If getting to Mammoth Lakes was easy, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.
That’s not to say that driving to Mammoth Lakes is always difficult, in fact the highway to Mammoth Lakes gradually climbs up through the Eastern Sierras without many sharp turns and is always well maintained despite the amount of snow that falls in winter. Still, Mammoth Lakes weather is unpredictable and if you’re unfamiliar with the area and regulations to keep drivers safe then you may hit a major speedbump on the road into town.
To help you prepare for your drive, we’ve put together a few tips for driving to Mammoth Lakes. Check them out below and start packing the car for your Mammoth Lakes adventure!
One of the biggest roadblocks while driving to Mammoth Lakes is winter storms.
Although the snow they leave behind draws people from all over the country, Eastern Sierra winter storms can make driving dangerous even though the area road crews are some of the best in the country. If you’re not familiar with California chain requirements, then you must become so before you drive to Mammoth Lakes in the winter. California law requires chains based on road conditions, the type of tires on a car, and whether the car has off-road capabilities like 4-wheel drive.
The best way to prepare for a drive to Mammoth Lakes is to check with Caltrans several times before you walk out the door. If you check road conditions during a snowstorm, you may see categories, known as chain control, called R1, R2, and R3. In R1 conditions you must have chains on your tires unless they are snow tires. In R2 conditions, your car must have All-Wheel-Drive or 4-Wheel-Drive and snow tires or chains equipped to legally drive on the road. Lastly, the most severe condition is R3. R3 conditions are extremely dangerous to drive in, so if you see them reported you should reschedule your drive. If driving to Mammoth Lakes during winter, always travel with chains and know how to equip them as conditions can change fast!
Roads into Mammoth Lakes
The main highway into Mammoth lakes is Route 395.
If you’re driving to Mammoth Lakes from Southern California, Route 395 will take you all the way from just outside of Los Angeles to Mammoth Lakes. While there are plenty of stops along the way, once you get into the Eastern Sierras the main stop before Mammoth Lakes is the town of Bishop which offers lodging and dining options if you can’t make it into town. Route 395 is also the only way into Mammoth Lakes if you’re driving from somewhere to the west like San Francisco or Sacramento during winter, so pay attention to traffic, conditions, and construction reports along 395.
Although 395 will bring you close to Mammoth Lakes, you will need to take SR 203 to finish the final leg of the drive, so look for any road closures or construction along SR 203 as well!
How to get to Yosemite National Park
While there is plenty to do in Mammoth Lakes, one of the things that makes it such a great place to visit is the fact that there is so much more in the surrounding area.
The main attraction in the area is Yosemite National Park, with the fastest route to the park being north up 395 and then turn left onto SR 120. It’s important to note that this route is closed during the winter, so if you’re visiting during the winter plan plenty of extra time for your drive to Yosemite.
If you’re looking to make your drive to Mammoth into a road trip, check out our road trip post here.