Inyo Craters Trail in Mammoth Lakes, California is the perfect short hike for seasoned hikers and those new to the outdoors while visiting this charming little mountain town in the Eastern Sierra Mountains. There are two craters, North and South Inyo Craters, that contain small lakes that span from 660 ft in diameter to 200 ft deep. These lakes are emerald-green colored due to the minerals from the surrounding rocks.
HIKE TO: Inyo Craters TRAIL: Inyo Crater Trail MILES: 0.4 miles one way TIME: 10 mins DATE I WENT: 10/18/19 DIFFICULTY: easy ELEVATION: 8,226 ft ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 127 ft HIKE PERMIT: no PARKING PERMIT: no LOCATION: Eastern Sierra/ Inyo National Forest/ Ansel Adams Wilderness
Quick history about Inyo Craters
The Inyo Craters is actually a very young landscape formed from the eruption of Deadman Creek only a few hundred years ago. There are actually three craters but the third crater on the dry summit of Deer Mountain is hollow on the inside and separate from the Inyo Craters Trail.
How long is the Inyo Craters Trail?
The hike to the main Inyo Crater is only 0.4 miles and less than an 8-minute walk to reach the featured Inyo Crater.
What to pack for Inyo Crater Hike
- Water – it’s a short hike but still very warm on a hot day. Shop Nalgene water bottle
- Small 16L day pack – shop my favorite packable travel backpack
- Hiking boots – shop my favorite hiking boots that are good for a wider toe box
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How do I get to Inyo Crater?
Inyo Craters are in the Inyo National Forest of the Eastern Sierra Mountains. The trailhead is located conveniently in Mammoth Lakes, CA, only 1.4 miles off of the Mammoth Scenic Loop.
From Mammoth Scenic Loop, you will turn onto Dry Creek Road Spur until you reach a wide-open area to park. Click here for the GPS map.
Inyo Craters Hike
There is a vault toilet in the parking lot and two trailheads that create a mini 0.9-mile loop to see both the North and South craters. Both trails are 0.4 miles each with a 0.1-mile path connecting the two craters, but I just hiked in and out of the obvious trail from the parking lot instead of looping it.
The trail starts at 8,099 ft and the crater viewpoint is at 8,226 ft which makes this short hike fairly flat at only 127 of elevation gain.
The trail is a well-established dirt path from the parking lot, marked by the trail hiker sign. This path leads directly to the South Inyo Crater which seems to be the main popular one, likely because of the vibrant emerald color. The short hike is well-shaded through a Jeffrey pine forest the entire time.
Once you reach the crater, there is an informational sign about the age of the landscape and some fencing to block off access lower to the crater to create safety boundaries. I have seen photos of someone jumping in to swim in this lake but personally, I would not recommend it – it’s a steep and loose bowl to get down. Enjoy the crater from above and when you’re ready, continue a few feet further to reach the North Inyo Crater to the right.
The Wrap-Up: Inyo Craters in Mammoth Lakes
This hike is great for tourists, sightseers, families, and anyone looking for something easy to hike near Mammoth Lakes. The rewards are high with the sights of an emerald-colored crater lake, and the effort is low to get here.
Add this to your trip if you are planning a Highway 395 Eastern Sierra road trip!