Boats sit at dock at Lake George under the watchful eye of the Crystal Crag peak.

Lake George, California

Lake George is a scenic lake situated in the picturesque Mammoth Lakes Basin, between the lone white tower of Crystal Crag and the granite wall of the Mammoth Crest. The parking area at the road's end has a few popular trailheads, access to the lakeshore and boat dock, several picnic and camping spots, bear-proof food storage, and rustic cottage rentals. A tiny shop sells boat rentals, fishing supplies, and meals during summer. In the winter, only skiers and snowshoers can access the lake area. 

Geography Of Lake George

Aerial view of Lake George in the Mammoth Lakes basin close to sunset.
Aerial view of Lake George in the Mammoth Lakes basin close to sunset.

Lake George is located along Lake Mary Road just outside the city of Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierras of California. It is one of Mammoth Lakes Basin's eleven lakes that is set within the Inyo National Forest at an elevation of 3,215 m. The Mammoth Lakes Basin is a sizable glacial cirque basin formed by the ice and rocks embedded in the glacier grinding together. Lake George, among others, fills a depression in the glacial moraine deposits in the lower basin. Lake George is the deepest lake in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, despite not being the largest lake by area. It may reach depths of more than 200 feet during good water years.

History Of Lake George

Back in the day, Eastern Sierra's hidden riches could only be accessed by mining. Until relatively recently in California's history, white men were kept away from the native Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe towns by vast deserts on three sides and a massive mountain barrier on the other. But that all changed quickly with the discovery of the Comstock Lode silver ore in 1858, east of Lake Tahoe. Prospectors poured over the Sierra into the Comstock from the west side's gold fields. Rich gold and silver found at Aurora and Bodie fed many people's tales and dreams, keeping them on the hunt.

The Lakes Mining District was established on Mineral Hill, next to Lake Mary, in 1877 by four prospectors searching for the Lost Cement Mine. The Mammoth Mining Co. was established the next year when the collection of claims was purchased by Union Pacific and Civil War hero General George Dodge. There was a brief rush to the Mammoth gold mines following reports that the business was building a tramway, a 20-stamp mill, and four tunnels into Mineral Hill. Rumors also circulated that this was the "biggest bonanza outside Virginia City." However, the Mammoth Mining Co. shut down its mill in 1880 because the promised riches and bonanza never materialized.

Threats To Lake George

A recent study analyzing readings from over 40 years ago warns that pollution and climate change threaten Lake George's clean and potable water. Although the lake is still primarily pure and pristine, it is beginning to exhibit alarming symptoms of deterioration due to both local pollution and climate change. Locally, experts discovered that unmanaged road salt runoff into the lake might cause sodium levels in the 550-billion-gallon lake to rise over acceptable drinking water standards. 

Although authorities strive to decrease the quantity of salt entering the lake, this might impact numerous people who depend on Lake George for their drinking water. Even though Lake George has never seen a documented harmful algal bloom, there is evidence that the number of algae is increasing. The Lake George watershed is comparatively well protected. Dumping or discharging waste into the lake has been forbidden for many years. However, urban runoff and leaking septics pose a severe hazard to the lake.

Recreational Activities In Lake George


A girl and her dog stand above a beautiful high alpine lake on a sunny summer day in Mammoth, California
A girl and her dog stand above a beautiful high alpine lake on a sunny summer day in Mammoth, California. 

Many hiking paths in the Mammoth Lakes region start from Lake George. The Upper Lakes Basin, which includes Crystal, Barrett, and TJ Lakes, is one of the most popular walks in the area. The trailhead is located in the Lake George Parking lot. The Crystal Lake trek, which is the shortest, is a little over 2.5 miles round way. One must consider trekking to Barrett and TJ Lakes as well for a complete day of discovery. 


A fisherman at Lake George
A fisherman at Lake George.

Lake George is a fantastic location for trout fishing. Anglers can catch various species, such as brook trout and rainbow trout. The chances of catching a bite here are high whether one is casting, spinning, or using a fly rod.


Boats on the shore of Lake George in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, Eastern Sierra Mountains, California
Boats on the shore of Lake George in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, Eastern Sierra Mountains, California. 

Kayak and canoe enthusiasts will love Lake George as a spot to enjoy the waters. Keep in mind that swimming is prohibited in all of the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes basin, except for Horseshoe Lake, so one must stay on the boat in Lake George.


From late June to early September, camping is allowed in the lake area. Each site costs around $18 and is only offered on a first-come, first-served basis.


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