"Not all those who wander are lost." – J.R.R. Tolkien

Ride Report: Laurel Lakes Ride – Mammoth Lakes, CA

This ride will kick your ass. If it doesn’t, than you’re not human. In the Summer, it’s one of the toughest climbs in the Eastern Sierra. It’s actually easier to ride on snow than it is on dirt. The road is very loose and rocky and hard as heck to keep traction on in the Summer. Definitely more enjoyable in the Winter. Why do it? It’s beautiful! You’re a nut who loves pain. Once you get over the switchbacks and your in the Laurel Lakes Basin, you’re surrounded by amazing views, most prominently Bloody Couloir. Simply gorgeous.

  • Ride Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Brutal climbing for very fit riders
  • Time of Year: All year (as long as OSV’s have packed the snow in the winter, you can ride with a Fat Bike)
  • Terrain/Conditions: Dirt roads and a steep jeep road in Summer/Fall or snow in Winter/Spring
  • Access: From the 395, a couple miles south of Mammoth Lakes, turn off at Sherwin Creek Rd. Park your car here, or drive up Sherwin Creek Rd as far as you can (depending on snow).
  • Length: 9.4 miles from intersection of Sherwin Creek Rd and Laurel Lakes Rd.
  • Approx. Time: 3-4 hours (this ride is short in mileage, but brutal – don’t take it lightly)
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,319′
  • Highest Elevation: 10,083′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 2,764′
  • Bike Recommendation: XC Mountain Bike during Summer/Fall or Fat Bike at low psi is the only option for riding this in the snow
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

First off, make sure you’ve got a lot of water and nutrition. You don’t wanna bonk up at 9-10,000′. From wherever you parked, make your way to the Laurel Lakes Rd. turnoff, pictured below. It’s pretty deceiving when you’re there. The climb doesn’t look too steep or long. But once you get riding, you’re like an ant. You better hope the snowmobiles have packed the trail well if riding on snow, and you’re doing it in good conditions, otherwise, you might just wanna do the Sherwin Creek Rd/ Mammoth Creek Rd Loop instead. The first straightaway isn’t to horrible, but once you get to the switchbacks you’ll be sucking for any oxygen you can find. Keep pushing. Once you’re at the top of the switchbacks, the hardest part is over. There’s some flats and a short descent to recover, as you head into the basin. From here, the snowmobile tracks might divert from the road for a bit, just stay with them, and they should get back to the road. It’s a moderate climb with tough shorter punchy bouts mixed in. It’s a grind. Take it as far as the snowmobile tracks will let you. If on dirt, you can go all the way to the Wilderness Boundary at around 4.5 miles. If you can get there, you are a BEAST! Sit down, enjoy your PB&J. Listen to the sounds of nothing but you and your jaw cracking. Life is good. Turn around, and head down before your legs seize and the whole way down you’ll realize why your friends think you’re insane. Because you are. You just climbed 2,700′ on a bike, in only 4.5 miles. Pat self on back.

Sierra Wave Sunrise.

Sierra Wave Sunrise.

Riding up Sherwin Creek Rd to the Laurel Lakes turnoff

Riding up Sherwin Creek Rd to the Laurel Lakes turnoff

Here we go.  This is the start of the end!

Here we go. This is the start of the end!

Looking ahead as you get close to the switchbacks.  Hard to believe that one snowmobile track is all it takes for a bike to get traction on a climb this steep!

Looking ahead as you get close to the switchbacks. Hard to believe that one snowmobile track is all it takes for a bike to get traction on a climb this steep!

The hardest is behind you, but you've still got A long ways to go.  The views of Bloody Couloir should keep you going.

The hardest is behind you, but you’ve still got A long ways to go. The views of Bloody Couloir should keep you going.

Taking a break on the super fun descent down.  Keep your front wheel light!!

Taking a break on the super fun descent down. Keep your front wheel light!!

View from the top of the first set of switchbacks.

View from the top of the first set of switchbacks.

laurel_lakes_map laurel_lakes_elevation

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3 responses

  1. Pingback: Ride Report: Snow Biking Mammoth Creek / Sherwin Creek Loop |

  2. Pingback: Ride Report: Silver Canyon Ride – Bishop, CA |

  3. Pingback: White Mountain Peak Ride – Silver Canyon to the Summit | Dirty Teeth – Alan's Mountain Biking Adventures

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