The McLeod Lake Trail is an easy and surprisingly underused hike to quickly access a picturesque and serene Sierra alpine lake.
The trailhead is accessed at the end of Lake Mary Road and shares a parking lot with the dwindling Horseshoe Lake. The effects of California’s drought can’t be missed here. You're also sure to notice hundreds of acres of dead trees, a result of carbon dioxide that seeps from the ground near Mammoth Mountain, which is a relatively young volcano.
The well marked trail starts at just under 9,000 feet in elevation and is shared with the Mammoth Pass Trail. The path is wide and sandy with a short section of steep climbing, but it is generally level terrain with only around 300 feet of elevation gain. The hike to the lake is just under a half mile, and the sand and thin forest around the shore makes a loop around the lake a nice way to extend your trip.
The crystal clear water is mesmerizing, and it makes the shore a great picnic destination. You may also be sharing this place with the occasional fisherman as it’s a great spot for those enjoying catch and release fishing; it’s also an excellent hike for dogs. This trail is also a perfect choice for families or those looking to acclimate to higher altitudes.
Note that Lake Mary Road is closed from mid-November to mid-April, so if you want to explore up here during the snowier months you'll have to ski or snowshoe in for an additional 5 miles (which may make this adventure even better).