It had been a few weeks since my last adventure and I was itching to explore and ride a new area that’s not 100+ degrees. I’ve never been up to Mammoth Lakes area so I figured I’d squeeze in a trip before summer comes to an end. Mammoth has tons of riding for motorcycles and ATVs as well as Mammoth Bike Park for some downhill mountain biking. Although the area is a little pricey as far as hotels go, there are plenty of places to camp.
Thursday morning we loaded up the dual sport bikes, our camping gear and the mountain bikes. We set off for the Sierras for much cooler weather. Although Vegas recently had a slight dip in temperature, it was still around 100° this weekend. I used to ride all summer long in that heat. Been there, done that though. With so many cooler summer destinations within hours of home, I’ve chosen to ride up in the mountains where the air is cool. I’ll leave the desert for the other three seasons of the year.
We worked our way north to Mammoth and saw some wildlife on the way. Actually this guy was probably from a nearby ranch since he had a harness on, but it was still wildlife to us.
Once we got to Mammoth, we set up camp at Sherwin Creek Campground. I reserved online and it was ready when we got there.
It was still early enough to go exploring so we hopped on the bikes and went riding.
Since the sun was going down we didn’t have much time to explore or go very far, so I knew exactly the place we had to go, Deadman Pass! It’s a short but steep Jeep trail that leads to an overlook with an elevation of 10,250 feet! You can see Mammoth Mountain directly across the valley. We got there just as the sun was setting and the views were badass.
Once the sun went down it got cold real quick. We weren’t geared up very much so we took off back down the mountain.
Back at camp we made a fire, kicked back with some beers for a little bit and then settled in for the night so we could get an early start.
Friday – Rise and Shine!
Friday morning the sun made it’s way up and illuminated camp.
I fired up the JetBoil Zip and made us some quick and easy instant coffee.
Geared up and ready for the day, we took off from camp to grab a quick bite to eat at Micky D’s.
After breakfast, we headed towards the mountains via Sawmill Cutoff…
…and then we went under the 395 highway via a drainage tunnel.
We continued down a power line road that paralleled the highway and headed to the mountain trails just north of Crestview.
The inside of this old tree looked interesting. Mike felt like modeling with it.
We jumped on to this ATV trail that zig-zagged through the trees.
The trails were mostly loose pumice sand…
…with tons of big trees and pine cones.
The trail opened up to a huge meadow surrounded by trees. It was a fun area to get some air flowing through the jacket.
Hartley Loop Singletrack
After playing around on the singletrack and forest trails we crossed the highway to the east side and rode the Hartley Loop, a winding singletrack trail that is designated for motorcycles or mountain bikes only. Only two wheels are allowed here. Love it!
The singletrack was tasty! It hugged the sides of steep hills, squeezed between trees and featured a couple hill climbs in some sections. It was technical enough to be an exciting trail and the soft pumice sand made it a fun challenge for a 300+ lb dual sport bike.
The trail crossed the main road several times, yet each exit and entrance were clearly marked by the Forest Service and were plenty protected from side x sides and ATVs.
Along the way there was a huge downed tree blocking the trail. Other riders managed to carve a path around it so it was a fun detour.
A little bushwhacking was involved, but nothing extreme.
We made a stop at June Lake. I’ve heard quite a bit about this place so we definitely had to check it out.
We rode down to the shore to get a closer look at the crystal clear water and awesome views.
I was surprised how empty the place was. I expected it to be packed with people. There were only a few small groups of people on the beach and paddle boarding on the water.
After June Lake, we continued north on the 395 for a few miles then got back on some more dirt west of the highway near Grant Lake. We continued north along Rush Creek towards Lee Vining.
We came up on a few abandoned vehicles and an old cabin.
Then just as we thought we were on a public dirt road, we ended up on someone’s property. They had a fence blocking the road. A bunch of dogs ran out barking at us and one even bit my left boot! I shook him off my Tech 8 and we quickly got the heck out of there. So much for that route!
