The Convict Lake Trail is just down the road from Mammoth Lakes, and it offers the reward of a restaurant at the end of the trail! The parking area sneaks up on you as you drive up Convict Lake Road. There was plentiful parking at the trail head, and no sign of the restaurant or lake. However, we did spot a family of deer - a buck, a doe, and two fawns - nibbling the grass near to the parking lot! My wife managed to get the buck and two fawns in this picture after wrestling the camera away from our son, who was busy taking pictures of his shoes when the doe popped up out of the brush about eight feet away and proceeded to hop up the hill and out of sight.
The trail is narrow but easy with only about 250 feet in elevation gain/loss over 3 miles. After a short walk up the hill, it quickly descends to the lakeside and circles the lake with almost no elevation change.
These pictures really don't even come close to reflecting the color of the water. It is crystal clear and a bright blue-green in the shallows, and a sapphire blue where it gets deep. I failed to bring the "good camera" on this walk, so we ended up using an old Canon PowerShot 870 (which still takes much better pictures than our newer Canon or either the iPhone or Droid), but it is no match for the Olympus E-300 that I received as a going-away present just prior to this trip.
There are a ton of activities to be had in this beautiful bowl surrounding one of the deepest lakes in the High Sierra. You can fish from the banks or from rented canoes, kayaks, or motor boats. You can hike or jog on the trails. There are cabins, a general store, and a campground, and horses available for hire. There is even a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier!
After the three-mile walk around the lake, you can reward yourself with a meal or a cocktail from the Restaurant at Convict Lake. The setting is beautiful for outside seating, and the decor inside is also fantastic while in keeping with the resort.