from 500 to 5,000 years ago. 

During the warmer seasons, a mineral-colored lake sits at the base of the craters, the deeper of the two craters having a depth of about 200 feet. The winter, however, brings freezing temperatures and lots of snow to the craters, and those brilliant colors are replaced by a white sheet.

Winter snowpack turns Dry Creek Road into a popular route for snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers. And while the roar of snowmobiles along the route may get annoying, the path to the craters leaves the busier road and heads into dense and steep forest. 

One option is to try to parallel the summer trail to the craters; however, winter usually buries all signs of this trail along with any trail markers. It may be possible to follow tracks from other skiers or blue blazes that mark the trail to Deer Mountain. 

Another option is to follow the sign pointing to the snowmobile road, which cuts directly up a steep incline to the craters. This route is steep, slick, and may not be optimal for skis.

The craters are about 2 miles out, and upon reaching them the narrow forest roads open up to large skies over the the 600-foot long crater with clear views of Deer Mountain. 

Be careful, as snow tends to cover the fencing meant to keep visitors back from the sheer edges. You can head back the way you came or try to head down the route you didn't take up and add some variation to your trek.

There are no amenities of any kind along the trail. All amenities are available in the town of Mammoth Lakes.

Backcountry Safety

Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(63 within a 30 mile radius)

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