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Emerald Lake, Mammoth, CA Review

Emerald Lake, gracefully cradled within the expansive landscapes of California’s Eastern Sierra, is a hidden gem awaiting discovery. Positioned almost equidistant from two iconic landmarks, it lies approximately 40 miles from both the bustling town of Bishop, CA, and the majestic Yosemite National Park. This strategic location makes Emerald Lake an ideal pit stop for travelers journeying between these two destinations or a serene getaway for those looking to immerse themselves in nature’s pristine beauty. Whether you’re en route to other adventures or seeking a destination in itself, Emerald Lake beckons with its tranquil waters and scenic vistas.

Emerald Lake, Mammoth


  • Proximity to Mammoth Lakes: This stunning lake is just a stone’s throw away from the road’s end at Mammoth Lakes, making it a convenient getaway for both locals and visitors.
  • Journey from Coldwater Campground: Situated near the southern tip of Lake Mary, the Coldwater Campground/Trailheads serves as an ideal starting point for those keen on exploring Emerald Lake. A brief journey from here will lead you directly to the lake’s welcoming shores.
  • The Hike: The path to the lake is both inviting and manageable. The trail is well-trodden, making it a straightforward hike for adventurers of all levels. A creek runs along the right hand side as you ascend the trail.

Emerald Lake, Mammoth, CA

Personal Review of the Hike

  • Duration: The entire expedition, encompassing the hike to the lake, a leisurely stroll around its perimeter, and the return journey, approximately takes an hour. This makes it perfect for those looking for a short yet fulfilling outdoor experience.
  • Scenic Beauty: The trail unfurls a tapestry of natural wonders. With every step, hikers are treated to picturesque views that promise to etch themselves in memory.
  • Weather and Attire: If you’re planning a visit in late October, be prepared for mild temperatures, usually in the 60s. Though the daytime might feel pleasant, it’s always a good idea to pack a jacket, especially if you anticipate wind or cloud cover.
  • Trail Conditions and Equipment: The trail, while clearly marked, does have its rugged patches. The trail is rocky, so be sure to pay attention as you go. Good hiking shoes can make a significant difference in comfort and safety. From personal experience, I often find the addition of hiking sticks beneficial on such terrains. The elevation gain is 393 feet and is about 1.7 miles long.
  • For the Young Adventurers: The trail’s gentle inclines and well-marked paths make it suitable for children, ensuring they too can partake in the adventure.
  • Wildlife Encounters: The beauty of Emerald Lake is also home to some of California’s iconic wildlife, including black bears. While these majestic creatures mostly keep to themselves, it’s essential to be aware, informed, and exercise caution during your visit. Always remember to respect their space and habitat.

Fishing at Emerald Lake

Fishing Activities
Emerald Lake, with its crystal-clear waters, is an angler’s paradise. The lake boasts a rich aquatic life, with the dominant species being:

  • Rainbows: These vibrant fish are a delight to catch, offering both a challenge for seasoned anglers and an exciting experience for novices.
  • Brook Trout: Another prevalent species in the lake, brook trout are known for their distinctive markings and spirited nature.

For those keen on maximizing their catch, early mornings or late afternoons are often the most fruitful times, with the fish being most active during these periods.

Elevation and Environment
Perched at a staggering 9,500 feet, Emerald Lake’s high-altitude setting is both its charm and challenge. The elevated location means thinner air, which can be a factor to consider for those unaccustomed to such altitudes. However, the rewards are unparalleled, with the elevation offering cooler temperatures and a unique alpine ecosystem.

Family-Friendly Destination
Emerald Lake isn’t just for the solo traveler or groups; it’s a haven for families too.

  • Safety for Children: The lake’s shores offer safe spots for children, allowing them to engage with nature without any significant risks. The gentle trails and clear waters make it an ideal playground for young adventurers.
  • Peace and Quiet: One of Emerald Lake’s defining features is its tranquility. Unlike some of the more popular tourist spots, this lake often remains uncrowded, allowing families to enjoy a peaceful outing without the usual hustle and bustle.

The lake is also fairly shallow and you can see to the bottom throughout the lake.

You can actually continue on the trail towards Barrett lake, which we didn’t do, but it’s just over a mile further to get there. 

Emerald Lake, Mammoth, CA Review

Additionally, many hikers in this area complain about mosquitos on the hike or at the lake, but we didn’t see any in our time there, probably because of the time of year and cooler weather.

Emerald Lake is truly a beautiful emerald color that cannot be fully realized in the pictures provided. You really need to see it for yourself in order to truly appreciate it. From its shimmering waters teeming with fish to its tranquil environment perfect for family outings, the lake offers something for everyone. Whether you’re an avid angler, a hiking enthusiast, or just someone looking for a peaceful retreat, Emerald Lake promises an experience that will linger in your memories. My personal recommendation? Don’t forget to pause, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and let the serenity of the place wash over you. Emerald Lake is not just a destination; it’s an experience.

Emerald Lake, Mammoth, CA Review

Afterwards, we headed back down into Mammoth Lakes to grab some food at Toomey’s which was only a few miles away.

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