Mammoth Scenic Loop is a short drive away from the center of Mammoth Lakes Village. The road to the loop connects the middle of the town to Highway 395 and passes old-growth forest and a scenic view point or two along the way. There are many turnoffs along the way where you can park, hike, or just hang out with the dogs or kids. In the winter, the hillside can be completely covered with deep snow, making it a great spot for sledding or snowshoeing.
Gates from Highway 203/Minaret Road and from Highway 395 close the Mammoth Scenic Road after a big snow storm and before the city manages to plow. Starting from the Highway 395 gate ensures closer access to solitude; if you begin from the gate that is closer to town, you will have to walk about a mile before you are far enough from your car to feel like you are in the backcountry. The city is usually pretty good at keeping the road plowed, however. When the gate is open, look for a parking spot on the side of the road and you can start snowshoeing from there. Just make sure you know the way back .
From the Highway 395 gate, walk on the road toward the first hill for great views of the area. It is always handy to study the overall map to make sure you know where you are and how to go back.
Note that you will want to avoid leaving your car right in front of a gate to avoid getting ticket.
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.