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Crater Meadows Loop



7.7 mile 12.5 kilometer loop


Ascent: 1,264' 385 m
Descent: -1,264' -385 m
High: 9,335' 2,845 m
Low: 8,640' 2,633 m


Avg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 37% (20°)


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Trail shared by J Hickok

A treed hike with some great vistas and good early season water sources. Hill climbing is spread out.

J Hickok

Features River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife


This hike is great because it's close to Mammoth Lakes and avoids all crowds. I give it 4 stars partly because it's one of the harder to find Sierra backcountry (or Eastside) routes that doesn't just climb the whole way to a pass or up a canyon.

This uncrowded trail is still well maintained and well marked. While more dry in late season, you pass Deer Creek midway, and the creek through Lower Crater Meadows should always be running. Other streams are intermittent. Hill climbing is usually more gentle and spread out through the whole hike, although there are a couple steeper short climbs. It is somewhat dusty.

There are good views of the Minarets and Banner/Ritter, plus Mammoth Mountain. A short side trip to the top of Red Cone adds about a 1/2 mile, depending on how you do it. There are some beautiful meadows midway.

You'll be in the National Forest for almost the entire length of the hike, as well as in the John Muir Wilderness Area.


Start at the Horseshoe Lake parking and take the left trail immediately at the junction near the parking (signs say to McCloud). Gently climb to McCloud Lake and continue over Mammoth Pass. Descend the back side of Mammoth Pass and shortly after take the left turn at the junction towards Upper Crater Meadows (you'll return on the right branch).

Continue on this Mammoth Pass Cutoff Trail to the junction of this trail with the PCT at Deer Creek. Turn right and descend the PCT to Lower Crater Meadows right below the Red Cones. Immediately after crossing the Deer Creek bridge on the PCT, turn right on the smaller trail and hike up the north side of the meadows. Avoid any faint spurs.

Continue up the switchbacks, staying right at the junction opportunity to cutoff towards Reds Meadows. Follow this trail back to the original junction on the Mammoth Pass Cutoff Trail, and hike back over Mammoth Pass to McCloud Lake and then head back to the Horseshoe Lake parking lot.

Flora & Fauna

Typical high sierra flora and fauna.

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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Dogs Allowed, History & Background


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Sep 22, 2018
Marco Sulin
Jun 5, 2018
Danny Landry
Trail not scenic as many downed trees from previous earthquake & CO2 . Last part of loop had many cross trails & not clear. Returned back to complete.
Jun 4, 2018
Danny Landry
Great hike , although had trouble following trail on the far loop
Oct 6, 2017
Oswaldo Freire
Nice hike 7.9mi

Trail Ratings

  3.3 from 3 votes


  3.3 from 3 votes
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Hike Rankings


in California


25 Views Last Month
3,090 Since Jul 13, 2016



McCloud Lake and Mammoth Crest
Jul 30, 2015 near Mammoth…, CA
Leashed and well-behaved dogs are ok.
Oct 3, 2017 near Mammoth…, CA
Trailhead sign to McCloud Lake
Jul 30, 2015 near Mammoth…, CA
Mammoth Pass Trailhead sign
Oct 3, 2017 near Mammoth…, CA
Beginning of the trail. Slight uphill.
Oct 3, 2017 near Mammoth…, CA


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