Jump-start your day with an intensely aromatic coffee at the Looney Bean ($; 3280 Main St., Mammoth; 760/934-1345).
Visit a Convict. Despite its name ― hailing from a group of jailbreakers who were apprehended here ― the clear emerald waters of Convict Lake are a supremely serene spot. The lake is located 9 miles south of Mammoth, just off U.S. 395 on Convict Lake Road. Afterward, stroll into the aspen-shaded Restaurant at Convict Lake for a delicious lunch ($; inside the Convict Lake Resort; 760/934-3803).
Learn the ropes. Unpretentious Bishop lures rock climbers galore, who flock to the area’s stellar granite faces. Learn the basics with an introductory climbing class at the Sierra Mountain Center ($100, reservations suggested; 174 W. Line St., Bishop; 760/873-8526).
Artistic afternoon. Post rappelling, exercise your artistic muscles in downtown Bishop. Revered outdoor photographer Galen Rowell called this town home until his untimely death in 2002. His genius and passion for the Sierra live on at the Mountain Light Gallery (106 S. Main St.; 760/873-7700). Ogle more art 2 miles north of downtown, at Coons Gallery (2399 N. Sierra Hwy.; 760/873-3393), which displays the work of Sierra masters Richard Coons and Robert Clunie.
A good-bye soak. The area between Mammoth and Bishop is prime hot-springs country. Stop in at Spellbinder of Bishop Books & Coffee (124 S. Main St., Bishop; 760/873-4511) for a copy of Matt C. Bischoff’s Touring California and Nevada Hot Springs. One of the most popular spots is the Hot Creek Geological Site, with several large pools along a running creek (free; 5 miles south of Mammoth Lakes, off U.S. 395 on Hot Creek/Hatchery Rd.). Though bathing is at your own risk and the Inyo National Forest rangers who oversee this area don’t officially recommend it, visitors have been soaking here for years. A dip is a great way to get refreshed before the drive home.