This summer marked the completion of 5.3 miles of paved bike path through forests above the town of Mammoth Lakes, California. The clearly marked, two-lane path starts at the top of Lake Mary Rd. at Horseshoe Lake, elevation 8,935'.
The ride is easy and fun for all ages – for those who choose to go downhill. A few riders like to show off by riding uphill, but why? The path travels through lush pine forest past the Pokonobe Lodge on Lake Mary, with wooden bridges over waterfalls and creeks. The Mammoth Lakes Trail and Public Access Foundation recently posted path mileage and information signs all along the trail, with each sign advising of one's exact location should 911 services be needed.
While riding past the Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit, bicyclists are advised that horses crossing the path have the right of way. Riders must follow the rules of horse etiquette: to avoid startling the horses, speak to them, as apparently they understand the human voice is not from a predator. Who knew?
We continued on down through the Twin Lakes campground, stopping at the general store for ice cream, and past the Tamarack Lodge to the Twin Lakes lookout point at 8,600'.
The remaining two and a half miles parallel Lake Mary Road's quick decent into town. It appears you're on the rim of the world. While trying to keep your eyes on the path, look out across the entire Mammoth valley, south to Crowley Lake, and east to the White Mountain range that straddles the California–Nevada border.
The bike path comes an abrupt end at the western entrance into town, the corner of Main Street and Canyon Blvd. Unfortunately, there was no signage directing first-timers to the shuttle pick-up behind The Village complex across the street (at least for those who failed to read the shuttle information posted at the beginning of the path).
The $13-million project took 12 years to complete, and is the result of collaboration between numerous agencies including the U.S. Forest Service and the Town of Mammoth Lakes, and includes some Obama stimulus funds. To accommodate the last two and half miles into town, Lake Mary Road had to be re-aligned by up to twelve feet by carving out the mountainside and using retaining walls.
The town provides free trolley shuttles back up to the top, with a bike trailer for twelve bikes. The trolleys run every half hour from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. through November 19, stopping at every lake and lodge in the basin, and are just as available to non-bikers, hikers and fishermen.
(Note: more adventurous riders should also check out Mammoth Mountain's mountain biking park.)