The Mammoth Lakes area of the Eastern Sierra holds some of California's most stunning—and paw-friendly —high-altitude landscapes. At Mammoth Mountain, hikers with leashed dogs can hop aboard the Panorama Gondola for a ride to the mountain's 11,053-foot summit and 360-degree views of surrounding peaks.
Know before you go that it's a one-way ride: The lift operates in summer primarily to service Mammoth's gargantuan mountain-bike park, so hikers are routed off the back side and required to use their own feet (and paws) to get down. Just as hikers aren't allowed on bike trails, cyclists aren't allowed on the hiking trails that wend through a classic alpine basin containing seven lakes interconnected by streams, all of them perfect for a picnic. It's gorgeous, all right—and this being national forest territory, it's up to you whether or not to keep Spot leashed.
You and yours can ride back to town on one of the free shuttle buses that provide transportation around the town of Mammoth, but there's a catch: Spot will have to be muzzled as well as leashed. The same rule applies aboard the National Park Service shuttle bus to Red's Meadow ($10 per person) and Devil's Postpile National Monument (where, in an exception to rules in effect at most national parks, leashed dogs are allowed on trails).
No, we don't like the muzzle business either, but there's no use growling about it: it's the price DogTrekkers have to pay for easy access to these stunning areas. Our advice: shop for a device that allows your dog to pant, and make sure he's cooled down and well watered before you put it on.
Photo:"Dogs at Mammoth Lakes" -Mammoth Mountain
Story posted June 2011; revised June 2012; updated June 2014