Eastern California’s dramatic landscapes don’t end at the Sierra Nevada mountain range as anyone who’s visited Mono Lake will attest. ... more »Whether approaching on a road trip along US395 or descending the snaking highway from Tioga Pass and Yosemite National Park, the unique sights of Mono Lake are unmistakable and incredibly picturesque.
A curious sixty-five square mile expanse of water located 6,400 feet above sea level, Mono Lake exists thanks to the run-off from the towering eastern Sierras. Unlike most lakes, Mono Lake has no outlet and until recently only ever lost its water to evaporation, giving rise to some unusual features.
Evaporation makes the lake three times more salty than the ocean, which is why you won’t find any fish in these waters. Life still finds a way though, and conditions are perfect for the diminutive brine shrimp and alkali flies both of which flourish here and draw the attentions of migratory birds in their millions.
Impressive at a distance, Mono Lake is just as interesting up close. Visit the South Tufa Grove just five miles off the 395 and explore the shoreline of the lake where you'll find the curious tufa towers which thrive here. Formed by the reaction between the calcium-rich underwater springs and the lake salts, limestone deposits accumulate into strange and other-worldly tufa towers up to thirty feet in height.
A hike of the short South Tufa interpretive trail coupled with a trip to the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center is the most popular way to experience the lake. Those with more time might be interested in launching kayaks from Navy Beach next to the South Tufa area, and the most adventurous of all may choose to venture a dip in the waters.
The reserve is well signposted off the 395 and 120 highways and ample parking is available. A small fee is payable at the ranger station, which is also the trailhead for this short trail. less «