Mammoth Mountain, Aeolian Buttes

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July 30, 2016
Due to an unexpected knee injury, I was looking for some easy peaks to do and came across some trail routes for Mammoth Mountain located west of the town of Mammoth. The most interesting route seemed to be Dragons Back Trail, which followed the southeast ridge of Mammoth Mountain. This trail officially started from Twin Lakes. Since it was already later in the day and Twin Lakes would involve difficult parking, I ended up starting from Horseshoe Lake Trailhead, which made the hiking only slightly longer.

PeakElevationTopographic ProminenceSummit Coordinates (lat/lon)
Mammoth Mountain11,030 ft1,680 ft37.6304, -119.0329
Aeolian Buttes7,460 ft118 ft37.8591, -119.0756

Getting to the trailhead (Mammoth Mountain): From the town of Mammoth, head west of Main Street which eventually turns into Lake Mary Rd. Travel to the end of Lake Mary Rd.

Trailhead coordinates (Mammoth Mountain): 37.6132, -119.0214

Getting to the trailhead (Aeolian Buttes): From June Lake Junction, head north on US-395N for 4 miles to Aeolian Buttes Rd, which branches off to the right (east). The hike can begin from anywhere along this road.

Trailhead coordinates (Aeolian Buttes- my start location): 37.8617, -119.0689

The temperature was already pretty warm as I started hiking from Mammoth Pass Trailhead (9,000 ft) at 11am. I took the trail heading west towards Mammoth Pass for 0.7 miles, then turned right and headed northeast for 1.1 miles on another trail heading towards Bottomless Pit. At the second junction, I joined up with the Dragons Back Trail, which headed all the way to the summit. A steady breeze started picking up as I hiked higher, mitigating the day's heat. 

Mammoth Pass Trailhead

looking northwest from the trailhead

views from trail

The summit area was crowded with hordes of tourists who had taken a gondola up the mountain. Most of them seemed to be struggling to walk around, seemingly not used to the altitude. A few people had carried skis up to the summit, looking dismayed at the little snow patches that were no more than 200 ft long.

At this point, my left knee was hurting so much when going downhill that I completely wimped out and took the gondola down, followed by two free shuttles back to Horseshoe Lake Trailhead.

After getting back to the trailhead, I realized that my knee actually felt better, and there was still a lot of daylight left before I planned to meet a friend further north, so I headed north towards another very easy peak by the side of the road: the highpoint of Aeolian Buttes. 

I drove a little over a mile along the well graded dirt of Aeolian Buttes Rd to the east side of the buttes and parked at a tiny random pullout (there was no parking to be found anywhere else). From there, I walked 0.4 miles south along the same road, headed west on a sandy old road labeled "1S36" and then north on another sandy road labeled "1S28." 1S28 brought me a few hundred feet of distance southeast of the peak. A few minutes of easy cross country travel (most of which was spent babying the knee) took me to the summit, where there were great views to be had towards the Mono Craters. For the descent, I headed straight down east to Aeolian Buttes Rd, taking advantage of the nice sand slog.

Mono Craters

rock arch just below summit

summit views

Stats for Mammoth Mountain
3.3 miles    2,250 ft gain/loss (one way to summit)
6.6 miles    2,350 ft gain/loss (round trip)

Stats for Aeolian Buttes
2 miles
400 ft gain/loss

Weather Forecasts
Mammoth Mountain
Aeolian Buttes

Peakbagger Pages
Mammoth Mountain

Summitpost Pages
Mammoth Mountain
Aeolian Buttes

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