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Crater Meadows Loop



7.7 mile 12.5 kilometer loop
90% Runnable


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 run 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 run 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 run, 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 run, as well as in the John Muir Wilderness Area.

Runner Notes

Deer Creek is always running. In the early season, you can find other water sources; late season, it's just Deer Creek and the small creek through Crater Meadows.


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 run 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 run 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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Need to Know, Dogs Allowed, History & Background


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Aug 20, 2018
Jacinda Croissant
Good casual run 7.7mi
Sep 7, 2017
Beckham Thomas
Sep 4, 2017
Beckham Thomas
Super fun ups and downs 7.6mi

Trail Ratings

  3.3 from 3 votes


  3.3 from 3 votes
5 Star
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Run Rankings


in California


27 Views Last Month
3,132 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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