"Not all those who wander are lost." – J.R.R. Tolkien

Ride Report: Starkweather Trail – Mammoth Lakes, CA

The descent down to Starkweather Lake is one of the best sections of singletrack in the area. It’s 2.5 miles of rollercoaster trail bliss. The climb back up is grueling and unrelenting, but we feel it’s worth “earning your turns” for this one. There’s only one catch – this trail is closed to bicycles most of the year. You can usually only ride for a portion of May or June and September – October. If the shuttle bus is running to Reds Meadow, it’s closed to bikes. This means it’s usually only legal once the snow melts in May or June, before the shuttle starts running for the summer – or after Labor Day when the shuttle shuts down at the end of Summer. It changes from year to year, so make sure you’re not poaching before you jump on this trail.  Combine with Mountain View, Hard Core, or the Double High Five Y if you’re up for it.  You can also shuttle it if you just want the downhill jollies without heaving up a lung.

  • Ride Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate descent. Difficult, grueling ascent.
  • Terrain/Conditions: 100% singletrack
  • Access: From town, drive up Highway 203 towards Main Lodge of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Continue past Main Lodge and go all the way up to the turnoff for Minaret Vista (just before the Forest Service kiosk to go down to Reds Meadow). Make a right for Minaret Vista, and then another quick right and park in the dirt lot. Ride back to Highway 203 and cross the road at Forest Service kiosk. The trailhead is right next to the kiosk, and you’ll see the sign a few feet up the hill (see photo).
  • Length: 5.0 miles (2.5 miles each way)
  • Approx. Time: 1 – 2 hours
  • Lowest Elevation: 8,011′
  • Highest Elevation: 9,168’′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,213′
  • Bike Recommendation: XC Mountain Bike
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

Turn By Turn (in miles): No directions necessary. No trail intersections. Just take Starkweather Trail all the way down to the lake. There are a few small creek crossings, switchbacks, and a couple mildly techy sections to keep your speed in check. The dirt is mostly packed with some looser pumice spots sprinkled around. For some reason, most people ride the road to get back up. I guess the climb up the trail can be intimidating, but honestly it’s not that bad. At least as not as bad as climbing Hard Core/ San Joaquin Ridge. We prefer to stay on dirt when possible, so back up the trail is the way to go!!

the trailhead sign, just across from the Forest Service kiosk

the trailhead sign, just across from the Forest Service kiosk

A view of Starkweather Lake through the pine and fir trees

A view of Starkweather Lake through the pine and fir trees


Starkweather Trail Map

Starkweather Trail Map

Starkweather Elevation Profile

Starkweather Elevation Profile

7 responses

  1. Nice I will Have to try and ride it tomorrow.

    October 2, 2013 at 5:49 am

  2. Nice I will have to ride it maybe tomorrow!

    October 2, 2013 at 5:50 am

    • Just beware there are 3 downed trees blocking different trail sections- the first one is huge about 3/4 mile from the top- you will have to throw your bike over it- but it is fun!!

      October 2, 2013 at 11:47 am

  3. Pingback: Ride Report: Mountain View Trail |

  4. Pingback: Starkweather Lake Trail – Mammoth Lakes Hidden Gem | Dirty Teeth – Alan's Mountain Biking Adventures

  5. The downed trees are clear now. ride report

    September 7, 2014 at 8:27 am

  6. Pingback: Ride Report: The Double High Five Y |

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