Photo of Crystal Lake,  Mono County, CA

Crystal Lake Fishing

Mammoth Lakes Region - Mono County

Photo of Lake George and Lake Mary

Looking back at Lake George and
Lake Mary

Crystal Lake is less than a two mile hike from the main cluster of Mammoth Lakes in California's Eastern Sierra. Tucked away against the Mammoth Crest and Crystal Crag, the beautiful mountain lake is a great destination for a day of fishing away from the main cluster of lakes at Mammoth Lakes. Crystal Lake's rocky and forested shoreline provide a variety of great fishing spots for fly fishing or spin casting for rainbow, brook, and brown trout.

The best fishing spots at Crystal Lake I found were along the left side of the lake, especially far down near the far end of the lake. Although Crystal Lake is a popular hiking destination, especially with the locals, I found that the vast majority of anglers at Mammoth Lakes stick to the main lakes, leaving the outlying waters for the more adventurous. No one else was fishing Crystal Lake when I was there.

In My Creel

  • #16 Parachute Adams
  • #16 Stimulator
  • Woolly Bugger
  • #14 Adams
  • #16 Elk Hair Caddis
  • #16 Pheasant Tail

Anxious to get one last good day of fly fishing in before the snow began to fall in the Sierra, I brought along a number of flies and nymphs I thought would be good for Crystal Lake.

Making Your Way to Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake is near Lake George, one of the main Mammoth Lakes. To reach Mammoth Lakes drive on Highway 395 which runs north and south along the foot of California's Eastern Sierra. Turn up Highway 203, continuing on it through the village of Mammoth Lakes. There the road becomes known as Lake Mary Road. Follow the signs to Lake George and park in the trailhead parking area on the north side of the lake. You'll find restrooms there.

Photo of Crystal Lake sign

The trail to Crystal Lake is less than two miles and only climbs about 800 feet, but it feels longer and steeper because of the elevation. Crystal Lake is at 9,600 feet. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. Water is not available until you reach the lake. Allow about 45 minutes for the hike.

Follow the trail as it passes resort cabins and climbs steadily up the slope west of Lake George. Great vistas of the Mammoth Lakes area open up as you ascend. You will pass a marked turnoff to the summit of the Mammoth Crest, but naturally you'll stay to the left on the Crystal Lake trail. Eventually the trail crests a ridge and then drops slightly, leading to Crystal Lake. On the left side of the lake Crystal Crag soars to an elevation of 10,400 feet.

Accommodations and Supplies

Mammoth Lakes is awash with accommodations, mostly condos. One of the nicest places to stay is Snowcreek Resort. Another comfortable resort is the Austria Hof Lodge which offers rooms and condos. Not to be overlooked are the Mammoth Creek Inn, the Sierra Nevada Lodge, and the Westin Monache Resort.

Photo of Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake

Campgrounds are everywhere, offering many nice campsites right along the lakes. Among the campgrounds are Coldwater Creek Campground, Lake George Campground, Pine City Campground, and Twin Lakes Campground. Reservations are possible at some of these campgrounds. See Mammoth Lakes Map for a map of the campground locations and information about fees and campground amenities.

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the area and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.

For more information about camping, lodging, boating, and fishing in the Mammoth Lakes area, see California's Greatest Lakes coverage of Mammoth Lakes.

logo saying California's Greatest Lakes

Fishing supplies can be purchased locally at the following places:

Recommended Books for Fishing the Sierra Streams and Lakes


A short drive from the Crystal Lake trailhead will take you over to Horseshoe Lake and the trailhead for the hike up to McLeod Lake (shown right). It's an easy twenty minute jaunt up the trail to the lake. Fishing is good there for Lohantan cutthroats. Note that it is a catch and release, barbless hooks only lake.

Horseshoe Lake is not worth fishing. It is not stocked because the lake is so shallow. There are a few fish there, but nothing of size. Carbon dioxide seeping up from the ground in places around the parking lot make it an unhealthy spot to linger.

Photo of McLeod Lake

McCloud Lake

Nearby Featured Trips in Mammoth Lakes: