Mammoth Lakes: A Destination for Year-Round Running

Over the holidays, I returned with my family to the Eastern Sierra ski town of Mammoth Lakes. I’ve been going to Mammoth for more than two decades, since my in-laws have a condo there, and I love the destination for its trails and wilderness.

The sunset outside our condo in Mammoth.

The sunset outside our condo in Mammoth.

But I don’t particularly like skiing, although I’ve done it for many years. Warren Miller once famously described skiing in the rain as fun as standing in a cold shower and tearing up $20 bills. I feel that way about skiing even in perfectly clear weather. I’d rather strap on my Kahtoola MicroSpikesand run on ice and snow for an hour-plus.

My Kahtoola Microspikes on my Hokas—a great combo!

My Kahtoola Microspikes on my Hokas—a great combo!

At 7800 feet in town and 9000 feet at its ski center main lodge, Mammoth is magnet for world-class runners and coaches in large part because of its altitude training and trails. One of the best runners in town now is Tim Tollefson, a member of the Nike Trail Team and a physical therapist at Mammoth SPORT (Sierra Park Orthopedic and Rehabilitation) Center. He’s a 2:18 marathoner who placed 8th in the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-mile Championship last December (his first 50-miler).

Tim Tollefson after a wintery Mammoth run last month.

Tim Tollefson after a wintry Mammoth run last month.

I asked Tim some questions on the best places to run, and other Mammoth favorites, year-round. His answers are below, supplemented with some of my own favorites. Consider this post a followup and wintertime counterpart to this blog post and Trail Runner article about running the trails around Mammoth in summertime. I encourage you to check out that earlier article for a more comprehensive guide to the Eastern Sierra, if you’re interested in visiting this region.

Q: Favorite Mammoth-area trail (or road) to run in wintertime? 

Tim: Shady Rest trails and Sherwin Creek Road and meadow.

Shady Rest park in Mammoth

Shady Rest Park. Photo by Tim Tollefson

To get there: The trails are located around Shady Rest Park, at the end of Sawmill Cutoff Road, approximately ½ mile from Main Street.  

Tim's wife Lindsay running the Sherwin meadow off Sherwin Creek Road (photos of Tim and Lindsay from Tim).

Tim’s wife Lindsay running the Sherwin meadow off Sherwin Creek Road (photos of Tim and Lindsay from Tim).

Me on a snowy run up Lake Mary Road above the town of Mammoth Lakes.

Me on a snowy run up Lake Mary Road above the town of Mammoth Lakes.

Sarah’s favorite Mammoth-area trails in wintertime: I like to loop around the bike paths in town (see this guide for details), and then after I’m acclimated, I head up Old Mammoth Road to connect to Lake Mary Road and run the snowy paths above Twin Lakes and next to Lake Mary. This area is groomed for cross-country skiers in the wintertime, but hikers/runners and snowshoers are allowed on the shoulder of the groomed trail.

Q: Favorite Mammoth-area trail in summertime?

Tim: High trail from Agnew Meadows to Thousand Island Lakes through the Ansel Adams Wilderness. (For directions and details to this and other Eastern Sierra trails, check out Sage to Summit’s excellent Eastern Sierra Mountain Running Guide and see this earlier post.)

Q: Favorite running or outdoor gear store in Mammoth? 

Tim: Mammoth Mountaineering for outdoor gear and Sage To Summit in Bishop (a 45-minute drive south) for running needs.

Q: Favorite restaurants?

Tim:  Stellar Brew for breakfast burritos and coffee, Toomey’s for dinner and dessert.

Sarah’s favorite places to eat: Lakefront Restaurant in the historic Tamarack Lodge next to Twin Lakes for a special dinner out; Campo in Mammoth Village for Italian; Good Life Cafe on Old Mammoth Road for brunch/lunch; and we enjoyed our first-ever visit to the relatively new Jimmy’s Taverna Greek Seafood on Old Mammoth Road.

Q: The Mammoth Track Club, formerly Team USA, developed world-class runners including Olympians Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi. What’s up with the MTC now?

Tim:  Although the town of Mammoth Lakes has actually improved its ability to provide a world-class training ground for top U.S. distance runners with the addition of our new track and field facility, the club faced challenges as long-term coach, Terrance Mahon, left in 2012. All of the track and field athletes and many of the marathoners followed Terrance, leaving just Josphat Boit and Deena Kastor behind. Over the past two years the club has slowly regained steam, with eight current members, and has since produced three sub-2:15 male marathoners, and two sub 2:35 female marathoners.

Although no longer living in town permanently, Meb Keflezighi still frequents us for several weeks a year before each marathon. We saw him for about 4 weeks prior to his Boston win in 2014, both in the clinic doing strength work and out on the trails, and then again leading up to his 4th place finish at NYC in late 2014.

Personally, I intermittently train with the Mammoth Track Club when preparing for a road marathon, if it fits into my busy work schedule. Professionally, I serve as the liaison between MTC and our Mammoth SPORT Center and Performance Lab. I conduct all the performance tests on their athletes and ensure any rehabilitation needs are met.

Additional resources for running around Mammoth:

The track is just south of town. Take 395 south, turn left on Benton Crossing Road, and it’s just over half a mile down on the left behind the animal shelter.

Check for info on group runs and trails.

For a gym workout or treadmill run, go to the Snowcreek Athletic Club, which accepts visitors with a day-pass fee. This facility has all the gym equipment and fitness classes you need, plus an indoor pool.

Thanks, Tim, for your input on this, and good luck with training for the Lake Sonoma 50M in April! You can follow Tim’s blog here and on twitter @TimTollefson.

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2 Responses to Mammoth Lakes: A Destination for Year-Round Running

  1. Jamie January 9, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    Just found your blog! Mammoth Lakes sounds great and looks beautiful!
    Jamie recently posted..Whiskey Row Marathon RecapMy Profile


  1. Daily News, Fri, Jan 9 - January 9, 2015

    […] My prediction for the next trail running mecca (and it looks like Sarah agrees): Mammoth Lakes, California. […]

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