We passed by Mono Lake. It is one of the oldest lakes in North America dating back 760,000 years. Because it has no outlet, it has extremely high levels of salinity. The lake is about 13 miles long, but it is relatively shallow with a maximum depth of only 159′. Interesting limestone towers, known as the Tufa Towers, were exposed when water levels dropped back in the 1990’s. Another interesting side note: Pink Floyd shot a photo near this place below for one of their Japan “Wish You Were Here” LP covers.
More photos of Mono Lake
We headed further north and exited the highway to dirt around Mono City. There were a few small creek crossings and lush areas along the way.
The trail kept climbing up and up the mountain until we had a great view of Mono Lake from up there.
Just north of Virginia Lakes, we rode up a Jeep trail that ended at this gem of a lake or pond or maybe it was just an area of snow melt. It didn’t show up as a body of water on my GPS, so that’s what I’m calling it…snow melt. It was crystal clear. The elevation up there was over 10,000 feet.
After that we went back down the mountain and through more green stuff heading even farther north. We were making good time so I was confident we could do a big loop through Bridgeport, over east to check out the ghost town of Bodie, then back down to Mammoth.
We stopped at a questionable outside food establishment for lunch. All this time, the combination of some poor food decisions and high altitude were messing with both our systems if you know what I mean. This place had alot of burritos and burgers. I wanted something healthy so I ordered a BLM wrap. This thing turned out to be a giant gut bomb, bacon filled burrito! Oh boy here we go. This isn’t going to help matters.
After Bridgeport, we headed east on Aurora Canyon Rd and then got on this great double track trail. It was basically two singletracks because of all the overgrowth.
The trail meandered through the hills. Just as we thought this track was starting to diminish, we could see the trail going up the hill ahead.
The sky started became overcast and dark just as we came up on this really neat rock formation.
This area has many volcanoes so I’m guessing that activity has something to do with these rock pillars.
The trail became very grassy, but it was still there.
Mike found some cattle to herd.
After the grassy doubletrack, the trail turned into miles and miles of very soft pumice sand. We rode faster and faster having some fun, but at the same time we kind of just wanted to get it over with and get to the town of Bodie.
While we were picking up the pace, that overgrown trail bit back. There was a rock in the trail that I didn’t see and almost lost it. I managed to somehow save it and almost hit Mike’s bike with my back turn because I was so crossed up. It happened so fast I didn’t even realize. I should have had my steering dampener turned up.
We finally made it to Bodie, a town frozen in time since the early 1900’s. It’s probably one of the last historical American mining towns that is still mostly intact.
It became overcast and started to rain as soon as we got there, adding even more character to the already eerie ghost town.
After we paid our $8 entrance fee to the Bodie State Historic Park, we walked the same streets as Bodie residents and gold miners once did.
As we walked through town in our high tech adventure riding gear, we felt as if we were visiting from the future. Life was much different back then. People didn’t have fancy dual sport motorcycles to ride hundreds of miles a day just for fun. They didn’t even have much of anything. Life was pretty much just survival. If you stop and look around town, you can really feel the history in that place.
Most of the buildings still have furniture and items in them.
Mike demonstrated what it was like to go #2 back in 1900. I think it was pretty much the same as it is now.
For more information and photos about Bodie, check out Exploring Bodie Ghost Town.
After Bodie, we left on Cottonwood Canyon Rd and headed south. About 6 miles in to the super smooth dirt road, Mike spotted an interesting “trail” that cut up the side of the mountain. It looked intriguing so we checked it out. The beginning was almost unrecognizable as a trail. The grass and bushes were covering where the trail used to be. It then turned into super soft sand the rest of the way.
We rode about a mile in and found out it dead-ended at a ravine. It looked like nobody had traveled down this trail in 20 years. It made sense why. There was a no good reason for anyone to ever take this trail. It went nowhere. It was a challenge though and we had to see for ourselves.
