10 Secret Spots in California’s Unsung Mountain Getaway
Travel professional Aida Mollenkamp shares her favorite spots to come home to.
Sunset’s Insider Guide series highlights seasonal diversions and secret travel tips from local experts. Follow along as we learn where to eat, drink, stay, and shop.
Meet the insider: Aida Mollenkamp, founder of Salt & Wind Travel.
Photo by Bonnie Tsang
Mammoth Lakes often gets overshadowed by massive resort towns, but Aida Mollenkamp, whose business is focused on sustainable travel, finds that her home is “one of the last small Sierra towns, with a tightly knit community” that boasts a “distinctly California identity.” Folks here are “one with the land—either farming, traveling, or being active outdoors—and we identify a lot with our topography.” Here are her favorites.
Tamarack Lodge’s cabins “have recently been modernized. I’d recommend the cabins over the main lodge. It has such a rich history.” For something more central, book at the locally owned Alpenhof Lodge. The Clocktower Cellar bar is “frequented by locals for après, and there’s a gondola nearby that takes you right up to the mountain.”
One of the best examples of local alpine flavors is Skadi. “The chef is of Nordic origin, and everything is top-notch, from the wine to the service.” For breakfast, cozy up at The Warming Hut. “They have great table bacon that the whole group can share, amazing chilaquiles, and the best Bloody Mary in town.”
One of the best things to do during the winter (aside from skiing) is “snowcat and snowshoe tours during the full moon.” In the warmer months, “book in time to kayak and stand-up paddle, which gives you a different perspective of the hundreds of lakes that make up the region. My favorite outfitter is Caldera Kayak. There are so many trails to bike on, but another thing I love to do is get an e-bike from Footloose Sports.”
Head to Shelter Distilling for an “agave-based spirit whose base materials are from California.” Bevi Bene is a “small bottle shop and wine bar with tinned fish, almonds, Euro-style bites, and well-priced bottles for purchase.”
The Cactus and the Hawk has a general-store feel and is great for gifts. “They sell everything from Japanese denim to handmade pottery and hand-poured candles.” While the name Mammoth Mountaineering Supply may sound intimidating, “if you want to try any backcountry sports, they have the most fairly priced high-end gear in town and are super approachable.”