There are no rolling foothills in Mammoth, just straight-up, dramatic mountains. Trailheads point in all directions. Casual hikers, make a beeline for Convict Lake for a scenic walk around a fresh alpine lake. Encircled by enormous peaks, the trail loops the lake's edge, threading through aspen trees on the back side and offering views of canoeists paddling on the lazy emerald waters. For a more robust trek that will stretch your hiking boots and spur your endorphins, go to Mammoth Lakes Basin and take on the 11-mile roundtrip Duck Pass (start early!). Quite possibly among the five finest day-hikes in America, the long trail passes multiple crisp blue lakes, including Arrowhead Lake, with its tempting (but "at your own risk") cliff-jumping opportunities. Continue along the tree-dotted path, reaching lake after lake and crossing a few shallow streams; then go up, up and further up, along a granite mountain staircase that takes adventurers to the glory spot: Duck Pass (pictured), hovering high above a turquoise necklace of lakes you passed along the way.
Convict Lake is 9 miles southeast of Mammoth Lakes on Hwy 395. The Duck Pass Trail is accessed from the back of Coldwater Campground at the end of Lake Mary Rd. Allow from five to eight hours to go all the way to Duck Pass and back.