Trail Review: Mammoth Crest

Timber “Peaked Out” on the Mammoth Crest Trail above Crystal Lake with his mullet blowin’

Timber is on a quest to bag some 10k+ peaks in 2019 and this weekend he checked the box on his first!! Are you looking for a great, accessible and dog friendly trail that will get you over 10k in a reasonable distance…then the Mammoth Crest Trail needs to be on your list! But beware, the high elevation and the cinder rock peak will add some difficulty to this hike. We found ourselves working hard for O2 and very thankful that we had our Ruffwear Dog Boots on hand! Read on for all the details!

About the Trail

Overall: 8/10 on dog stoke (reasonable grade, lots of other dogs, lakes to swim in)
Mileage: 5 (Out-n-back)
Elevation Gain: 1,600
Peak Elevation: 10,424
Season: Late Spring, Summer, Early Fall (all depending on snow pack)

Trail Overview
Trail Overview

Located in the Mammoth Mountain area, The Mammoth Crest Trail starts out at Lake George. Parking was a bit tough as its a popular area. We got there late morning so that didn’t help either. I suspect that if you rolled into the parking lot around 8am, you’d have good success getting a great spot!

Sign in Lake George Parking Area

Overall, I would rate this trail an 8/10 for dog hikes. It was easy to get to, not too long of a hike, pretty good shade, lots of other dogs and opportunities to swim in a lake, yet offered an elevation challenge with outstanding views. Averaging around 800 feet of climbing per mile at 9-10k elevation, we were working hard to get to the peak. We stopped for lots of pictures and had a nice break at the top. The trail is about 5 miles long (out and back) depending on your specific plan. We took a brief detour to Crystal Lake and then backtracked slightly before heading up to the crest. All in we only did 2.88 miles to the top and 1600′ of elevation climbing. The trail was well worn, easy to follow and we saw TONS of other dogs. Final elevation was 10,424!! We were feeling the low supply of oxygen!

Timber Peak Baggin! #GeoDog

Bring Boots!

As we got closer to the top, the trail tread changed from dirt and DG to cinder stone. These small little lava-rock fragments make for a punishing paw pad experience.

I was so happy that we had his Ruffwear Grip Trex boots in his pack. Dogs carry about 70% of their weight on their front legs, so we tend to place boots primarily on the front paws, but we do carry all four. He showed no signs of discomfort as we ascended, but then on the way down I noticed he was dropping back and looking around a bit. Basically like a kid that does not want to do chores. The signs of pain can be subtle at times with dogs. By the time dogs are overtly licking their paw pads and refusing to walk, you will probably find they have worn off small pieces of the pawpad. That’s really uncomfortable and without boots on hand you will probably be carrying your dog the rest of the way. I’ve done it and it sucks! Especially when you have an 80lb trail goat like Timber!!

Ruffwear Grip Trex Boots with Socks

Medical Preparedness

I feel a tremendous responsibility to his health when I take him out on these types of hikes. There often is no cell reception and getting assistance is going to be very difficult at best. I am a firm believer in preventing problems. I pack more water than we need, I carry medical supplies for him, including a digital rectal thermometer, in addition to his boots and I monitor his overall status regularly. We take a lot more breaks than if I were hiking alone. Check out this video we made on Heat Stroke for a few more tips to prevent overheating dogs. Timber has also been Snake Avoidance trained and I am trained in canine CPR and basic medical emergencies. I never want to be in a situation were I put my dogs life at risk because I was not paying attention to his ability and comfort.

Horseshoe Lake in the Foreground, Twin Lakes in the back.

Don’t Over Water Your Trail Dog

Remember, small frequent offerings of water are an excellent way to go. Try to avoid big bowls of water and food. When a dogs stomach fills with water or food, it becomes heavy and swings while they run and play. In that state its very easy for a dogs stomach to become flipped/twisted and this creates a medical emergency called GDV/BLOAT. This life threatening emergency will develop to a critical state in a few hours max. The abdomen will become swollen and firm like a drum. The dog won’t be able to drink without vomiting and will dry heave. Dogs suffering from bloat will need to be taken to the veterinary ER immediately and surgery will likely be performed to “untwist” the stomach. This is expensive and can have serious complications depending on the time it takes to get to the ER. If you have a dog with a deep chest and generally large body/abdomen, consider having a gastropexy done by your veterinarian when your dog is neutered or spayed. I carry an 18G needle for emergency trocharization if needed, but that is an advanced technique that requires specialized training. The best thing you can do is avoid creating the condition in the first place by keeping intake to small amounts given 30 minutes to 1 hour apart depending on conditions. One of the biggest challenges is when dogs discover a stream on a hot day. They start taking on a lot of water, fast. If your dog needs to drink a lot of water, they may need to stop for a while to cool down. In that situation, it would be best to take an extended 30+ minute break to allow that water to clear the stomach and move into the intestines.

Timber Scans the Horizon

All in all it was a great day and we both had a really good time. Keep your eye on the as we will probably organize another Pack-Hike on this trail in the fall before the snow starts to fall. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram so we can see all of our trip photos and subscribe to our YouTube channel to see our latest Trail Dog videos.

See you out there soon!

Timber and Craig

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