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For skiers, Mammoth Mountain’s deep winter snows mean another season of fab skiing in California’s Eastern Sierras. But when the snow melts after one of the nation’s longest ski seasons, many sports enthusiasts trade their skis for wheels and eagerly head for the steep trails and secluded tree runs in search of new high altitude challenges. Whether a novice or a NORBA contender, there’s something for everyone during the High Sierra’s summer season.

Long famous for it’s well-maintained ski operation, Mammoth also has a Mountain Bike Park with a network of single-track trails adding up to 80 miles. The park features the Kamikazee Run – a radical downhill from the mountain’s 11,000 foot summit, along with a variety of trails for riders of all levels. Experts can bound over rocks and ledges to cure their need for speed while beginners will have fun learning to spin their wheels on carefully maintained trails. Cyclists purchase a mountain bike lift ticket which provides unlimited access to the expanded trail system and the Gondola with it’s specially-fitted bike racks.

If you don’t want to pay to ride, there are a number of self-guided tours in the area. Routes through alpine meadows, historic ghost towns and national monuments offer spectacular vistas, views of waterfalls and a chance to relax in a natural hot spring. Some rides are physically challenging while others are more leisurely paced and suitable for the entire family.

A popular day trip is a tour of Bodie Ghost Town where cyclists pedal their way through the pages of time to discover one of the most interesting chapters of California gold history. Visitors to the legendary mining town are more likely to arrive today by mountain bike than by stagecoach, and when they enter town they cycle through a window in time. During it’s heyday, Bodie boasted a population of 10,000 along with 65 saloons, 30 mines as well as numerous gambling halls and boarding houses. Only five percent of the original buildings remain but cyclists pedaling through the silent streets of the business district can stop to visit a Methodist church, peer into an old saloon or general store, or visit Maiden Lane where ladies of the night once plied their trade. The Bodie hills are laced with old ranch and stagecoach roads providing ideal counditions for mountain bikers.

Using Mammoth Lakes as a base, there are numerous other tours that take advantage of the miles of National Forest roads. The “Lone Valley & Hot Creek Trek” meanders through pine forests, along fast flowing streams and ends up at a Hot Creek. The “Lakes Basin Tour” region, with it’s crystal clear lakes and shimmering granite peaks provides a historical perspective of the area bringing cyclists past the original townsite. “Red Meadow Bike & Hike” descends 1500 feet along a paved road into the lush Reds Meadow Valley. After Minaret Vista, with its spectacular views of Minaret peaks, a winding descent to the lava-formed Devil’s Postpile National Monument and Rainbow Falls provides the day’s highlights.

Details: The town of Mammoth Lakes is located in the eastern High Sierra, just 300 miles north of Los Angeles and one hour from the east gate of Yosemite National Park. Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is open end of June through September.

by Jane Schonberger

July 21, 2009

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