We decided to go down the hill a few hundred feet since that was heading the direction of some tracks that I had on my GPS which were a few miles away. We thought maybe we could just bush whack and cut across to the trail since it was downhill. Then I started to think, what if we hit another ravine? The sand was like silt and was really difficult for us to maneuver the heavy bikes. Besides that, Mike’s bike wasn’t jetted for 8000′ and would barely run. To top it all off, my “FI” (check engine) light came on a few miles back and was flashing in my face for some dumb reason. We decided it was safest to head back up the way we came in. Then Mike’s XR was running really really bad to the point where it wouldn’t even rev up. I pulled the side cover off the air box to lean it out at that did the trick. He revved it to the limiter (didn’t know XRs could even rev that high! LOL) and he dumped the clutch. Off he went leaving me to deal with his side cover. Thanks bud! It’s not hard enough to ride through this sand on my own, now I have to haul pieces of your bike back too? ha!
At that point I let Mike get quite a ways ahead and I waited for his dust to clear. It was already extremely difficult to breathe because of the elevation and the condition of the trail. We were working our asses off and got super sweaty. After the dust cleared I took my time and finally made it back to the road. Mike wasn’t there. So I headed up the road a little more and there he was waiting at the top of the hill tired and worked over. He wanted to make sure the bike made it up the hill before shutting it off. We sat there for a few minutes and cooled off.
Once we were good to go, we rode straight back. There would be no more single track or exploring and definitely no more sand in our day. We were ready to chill at camp. At this point we had ridden about 160 miles and it was getting late in the afternoon. With Mike’s bike running poorly, we planned on taking easy dirt roads and highway back.
Along the way I was trying to figure out why that damn light came on. It was flashing a code 13 but I couldn’t remember what that code was. The bike ran fine though so I didn’t worry about it. I found out later it just just another broken intake air temp sensor wire. Piece of cake repair.
We were dodging a storm for the last couple hours.
We passed by Mono Lake again on Cemetery Rd.
We finally got back to the 395 highway. We decided that was the fasted way back to Mammoth. Home free right? So we thought.
Just as we started to climb one of the last grades just north of June Lake, I took a look back and noticed Mike was gone! Whaaat? Where’d he go? I pulled over and called him. He said the bike quit running and won’t ever run again. LOL! What? He said it lost all compression really quick while climbing the grade. Wonderful.
At least we were only 13 miles north of Mammoth. I told him I’d jam back to get the truck and be back shortly to pick him up. He said, “OK I’ll wait here”. lol Friggin Mike.
While I was getting the truck, a couple people stopped and asked Mike if he needed help. One group of kayakers even stopped, reversed their Sprinter van and trailer all the way back down the shoulder to him to ask if he wanted to throw the bike on their trailer and they’d give him a ride into town. Mike said “thanks but my buddy will be here any minute”. They sat with him for about 15 minutes and talked dirt bikes. They ride up there too. Really nice guys.
I showed up with the truck and saw Mike got really comfortable while I was gone.
I thought Hondas were supposed to be reliable? haha
I had to get a photo of it in the truck. I was talking crap the whole time and so was our buddy, Aaron, via text. (I texted him the news as soon as I could. This was almost an emergency after all. Mike blew up ANOTHER bike! baaahaha)
We made it back to Mammoth just as the sun was setting.
We grabbed a bite to eat at a local bar and restaurant.
Back at camp we got the fire going and talked about our eventful and awesome day.
Mammoth Bike Park
Our trip wasn’t over yet! Saturday our buddy Brad drove up and met with us to ride the downhill mountain bike park. We got 7 great runs in down the mountain. Mammoth Bike Park is huge! The top of the mountain is over 11,000 feet. The trails are very technical and feature some badass wood features and berms. We had a blast and will be back. More to come about Mammoth Park. That’s a post all in itself.
Sunday – Mammoth Lakes
Sunday we were wiped out and had no energy to ride, pedal or hike. We drove around to some of the nearby lakes and checked out of Mammoth’s beauty.
Twin Falls Overlook
Another great adventure in the books!
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a reply below.
Awesome post Pete!!!!!! Let me know when you plan on going there again. I know it like the back of my hand and have alot of cool places I could show you.
Thank you Mark!
Looks like an awesome trip! Except maybe for Mike’s Honda melting down. The side cover carry ride part was hilarious.
Fantastic overview, mapping our trip from yours. Thank you
That’s awesome, Anthony. Glad it helped you out!