Yes, it can be a bit of a drive depending where you start out—but a beautiful one. Highway 395 skirting the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada deserves lots of pull-over time on the way to Mammoth Lakes, a resort area centered around the Mammoth Mountain ski area and a mosaic of lakes, rivers and High Sierra panoramas. If you need to break the trip, stay overnight at the Bridgeport Inn, whose main building dates to 1877 (dog-friendly rooms are in a motel-style wing out back).
Continuing south, you’ll soon come to Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, a geologic curiosity of a place known for its tufa towers (calcium carbonate knobs), endemic brine shrimp and millions of birds that rest here. The lake has no outlet, is twice as salty as the ocean and supremely photo-worthy. Leashed dogs can join their uprights on many trails in the area, but not on boardwalks designated as part of a county park.
To the south, the Mammoth Lakes area beckons with winter activities including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skijoring, fishing and hiking where conditions permit. If solitude (and social distancing) is your thing, know that dogs, leashed or off-leash if under voice control, are allowed on all trails within the mammoth Inyo National Forest, and that Mammoth abounds with dog-friendly places to stay.
For a good leg-stretching hike, grab your boots (or x-c skis or snowshoes), your camera and your leash and amble around Convict Lake, an achingly beautiful circle of blue surrounded by granite peaks that change color with the light. Book a pet-friendly cabin at Convict Lake Resort and wake up with your pup to a pink-and-gold wonderland.
Another favorite: Tamarack Lodge, part of the Mammoth lodging portfolio, creaks with cozy, 1920s nostalgia. Just 2.5 miles from the center of town, it offers 10 kilometers of dog-friendly x-c skiing and snowshoeing trails right out the door. Dogs are welcome as overnight guests in the resort’s comfortable cabins, but not in the lodge.
Po photo courtesy Visit Mammoth & Michael Vanderhurst