Is Mammoth Lakes Open?

Is Mammoth Lakes Open? Well, Kinda!

UPDATE: The Forest Closure Has Been Lifted! 9/15/21

People are asking if Mammoth Lakes is open because the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region announced a temporary closure of all National Forests in California. All of a sudden, the places we love to recreate and spend time in for weddings and elopements are not accessible. Businesses who lease their land from the Forest Service are now closed and weddings have had to find new locations to be had.

If you’re coming to Mammoth Lakes to get married during this closure, repeat after me, “I can do this”

As your mammoth elopement photographer and teammate, I’m working to make this as clear as possible to navigate these closures. This past year, we’ve all had to pivot again and again and again. Here we are again! Pivoting like it’s a tiktok dance we are trying to learn the moves to.

Here is what we know: The Why

Sometimes understanding (or trying to understand) “the why” behind something this impactful helps with learning these pivot dance moves. For me, it helps keep a sliver of hope instead of being wrecked by yet another closure. If you can relate to this, continue reading! If that’s not you, move along to the next section.

The purpose of this closure is to limit the chance of wild fires starting in the backcountry. They want all available resources working on putting out the Dixie, Caldor, Monument, and other active fires burning in California. Closing the National Forests can help minimize the chance of humans accidentally starting a fire on these public lands.

“The closure order will also decrease the potential for new fire starts at a time of extremely limited firefighting resources, and enhance firefighter and community safety by limiting exposure that occurs in public evacuation situations, especially as COVID-19 continues to impact human health and strain hospital resources.”

USDA Forest Service

Another reason they offer is one that really hits home for me. About a year ago this week, I was backpacking on National Forest land when the Creek Fire began. It was an impactful and jarring experience. We had no cell phone service and were able to gain little information about how to evacuate from the fire while on foot. The fire raged just 10 miles from us. We were able to hike ourselves to safety through a thundering smoke plume…

One reason for closing the National Forests is to prevent people having that experience.

“By temporarily reducing the numbers of people on national forests, we hope to minimize the likelihood that visitors could become entrapped on National Forest System lands during emergency circumstances.”

USDA Forest Service
mammoth lakes photogrqapher

What is Open in Mammoth Lakes?

If you’re coming to Mammoth Lakes to recreate, there are still places for you to go outdoors. The Shady Rest park (including the DiscGolf course) is open. I love the Shady Rest park for it’s oddly clean bathrooms and grass fields. The national forest surrounding the park is not open.

The skate park in town is open!

I just learned the official name of this bike path is the “multi-use path” but it’s open! This is my favorite running path and dog walking route. You can do an easy mile loop or seven mile loop! This is a great option of riding bikes as well. The route goes around the town and through Old Mammoth. The route up to the Lakes Basin is closed since it goes through National Forest land.

If you are someone who likes to get their ya-ya’s out via running and haven’t visited the Whitmore Track yet, well that needs to change! It is the most beautiful track around thanks to the surrounding Sierra Nevada to the West and the stunning White Mountains to the East. The grand beauty helps you forget, just for a moment, how hard track workout are. And who knows, maybe you’ll run into Olympian, Deena Castor.

Read more about what is open here.

Where To Find Open Outdoor Spaces

The surrounding National Forest lands are closed which means many venues have had to shutdown unexpectedly. There are two venues in Mammoth Lakes that are not on National Forest land. These two locations are Camp High Sierra and Sierra Star, both of which are owned and operated by Mammoth Mountain.

There are many locations close to Mammoth Lakes that are open. The National Parks are not impacted by this closure. This means Death Valley National Park and Yosemite National Park (with a reservation) remain open. There is one section of National Forest Land that remains open to Day-Use about an hour north of Mammoth Lakes in the Toiyabe National Forest. This includes the Virginia Lakes basin and Bridgeport area.

If you have a vision of your wedding photos being by a body of water then Virgina Lakes is your place!

Here is a list of other locations that are not impacted by the Forest Service Closure:

  • Manzanar National Historic Site
  • Mono Lake via the County Park
  • Bodie State Historic Park

In addition to these these available state parks, there are a handful of stunning locations on BLM land that I know of. If you want a desert landscape with towering rocks and a unique perspective of the Sierra Nevada range, let me know! I’d love to take you there. Here are a few examples of this location:

We’ll do our best to keep this article as up to date as possible! Thank you for hanging in there and let us know how we can support you as we all figure out this new stage of this dance.

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Jaymie is a Mammoth Lakes & Zion Photographer. She specializes in documenting small weddings & elopements.