Ride Report: Lookout Mountain Loop
Depending on the time of year, and how many motorized vehicles have been on it, this trail can tend to be sandy in parts, but usually almost completely rideable. The Power Line Rd. back towards the kiosk/ride start usually has the worst sand. If you have a fat bike, this is a good ride for it. You’ll get some stunning views at the top: Mammoth Mountain, The Ritters, McGee, Mt. Morrison, San Joaquin Ridge, Deadman Summit, etc – you get the point. If you’re looking for more riding, you can combine this ride with Big Smokey Loop and/or Little Smokey Loop which start at the same staging area.
- Ride Type: Loop with an Out and Back portion on Lookout Mountain
- Difficulty: Non-Technical, Moderately Strenuous Climbing
- Terrain/Conditions: Mostly smooth double-track and fire road with some soft & sandy sections.
- Access: From the junction of Highway 203 and Highway 395, go 4 miles north of Mammoth Lakes and turn right into Smokey Bear Flats. You’ll see a kiosk and a small parking area. The ride starts here.
- Length: 11.8 miles
- Approx. Time: 1.5- 2 hours (this ride is short in mileage, but has some tough climbing – don’t take it lightly)
- Lowest Elevation: 7,375′
- Highest Elevation: 8,350′
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,399′
- Bike Recommendation: Fat Bike, XC Mountain Bike
This ride starts off very moderately, with a gradual climb to get the legs warmed up. Once you pass the turnoff for Little Smokey Loop you have a fun descent that takes you to Dry Creek where you squiggle across the valley and start gradually climbing again. Enjoy this this easy portion of the ride, because once you hit the sharp right turn for Lookout Mountain, you’ve got a couple miles of tough climbing and then you hit the top! The views along the way and at the top are well worth the grunt. At the top, remains of what used to be a summit sign is now just smashed concrete with a Jack Daniels bottle on it (last time I was there). Regardless, it’s worth drinking some water and soaking in the views for a bit… before descending back down at warp speed and navigating through beach sand on the Powerline Rd as you complete your loop. Salute.
Turn by Turn (in miles):
0.0 – head out east on 3S04, it will go straight for a bit and then turn to the left
.34 – continue straight on 3S04
.54 – continue straight on 3S04
.89 – continue straight on 3S04
1.2 – hit a trail junction- continue straight/left on 3S04 (going right on 3S13 will take you on Little Smokey Loop)
2.5 – veer left and cross the Lower Dry Creek Flat open area (going straight will take you on Big Smokey Loop)
3.54 – go left at T (3S06), where there’s a sign directing you towards Lookout Mountain (see photo).
4.7 – veer right, continuing on 3S06
5.2 – keep your eyes peeled for a faint “Lookout Mountain” sign (see photo). Make the hairpin right turn on 2S02, and begin the climb to the top of Lookout Mountain.
6.7 – continue straight (don’t veer right at 3S02A/ dead end sign)
7.28 – reach the defunct summit sign which is now just a pile of rubble. Continue looping around to left and start descending the way you came.
9.4 – merge with 3S06 and go right
9.54 – continue straight on 3S06 at 4-way junction
10.3 – go left before you hit Highway 395. You’ll soon merge with a sandy power line road. Continue up and down some short climbs, until you arrive back at the kiosk at mile 11.8