If you are looking to explore a little bit of Yellowstone on Highway 395, then look no further then Hot Creek Geological Area off Hot Creek Hatchery Road. Only 15 minutes south of Mammoth Lakes and right across the road from Convict Lake, this is an easy and free area that you absolutely must visit, especially at sunset. Here is all the information.
- 3 miles on a dirt road
- Half-mile hike
- Note signs for when the gate closes
- I visited in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2020
After turning off Highway 395, just after the Mammoth Airport on Hot Creek Hatchery Road, you will proceed for about a mile until you start seeing signs that will direct you to the geothermal site. The road is paved for the first 2 miles then gravel for the next 2, but my Toyota Matrix had no problem crossing it.
After 2 miles, you will see a sign and the turn out for the geothermal site. There is ample parking here and a few restrooms.
From the parking lot, you can just walk to the overlook if you want to see the craziness from above. The overlook has information on the history of the area as well and provides an excellent viewpoint of the blue pools.
If you want to get closer, as you should, then you will proceed down the wide asphalt path for about a half-mile. At around the quarter-mile mark, you will get a great view of the creek heading away from you, as well as a bubbling pit of water down there as well.
This is also where you will see all the signs for scalding water, so do not go in. As you proceed down, you will get excellent views of the geothermal area. It is not that big, and you can’t get that close, but the pale blue color and steam escaping it is unique.
When we got to the bottom, we walked a little way on the side of the stream and saw that the water here was bubbling as well, which reminded me of Cold Boiling Lake in Lassen National Park.
This is as close as you can get to the area before they tell you not to proceed any further. I heeded the signs, took a few more pictures then headed back the way I came.
If you continue along the path past the parking lot though, you can get some great views back down the river with the mountains behind it. This is my favorite spot for sunset photography.
Honestly, this is a fantastic excursion off Highway 395. It is free, easy to get to, and unique. I recommend that you make a stop here on your road trip up Highway 395.