Winter Recreation – Questions and Answers, Rules, and Regulations Mammoth Ranger District, Inyo National Forest Winter, 2014-2015

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Winter Recreation – Questions and Answers, Rules, and Regulations

Mammoth Ranger District, Inyo National Forest

Winter, 2014-2015

Questions or Comments: Please direct all questions and comments to Jon Kazmierski, District Recreation Officer for the Mammoth and Mono Lake Ranger Districts of the Inyo National Forest. Phone: 760-924-5503. E-mail:

1. WELCOME Everyone to the Winter Wonderland of the Eastern Sierra! Please recreate safely.

  • There are winter recreation opportunities for EVERYONE!

  • There are a tremendous variety of winter recreation experiences in the area: downhill skiing and snowboarding, Nordic skiing, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, walking, snowmobiling, snow-biking, snow play and sledding, and even a biathlon!

  • Go prepared, know before you go! See attached safety messages.

  • Obtain a free copy of the Eastern Sierra Winter Recreation Map or purchase a waterproof version at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center. A free version can also be downloaded to any mobile device by visiting

2. The Mammoth Lakes Basin in the Winter

The Mammoth Lakes Basin is a very popular winter recreation destination for a variety of users. As a result, the demand for parking exceeds capacity and user conflicts have increased. As such, the Mammoth Lakes Basin is recommended to those who are seeking a full-service Nordic ski experience. Other winter users should use alternative areas for their winter recreation endeavors. Snowplay is no longer allowed adjacent to Nordic trails in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.

  • Tamarack Cross-Country Ski Center operates and manages a fee-based Nordic trail system that is under special use permit with the U.S. Forest Service.

  • Anyone using a trail groomed with Nordic ski tracks must be in possession of a valid trail pass and may only use the trails on Nordic ski equipment.

  • Anyone wanting to access the Mammoth Lakes Basin without paying a fee during winter months must travel off of any trail that is groomed with Nordic ski tracks, and must make perpendicular crossings of the Nordic ski trails to avoid damage to the Nordic ski tracks.

  • Hikers, skiers/riders and snowshoers are permitted to utilize the hard-packed Public Access Corridor, which runs from the lower Lake Mary Road gate to Horseshoe Lake. This Public Access Corridor is provided by Tamarack as a courtesy to the public, and no fee or trail pass is required at this time.

  • Snowplay activities (activities other than hiking, skiing/riding, and snowshoeing) should not be carried out on or adjacent to the Tamarack Nordic trail system.

Alternative access to the Mammoth Lakes Basin – The parking at the Lake Mary Gate, Tamarack Lodge, and Twin Lakes Lookout can be very congested. Snowshoers, backcountry and off-piste skiers, and hikers may find parking at the Old Mammoth Road Winter Closure/Mill City to be easier and more enjoyable access to the Lakes Basin. Please recommend this alternative to those who inquire about Lakes Basin recreation that does not require a Tamarack Trail Pass.

3. Winter Recreation with Pets

  • Dogs are prohibited from traveling on ALL groomed Nordic ski trails in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.

  • Dogs are allowed to travel on the hard-packed Public Access Corridor in the Lakes Basin and off the hard-packed trail into the wider Lakes Basin, but MUST be on a leash at ALL times.

  • Dogs are required to travel on leash at ALL times when on other groomed trails on the Inyo National Forest, such as the snowmobile trail system (orange diamond trails), the Miracle Mile from the Mammoth Inn to Minaret Vista, or on the Shady Rest and Obsidian Dome Nordic Ski Trails. Dogs are prohibited from traveling off-leash ON OR ADJACENT TO ALL GROOMED TRAILS.

  • All dog waste must be removed – Please pick up after your dog and throw it away in the trash. Failure to do so is littering.

4. Snow Play

  • The only designated or official snow play or sledding area in the Eastern Sierra is Woolly’s Tube Park. Fee required.

  • Snow play adjacent to Nordic trails in the Mammoth Lakes Basin is not allowed. There is no snow play to the north and northwest faces of the Panorama Dome.

  • None of the areas commonly used for snow play are maintained for such activities.

  • There are good parking areas and ample snow to recommend the following areas for snow play activities:

    • The end of Old Mammoth Road/Winter Closure Gate/Mill City Area.

    • The Scenic Loop pullout one mile north of the 203/Scenic Loop junction.

    • Woolly’s Tube Park.

    • Deadman Summit Hill; southbound lane of 395 before the hill dropping into Crestview.

  • Snow play is not allowed at Lake Mary Winter Closure Gate, the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center, areas adjacent to Hwy 203 above the North Village or along the Ski Back Trail, or private lands.

5. Shady Rest Nordic Trails

  • The groomed Nordic trail system is a partnership between the Town of Mammoth Lakes and the U.S. Forest Service. Trails are groomed under contract by Friends of the Inyo using funds raised by Measure R; a local tax specified to benefit recreation in the Mammoth Lakes area.

  • All dogs must be on a leash at all times when on or near the groomed trails.

  • All dog waste must be removed and deposited in a trash receptacle.

  • Nordic users should park at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center parking area and access the trail from the Welcome Center Plaza.

  • Nordic users are asked to not park at Shady Rest Park; the park is a snowmobile staging area.

  • Nordic users are not allowed to park in the Ranger Station parking lot, the lower lot below the Welcome Center parking area.

6. Bicycling On the Snow

  • All wheeled vehicles are prohibited from traveling on groomed trails on the Inyo National Forest.

  • Bicycles can travel over snow on any un-groomed road or trail that is not otherwise closed to bicycles.

7. Snowmobile Responsibly

  • There is not currently a minimum snow depth requirement for snowmobiles to travel on the national forest. When snowpack is thin, snowmobile riders should be aware that they are only allowed to drive snowmobiles on the national forest on the snow. It is illegal to damage, crush, or run over vegetation. The U.S. Forest Service recommends that snowmobiles operate on no less than 12” of snow.

  • The Eastern Sierra Winter Recreation Map is an essential tool to carry while snowmobiling on the Mammoth and Mono Ranger Districts of the Inyo National Forest. Obtain a copy, read it carefully, and make note of the closures that exist and boundaries of the areas where you may ride.

  • Carry safety gear and know how to use it.

  • Leave your itinerary with someone and your intended return time.

  • Respect wildlife. Let wildlife move off or away from a trail before you pass. Travel slowly when wildlife is in sight and do not follow wildlife on a snowmobile.

  • Slow for other users.

8. Q&A

Question 1: Is there a packed snow trail where I can take my dog for a walk on leash?

Answer: Yes, owners can walk their dogs ON LEASH on any groomed trail outside of the Mammoth Lakes Basin. All trails groomed for snowmobiling are the best places to walk dogs on leash with minimal conflict with other users. Owners can also walk their dogs ON LEASH at the Shady Rest, Obsidian Dome, and Miracle Mile groomed trails. Leashes used on the hard-packed “Public Access Corridor” in the Mammoth Lakes Basin may not exceed 6 feet in length.

Question 2: Where can I take my dog for a walk off a leash?

Answer: There are several areas outside of the Town of Mammoth Lakes where dogs can travel off a leash, providing their owner can use voice commands to control the behavior of the dog, without exception:

    • Sawmill Road – just west of the 395/203 interchange, departs Hwy 203 and travels north.

    • Road 4S102 “Geothermal Power Plant” frontage road, east of the 395/203 interchange.

    • Sherwin Creek Road, off Hwy 395, access from Hwy 395 south of the 395/203 interchange.

    • If you are looking for a place to ski or snowshoe with your dog off leash:

      • You may travel anywhere on the forest outside of the Town of Mammoth Lakes

      • In an area where there are no trails that are groomed for Nordic skiing or snowmobiles.

Question 3: Can’t I leave my dog’s poop in the woods?

Answer: When traveling on the national forest in the winter, many of the areas that are groomed for Nordic use are campgrounds or popular recreation sites in the summer. When the snowmelts, the dog waste becomes a nuisance and a health hazard. In addition, the Inyo National Forest is a major watershed for nearby and distant communities. Dog feces impacts water quality for downstream users. Please remove all dog waste and deposit in a trash receptacle. Leaving dog waste on the forest is littering.

Question 4: I always put my dog waste in a plastic bag and set it on the snow or along the trail with the intent of picking it up on my way back. I just don’t want to carry it for my whole hike. Is this okay?

Answer: No. As soon as you walk away from a plastic bag, you have littered and can be issued a citation. Please remove your dog waste and carry it with you until you can find a trash receptacle.

Question 5: Where can I take my kids to play in the snow?

Answer: The only designated and maintained area for snow play is Woolly’s Tube Park. There are several areas on the national forest where users have found hills adjacent to roads and often go for snow play. Deadman Summit, the end of Old Mammoth Road/Mill City, and the pull-out area along the Scenic Loop are areas commonly used for snow play. Snow play is no longer allowed in the Mammoth Lakes Basin in areas adjacent to the Nordic ski trails, such as the north and northwest sides of Panorama Dome.

Question 6: I’d like to go for a snowshoe or cross-country skiing where I don’t have to pay a fee. Can you recommend a place?

Answer: There are over 100 miles of groomed trails on the Inyo National Forest where users can travel without paying a fee. The Miracle Mile out of Main Lodge is a great place too, as users can catch a bus from town and be dropped off adjacent to the Mammoth Inn where the Miracle Mile begins. The Nordic trails at Obsidian Dome and Shady Rest are also great spots. All of the snowmobile trails are also open to non-motorized users, except bicycles. All of these trails are on the Eastern Sierra Winter Recreation Map; a free publication.

9. Information Resources

  • The Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center is open daily from 8AM to 5PM and available by phone at 760-924-5503.

  • The Inyo National Forest Website:

  • The Mammoth Lakes Trail System Website:

  • Avenza Map Applications:

  • Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center:

Winter Recreation on the Mammoth and Mono Lake Ranger Districts – Q&A, Rules, and Regs Page

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