Mammoth Lakes: Convict Lake and Canyon
For my 25th birthday, I took a road trip through the Eastern Sierra. Filled with mountainous views, Convict Lake was high on the suggestion list outside of Mammoth.
Convict Lake is just south of the town of Mammoth Lakes and is named for a group of convicts that escaped prison in Carson City. Supposedly there’s also tree where someone was hung by the lake. Now, there’s a resort that’s open year-round for visitors looking for a getaway and a campground open spring through fall.
Convict Lake is an easy and pretty flat 3-miler around the lake. The trail begins at either the Convict Lake trailhead or the resort; doesn’t matter which. As you start the lake loop, the most prominent peak behind the lake is Mount Morrison. The trail is well-graded and easy to follow.
If you’re looking for more miles to add to your adventure, take the trail up into Convict Canyon to Lake Dorothy. The trail follows Convict Creek for most of the way before disappearing into a pile of scree and talus. In late March of 2015, any visible trail ended just past the washed out Convict Creek bridge and then disappeared under a foot or two of snow. We were doing a lot of boulder hopping across the creek to avoid sliding down snowy slopes. Fell in the creek a couple times. Definitely should not have left my microspikes in the car.
We ended up deciding that it was less fun than we expected and opted to head back to the car to continue onto Bishop instead. Convict Lake wasn’t my favorite place on the stop; it was incredibly barren and stark with no snow and no leaves anywhere. It looks like it would be absolutely beautiful in the fall with changing colors, so I’ll probably be back.
The loop trail is totally doable as an easy day hike or road trip leg stretching break. A hike into the canyon is a bit more strenuous for someone looking for more miles and elevation, or a short backpacking trip off 395.