Perhaps the most traditional way to explore the Eastern Sierra is on the back of a horse or mule. Early pioneers to the area came on horseback, and you can follow their example from several locations near Mammoth.
From the McGee Creek Pack Station (760/935-4324, www.mcgeecreekpackstation.com, one hour $30) 10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes on Highway 395, you can ride into McGee Canyon, a wilderness area little visited by tourists. Other one-day destinations include Baldwin Canyon and Hilton Lakes. Standard rides range from one hour to all day.
But McGee’s specialty is multi-day and pack trips that let you really get out beyond the reach of paved roads to camp for a number of days out by one of the many pristine lakes dotting the mountains. If you love the outdoors and really want a vacation as far “away from it all” as you can get, consider a few days’ camping in Convict Basin or near Upper Fish Creek in the John Muir Wilderness. The McGee Creek guides will help you pack your gear and guide you through the incredible backcountry of the Eastern Sierra.
Operating out of Bishop, Rainbow Pack Outfitters (760/873-8877, www.rainbowpackoutfit.com) offers day trips to a number of lovely local destinations, plus a full-day fishing trip with all gear carried by mule. Small children will enjoy an at-the-stables led ride on a pony or horse, while the bigger kids and adults can get out for rides to local meadows and lakes.
If you’re looking for a longer horseback vacation, check into Rainbow’s options for full-service guided trips, hunting and fishing trips, photography and birding treks, and more. Rainbow operates from the John Muir Wilderness near Mammoth and Bishop all the way down to Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks. Pick your ideal destination and pack in!
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition