Visiting Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes, California

Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes is a cool place to visit, whether you want to view the geologic phenomenon or just enjoy a stroll amidst scenic surroundings.

The impressive fissure is one of many interesting geologic phenomena in the area, which has seen a lot of volcanic activity.

Walking the trail at Earthquake Fault

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If you enjoy geologic phenomena, be sure to also put the nearby Hot Creek Geological Site on your Mammoth Lakes itinerary.

Earthquake Fault is easy to access when you are in Mammoth Lakes, and fun for visitors of all ages. If you are traveling with kids, they will love the cool long “crack” in the earth, and being able to get down inside it via the steps.

Considering a visit to Earthquake Fault? Read on to discover what to expect, plus our tips for enjoying this serene spot.

What can you expect at Earthquake Fault, Mammoth Lakes?
Essential facts about Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes, CA
How to get to Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes
Tips for your visit to Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes

What can you expect at Earthquake Fault, Mammoth Lakes?

Beautiful scenery and a tranquil walk in nature!

There’s a short interpretive loop trail at Earthquake Fault you can walk, to see the fissure at various points. It is just 0.3 mile long.

The trail is set amidst stands of tall and graceful old-growth trees, mainly red fir, Jeffrey pine, and lodgepole pine.

Viewing the fissure from the trail at Earthquake Fault

If you haven’t enjoyed the scent of a Jeffrey pine before, make sure you get up close to one of the trees to sniff the bark: it smells like butterscotch (or vanilla).

The walking trail starts at the parking lot, from where you can walk to the interpretive board to read about the area.

Follow the trail along the fissure until you come to a set of steps leading down into the fault and to the opposite side, where you can continue your walk.

Admire the stunning fracture in the earth, and the varying textures and colors of the rock faces, as you enjoy the serene setting. If you look at the fracture closely, you will see that the two sides would fit together perfectly if joined.

The colors and textures of the rock faces are gorgeous!

Stop to read the interpretive signage, which describes the natural history and ecology of the area and the efforts to preserve it.

Look for birds and wildlife: we saw striking blue Steller’s jays and a couple of marmots when we visited, but you may see deer, coyote, and other types of birds as well.

Essential Facts about Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes, CA

Earthquake Fault is not actually a fault. It’s a fissure, believed by geologists to have been created about 550-650 years ago, during a time when volcanic activity escalated in the region. That is considered very young in geologic terms.

Earthquake Fault runs north-south for several hundred feet, on both sides of Highway 203, although you’ll want to turn into the side marked by the sign to find parking.

Earthquake Fault runs for many feet

The fissure is up to ten feet wide and about 60 feet deep in places, and the bottom, especially in the narrower sections, stays cool all through the summer. Native Americans reportedly stored food at the bottom to keep it from spoiling.

In the spring and even early summer, you will see snow and ice at the bottom. We visited in July one year and there was still some ice at the bottom!

There is a vault toilet, but no water, at Earthquake Fault. You’ll also find picnic tables by the parking area.

Earthquake Fault is a great place for a picnic!

Earthquake Fault is free to visit, and dogs on leash are welcome. It is open year round, 24 hours a day, but there is no vehicular access to the trail in the winter, and you may need to cross-country ski or snowshoe in.

How to Get to Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes, CA

Getting to Earthquake Fault is straightforward. It is located just outside the town of Mammoth Lakes.

From Highway 395, if you are coming from the north, take the Mammoth Scenic Loop to its junction with Minaret Road. Make a right on Minaret Road, and you will see the sign for Earthquake Fault in about 0.2 mile (see map).

The sign for Earthquake Fault

Coming from the south, take exit 263 for Mammoth Lakes and turn right onto CA Highway 203 West. Then make a right onto Minaret Road, and you will come to Earthquake Fault in 0.2 mile.

Once you get onto the unnamed road at Earthquake Fault, it’s a short drive to the parking area. We’ve never seen lots of people at Earthquake Fault, so parking should not be a problem.

Tips for your visit to Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes

Respect the Fencing

Although there was a time when you could walk into the fissure, Earthquake Fault has now been fenced off to keep visitors safe.

The edge of the fissure may be fragile. Respect the fencing. If the fencing is broken, stay well away from the edges and keep young children away from edges.

Old-growth pines at Earthquake Fault

Note that the parking area is not maintained in the winter

The parking area is not kept clear of snow in the winter.

If you visit Earthquake Fault in the winter, park by the side of the main road and walk in. You may need snowshoes or cross-country skis. It’s a total walk of about one mile.

Allow enough time

Although the trail is short and you can make it a 30-minute stop, Earthquake Fault is in a deeply forested area just outside the hustle and bustle of town.

It’s a wonderful place to bring a picnic and relax for a bit, especially if you are here on a nice weather day. We generally hike Inyo Craters nearby and then come to Earthquake Fault for lunch.

Earthquake Fault is wooded and tranquil

Bring Drinking Water

Although you do not need to stay very long, note that there is no water at Earthquake Fault, so bring drinking water.

Wear sun protection

Parts of the trail are exposed and parts are shaded. Wear sunscreen. We like this natural waterproof sunscreen!

DRESS for the weather and Wear good walking shoes

Dress for the weather when you visit Earthquake Fault. If you visit early or late in the day, you’ll need a warm jacket through much of the year.

Also wear closed-toed walking shoes with good grip to stay safe on the trail and to protect your feet.


Bring your smartphone or a camera for photos and videos of the striking fracture in the earth at Earthquake Fault.

Looking for a small camera that takes great landscape photos? Consider the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III. It shoots excellent high-resolution photos, and great video as well. Get it on Amazon!


Planning to explore more of the Sierra Nevada? Check out some of our other travel and trail guides!

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How to visit Earthquake Fault in Mammoth Lakes, California!


Dhara loves to explore her home state of California. With her husband Kishore, she has done numerous road trips in the state in every season. She hopes to share her love of the Golden State with you, and help you find your own exciting experiences here.

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