Inyo National Forest Mountain Biking Trails
The Inyo National Forest, from Big Pine to Mammoth Lakes to June Lake, offers incredible Mountain Biking opportunities. There are miles and miles of great free riding. You will find everything from single tracks to hill climbs to river crossings and OHV roads to ride your preferred choice of Mountain Bike on.
Below, I have listed many, but not all, of the rides you can do here. There is enough to ride that it would take a month or more to sample it all. I advise planning a few trips to the area and checking out as much as possible.
If you plan a mountain bike vacation to the area, I suggest you do at least one day in the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park if they are open. There is nothing like riding out on the Mountain with the lift assist they offer.
List of Mountain Bike Trails, Roads and Routes in the Inyo National Forest
Mountain View Trail: This Trail is one of the top mountain bike rides in the Inyo National Forest. The route takes a series of single-track sections mixed in with old forest service roads that lead up to the Minaret Vista.
Along the way, you get forested areas, open spots with long-range views, and green and flowery mountain meadow sections. When you reach the Visit Point, you will be treated to some epic views of Ritter, Banner Peaks, and the Minarets. You will also get a great view of Mammoth Mountain.
The Minaret Vista area has picnic benches and bathrooms, making this a great lunch stop and photo-op area.
The route has a total ridable vertical rise of around 780 feet with a starting elevation of 8500 feet and a peak elevation of 9155 feet at the Minaret Vista Scenic Area.
This ride features cross-country-style riding with some decent hill climbing. As for skill level, this one is for advanced-level cross-country mountain biking riders. You must also be in great shape and be capable of riding a 10-mile loop at high elevations.
The downhill ride back down Mountain View is a total blast. However, I prefer to ride up Mountain View and then link with the Mountain View connector trail into the Mountain Bike Park.
For those with bike park passes, you ride 1/2 mile down Minaret Vista Road and access the park from the Mountain View Connector Trail right by the Reds Meadow Entrance Station.
And Yes, you need at least a Bike Park Peddle Pass to enter the park. The Mountain has staff out checking to ensure people have ride tickets.
Directions: Living in Mammoth, this was an out-the-door ride for us, taking the Uptown Trail from the Village to the junction with the Mammoth Earth Quake Fault connector Trail and then right into the Mountain View Trail and up to the Minaret Vista.
If you want to ride Mountain View Trail from its start, go to the Mammoth Earthquake Fault parking lot. A trailhead sign is right by the parking lot bathroom shed to the left.
Local Tip: This is one challenging route due to altitude and is not advised as a family ride unless you’re all hardcore riders in great shape.
E-Bikes: Mountain View is a non-motorized USFS trail, so E-bikes are not allowed, and you can be ticketed at a minimum.
Stats: Lenght 11 miles out and back, 8,500-9,130 elevation levels, 75% single track, Medium to Hard Technicality with a Hard effort
Mammoth Knolls Loop: This Route is a mix of forest service roads with some single-track sections added in. There is some steep climbing, a few sandy areas, fast service roads, and single-track sections.
The views on the second half of the adventure are beyond amazing, and you can expect to want to stop and take some photos.
The ride starts with a tough climb that’s even tougher by mid-morning as the sun bakes you as you make your way up the first steeper forest service road. The rest of the ride is not as challenging, so just be ready to gut it out at the start of that first big climb.
After the first climb, you will encounter several miles of a forest service road that will eventually cross the Saw Mill Road from Shady Rest.
A sign directs your path to the other side of Saw Mill Road. That last third of the ride will be a mix of single-track and old forest service roads. This is where you will find the best views of this adventure.
The Mammoth Knolls Loop has a total ridable vertical rise of around 1000 feet with a starting elevation of 7800 feet and a peak elevation of 8400 feet. The low point of the ride takes you down to about 7500 feet in elevation.
The main route here has now been signed for some 30 years. However, the signage can still be confusing, so be ready to search and seek a bit for the blue makers you see on the Trees.
This is a fun ride for those who are very fit and have upper intermediate to advanced Mountain Biking skills.
Directions: You can park at the trailhead or ride in from town like the locals do. This one starts right by the Old Shady Rest Campground on the entrance road. There is a large sign you can’t miss.
Hot Tip: Mid-day during the Summer and early Fall, this part of the forest is hot and dry. The best time of the day for this adventure ride is the early morning hours up to around 11 AM.
Who is this ride for? 12 Miles at 8,000 feet is like 20 in the flat lands, so be prepared. Extra hydration is critical; I carry a pack, two large water bottles, and many energy bars on this ride.
E-bikes: are Good To Go. This Route is on Forest Service Roads and OHV Trails.
Stats: Distance approximately 12 miles, est 7,500-8,400 Elevation Levels, 80% Service Road & 20% double track, Medium technicality, Strenuous effort, Ride Early Morning in the Summer
Inyo Craters Single Track: This Trail is an old out-and-back OHV single-track, ridden since Mountain Biking came to Mammoth in the early 80s.
The Trail is a shared-use OHV trail that starts in the Mammoth Knolls Area, runs along the Mammoth Scenic Loop Road for a time, then crosses over the road and drops down into a thickly forested section before linking up with the Inyo Craters Loop. Surface conditions range from packed dirt to some soft pumice areas that you can mostly avoid if you watch for them.
The Inyo Crater single track is an out-and-back ride with a total estimated vertical rise of 1000 feet, a starting elevation of 7800 feet, and a peak elevation of around 8200 feet. You can use this out and back to link up with the Inyo Crater Loop for a 17.5-mile cross-country ride.
Directions: The ride starts about halfway up Mammoth Knolls Drive on an old, overgrown forest service road that was gated up in the late 80s. There is a second entrance to the Trail from the Uptown trail, where it meets the junction of Highway 203 and the Mammoth Scenic Loop.
About 2 miles in, the Trail does split off to the left at the junction of the Scenice Loop and the Forest Service Junction Road leading to the Mammoth Knolls area. At this junction, you also have the option to go straight on the OHV trail, but it’s very loose and soft and not advised. That section of the OHV trail goes down to the Inyo Craters Road Junction for those who want to take that route.
E-Bikes: Inyo Craters Single Track is OHV, so E-bikes are allowed, as are motorcycles, so be prepared.
Stats: Length – 7 miles of Out and Back Intermediate Riding – Link with the Inyo Craters Loop for a 17.5-mile ride – Elevations around 7800 – 8200 feet.
Inyo Craters Loop Cross-Country Ride: This Route is a fun ride that loops 10.5 miles around the two Inyo Craters off the Mammoth Scenic Loop. There are some decent views on the ride of the two Inyo Craters and west toward Mammoth Mountain.
About half of this ride is in one of the world’s most extensive Jeffrey Pine forests. The number of trees and their great smell is abundant much of the time you’re on this route.
The route is a cross-country ride made up of 90% Forest Service road that goes through a mix of open areas and thick Forests. The dirt out on the loop is a combination of hard-packed, dusty, loose dirt, firm single-track dirt, and some long sections with soft floating pumice.
There is a total ridable vertical rise of around 700 feet with a start elevation of 8100 feet and a low point in elevation of 7,700 feet.
I had some great rides on this route when the forest floor was moist over the years. There were some not-so-fun rides when it was dry, and you had to walk through the long sandy sections. The best way to ride through this loop is on a Fat Bike or an E-Bike with at least 3.0 tires on the back.
Directions: You can access the Inyo Crater Loop in two ways. The shorter route is to drive out the scenic loop and park at the Inyo Crater Trailhead.
Take a right at the Mammoth Scenic Loop, about 1 mile from town. Follow this paved road for about 2.6 miles to the Inyo Craters turnoff. Take a left and follow the signs to the Inyo Craters Trail Head parking lot.
Park at the trailhead parking lot (bathroom area at the lot). The mountain bike loop begins about a mile before the parking lot and heads west. There are Mountain Bike Trail Signs that mark the Trail.
For those wanting a long XC Ride, you can take the Knolls Trail from Shady Rest or the Scenic Loop Single Track Route from Mammoth Lakes to the Inyo Crater Single Track Trail. Also, if you ride this loop, do it during the morning hours as it gets hot in this area mid-day.
E-bikes: Yes, with the fattest tires you can put on your bike due to pumice and sand
Stats: Length – 10.5 miles – Effort Moderate – Elevations 7,700 – 8,150
San Joaquin Ridge / Hard Core: This classic ride is a Hard Core Hill Climb at a high altitude. Only the fittest riders with the proper chain rings will want to tackle this. The dirt road route is a USFS Designated Mountain Bike and 4×4 route that covers 2.5 miles.
The out-and-back route offers excellent lung-busting views of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Mammoth Mountain, Long Valley Caldera, and the Minarets. Be prepared for cooler temperatures and moderate to strong afternoon breezes. This is an excellent place to be on a hot summer day with the breezes that keep you cool.
Most hardcore people link this mountain bike ride with the Mountain View trail and then jump on Downtown on the way home to get back to town.
There is a total ridable vertical rise of around 1,000 feet with a start elevation of 9200 feet and a high point elevation of 10,220 feet.
Park in the dirt parking area almost immediately to your right. (Other websites say to park at the Vista; please park as we note here so the Vista lot is not filled up.)
Directions: To drive to the Trail, Take Minaret Road (Hwy 203) past the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge Area. About 2 miles up the road, you turn right just before the Reds Meadow entrance station. The ride starts on the dirt road near the entrance station. You can also ride up the Mountain View Trail to access this ride.
E-Bikes: This Trail is an OHV route, so E-bikes are allowed.
Stats: Length – 5 miles out and back / Effort Very Strenuous Riding
Big and Little Smokey Bear Loops: The Big Smokey Loop takes you on a climb into the adjacent hills, where the views, trees, and interesting reddish rock formations add to the ride’s aesthetics. This area also has many wooding operations you can see as you ride through. Keep safe and watch for the large firewood-hauling trucks you will see on this route.
