Sherwin Lakes Trail – Inyo National Forest

We finally got out for a snowshoe hike this year.  After 3 days of snowboarding we decided to take a break and go out for a snowshoe hike.  I’ve been wanting to do this hike for many years, but we kept opting to snowboard instead of snowshoe.  Sherwin Lakes is a short hike right outside the town of Mammoth Lakes.  If you are there in the summer, this is a perfect family hike.  If you are there in the winter, this is a great trail for the backcountry skier/snowboarder or snowshoer.  We opted to snowshoe the trail.   One of my favorite things about the hike was that I got to do it with both my sisters!   Before I get into more of my blabbering about the hike, here are some tips before you go.

What’s in this Guide?

  1. Hike Stats – Mileage, elevation gain, map of hike, weather
  2. Directions – quick write-up on how to get to the trailhead
  3. What to Pack – some gear, map and food recommendations
  4. Blabbering – best part of the write up, my pictures and thoughts of the hike

Hike Stats

Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
Inyo National Forest 3.5 miles 900 feet Out-and-back
map of hike

This map I made on CalTopo; I have some more maps saved on my profile of hikes we’ve done.  I would recommend going to the local ski shops or the Visitor Center to pick up a winter map if you’d like to snowshoe in the winter in this area.


Something to note: if you plan on doing this at any time of year, check the weather before you go.  Weather can change at any time and can turn for the worse.  We experienced very cold and snowy conditions.  Nothing too major, but definitely good that we checked ahead of time because of the weather we were dressed for it.

Mammoth Lakes – 8,301 feet

Sherwin Lakes – 9,216 feet

further reads

Here are some more links to read before you head out, you may want to choose another hike.

Mammoth Lakes Trail System – Snowshoeing

Beautiful Snowshoe Adventures within 10 Minutes of Mammoth Lakes

Inyo National Forest – XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Snow Shoeing in Mammoth Lakes and Southern Mono County


*Note: during winter months the road is 4×4/AWD only, please make sure you have the correct vehicles to get to the trailhead.

To get to the trailhead:

From the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center, turn South on Old Mammoth Rd.  There is a Vons or Rite Aid if you forgot anything on your way in.  1.4 miles turn left onto Sherwin Creek Rd.  0.3 miles turn right, you will see a sign for the Trailhead.  0.1 miles turn left.  You will hit a dead-end where there is a bathroom and larger sign showing it as the “Sherwin Lakes Trailhead”.

What to Pack

Obviously during the summer you won’t need some of these items.  I’ve added most of these items, because we took them on our hike.

  1. Mammoth High Country Tom Harrison Maps – This map is helpful for seeing where you will be going on the map.  They offer a winter map at the Visitor Center, but since government shutdown, we checked a few stores and had trouble.  Check out the Shell Station on the corner of Main and Old Mammoth Rd. they were the only place that had some left.
  2. Garmin inReach Explorer+ – During the winter months, much more important to make sure you have safety in communicating.
  3. MSR Evo Snowshoes – There are many types out there.  Before you buy, make sure you understand what you need.
  4. Black Diamond Hiking Poles and Powder Baskets – You will need the powder baskets especially if you are going in the snow.
  5. Oakley Flight Deck Prizm Snow Goggles – You may not think you need these, but for us it was a perfect day as it was a little windy and snowing.
  6. Arc’terx Womens Sentinal Jacket – The best thing you can have is an outer layer that keeps you dry.
  7. Jetboil Flash Cooking System – Take this to cook up something warm, like a hot chocolate perhaps.  We did this.
  8. Snow Peak Titanium Mug and Lid – I take this on almost every single backpacking trip along with my jetboil.  On cold hiking days we also take it, hence taking it on this snowshoe outing.
  9. Nestle Hot Chocolate Packets – Well since we took the jetboil and the mug and the lid, we made some hot chocolate when we reached the lakes.


Before heading out make sure you have snowshoes.  If you do not, there are places to rent snowshoes.

Where can I rent snowshoes?

We had to rent snowshoes for two people in our group and headed to Footloose Sports around 9:00am.  This put us at the trailhead about 10:00am, which was very easy to find and there was only one other car parked there.

Starting up the trail

The trailhead was very easy to find; there is a large sign stating “Sherwin Lakes Trailhead”.  There was only a couple of inches of new snow on the floor, but still enough to put our snowshoes on as there was a layer of ice under.  You hit a bridge about .2 miles into the hike and from there the first .5 miles don’t have much elevation gain.

About 1 mile into the hike the switchbacks start.  Luckily we had someone go out in front of us so we were able to follow some tracks, but with a few inches of new snow as we got higher in elevation it was more difficult to break trail.

It was lightly snowing at this point and the rest of the way up we took a few breaks because of the heavier snow and elevation gain.

Reaching our break spot

We hit a part of the area where it plateaued and we were able to see the lakes.  It wasn’t much a great view of the lakes, but we didn’t want to scramble around in our snowshoes over all the rock and trees.  We set down our space blanket and cooked some hot chocolate to warm up.  That was probably the best idea ever and it absolutely warmed my entire body up.

Though, just 10 minutes later it got a little windy and started snowing more heavily.  We quickly packed up and headed down the mountain.  We may have cut trail down pretending we were skiing down, it was the simple way down to just go straight down.  You have to be a bit careful while doing this to not slip; make sure to take it slow if you decide to head down.  Honestly the safest way down is the way you came up when snowshoeing.  While hiking up your goal should be to set steps for your way down, especially if you are going down the same way.

All trips come to an end

We finished around 1:30pm, the way down was much faster as we went straight down instead of following our way up.  No breaks on the way down, just straight to the car.  Headed back to footloose to drop off the rentals and the quick snowshoe hike was over.  Can’t wait till the next one.

If you have any questions on how to get there, please comment below.  If you have hiked here in the summer, I would love to hear from you too; I have yet to hike Sherwin Lakes in the summer, perhaps we do it this year at some point.

Happy Adventures!

Annette – Beyond Limits on Foot

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Check Them Out

Top Spots for Snowshoeing in Mammoth Lakes

Beautiful Snowshoe Adventures within 10 Minutes of Mammoth Lakes

Winter in Mammoth Lakes

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2 thoughts on “Sherwin Lakes Trail – Inyo National Forest

  1. A hot drink is a must in winter… but we always carry an insulated flask for our hot drink rather than stop and make one (it’s usually severe windchill and often blizzards here with no shelter so not suitable for stopping really). Do you guys not use flasks over there?

    Good to see walks quoted in feet instead of the dreaded metres they’re trying to impose on us here. I just convert it to feet and quote it back at people!

    Great idea to include info on where to rent snowshoes rather than buying them if you haven’t done it before and are not sure you’ll like it!

    1. You know, I just never bought an insulated flask, but may think of that especially on day hikes out there in the cold snow. Thanks for the idea!!!

      Well, in regards to feet and meters we are one of the only countries that doesn’t follow the metric system. Yeah when I did some hikes in Europe I put it in both!

      Yea not everyone goes all the time so renting is better! Thanks for the comment! Talk soon!

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