The Little Smokey Loop offers a pleasant cruise through the local sagebrush, tall grasses, and wildflowers on the east side. Both routes contain a lot of loose sandy dirt, so you want to use a Fat Bike or E-Bike with large tires in this area. If not, you’re going to be miserable. Trust me, the first time I did this loop, it was not fun due to the heat and sandy-like dirt.
Directions: Drive North up 395 from Highway 203, about 5 miles, and you will see the large parking area with trail signs off to the right. This is just beyond the big Smokey Bear you see on 395. You can also access the Route from Saw Mill Road out of Shady Rest, take the tunnel you get to 395, and then head south 1 /2 mile to the trailhead.
E-Bikes: These trails are an OHV route, so E-bikes are allowed and highly recommended. Make sure to have Fat Tires 3.0 if possible to prevent bogging.
Local Tip: Rent an E-Bike at Footloose and ride out Saw Mill Roda to the Loops for a long, fun ride. On the way back, you can hit the Mammoth Knolls Loop.
Stats: Length – 13 miles Big Smokey Loop / 6.1 miles Little Smokey Loop / Intermediate to Advanced / Long Sections of Soft dirt and sand go wide.
Starkweather Trail: (Seasonal) This Trail is a fantastic adventure for expert mountain bikers. The route is all single track and starts with a downhill vertical ride of 1,100 feet, and then you turn around and climb back out. The downhill is full of fast-flowing twisting turns and is a fun fest.
The views here are beyond epic, with the Minarets and Banner Peak off in the distance. Along with the views, you get some nice forested and meadowy sections you go through.
This seasonal Trail is only open to Mountain Bikers when the Reds Meadow Shuttle is closed. Most years that leaves about two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall that you can ride down. ** Don’t even think of riding this Trail when it is closed; there is a hefty fine for doing so, and they can impound your bike if they want to.
There is a total ridable vertical rise of around 1100 feet with a start elevation of 9200 feet and a low point elevation of 8100 feet.
Most people have no idea this ride exists, and most people dislike the climb back out since it’s tough, so you won’t see anybody out here when the shuttle is not running.
If you’re in good shape, you can ride this Trail down into the valley, take the paved road to Reds Meadow, and then ride out. But beware, it’s a long uphill ride back to the vista point, so hydrate and eat, or you will bonk.
For the hearty and fit, I advise you to ride back up the Trail and forget the pavement. The first time I did this ride, we rode the pavement out, and it was dicey at times with all the cars so close to us, not to mention the fumes.
Directions: From Mammoth Lakes, take HWY 203 5 miles up and past the Mammoth Mountain Lodge and park at the Minaret Vista Entrance Station Dirt Parking area. The trailhead is to the left of the Entrance Station.
Seasonal: Only open when the Reds Meadow Shuttle is closed, and no snow is on the ground.
E-Bikes: Stark Weather Trail is a non-motorized trail, so E-bikes are Not Allowed.
Stats: (seasonal) – Length Out and Back is 6.8 miles, 100% single track, Medium/Difficult technicality & Moderate to Difficult effort
Mammoth Rock Trail: This is one of the original Mountain Bike rides people have been riding here in Mammoth Lakes since the early ’80s.
The Trail runs from near the top of Old Mammoth Road down under Mammoth Rock and then down across the face of the Sherwin Range and into the lower parts of town. If you ride this as a downhill-only run, the length is 2.6 miles from the Upper Old Mammoth Road Trail Head.
For those who want to ride this as an out and back, the lower trailhead is located on Sherwin Creek Road, a one-half mile past Sierra Meadows Ranch. There are several large propane tanks in the area of the trailhead.
Just off Sherwin Creek Road, the Trail winds its way up through an area of Manzanita bushes with some fantastic views to get started. The Trail quickly gets up into the tree line with spots that open up with great views.
At one point, you will reach a large clearing caused by the incredible avalanche of February 1986.
The last 1/2 mile of this climb is out in the open with views of Mammoth Rock, the Mammoth Meadow below, and Mammoth Mountain.
This Trail is dirt without the pumice you find on Mammoth Mountain. It does get dusty in the heat of the day during Summers that have not had much rain. The best time to be out here is during the morning hours.
Caution: Downhill riders, please slow down and watch for Horses and Hikers. This Trail has heavy usage, so expect to encounter other users.
Trail etiquette requires mountain bikers to yield to horses and hikers. If you see horses or hikers, stop and get off your bike and let them walk by… make sure to smile and say hi.
E-Bikes: At this time, Mammoth Rock Trail is a non-motorized USFS trail, so E-bikes are not allowed and will be ticketed at a minimum.
Stats: Distance approximately 6 miles Out and Back, 7,860-8,460 Elevation Levels, 100% single track, Medium Technicality, Moderate to Hard effort if you’re climbing due to altitude.
More Mountain Bike Rides with the Full Details Coming Soon:
Mammoth Meadow & Connector Trail:
Horseshoe Lake Trail Single Track:
Lower Rock Creek Single Track:
Upper Rock Creek Shared Use Single Track:
Toms Place to the Upper Gorge Route:
Rock Creek Lake to Sand Canyon Mountain Bike Route:
Mammoth Mountain Bike Park: (Paid Access Only)
** More Trails & Forest Road Routes Coming