Mono Lake | Featured Itinerary

Mono Lake is one of the Eastern Sierra’s most spectacular, (and perhaps most bizarre) of California’s natural wonders. It’s surrounded by the grand beauty of the rugged, granite-peaked Sierra Nevada Mountains, but it’s not the spectacular beauty that makes Mono Lake unique (though the scenery is certainly reason enough to visit.)

California’s Dead Sea

Mono Lake is one of the oldest lakes in North America and has been dubbed “California’s Dead Sea” because it’s 2 and 1/2 times as salty as the ocean. Its lack of outlet contributes to Mono Lake’s saltiness as well as its extreme alkalinity. Freshwater streams that feed Mono Lake have washed salts and minerals into the lake for years and years. As fresh water naturally evaporates into the atmosphere, the minerals are left behind, becoming increasingly concentrated over time.

Are we on the Moon?

One of the most unique features of Mono Lake is it’s tufa towers. The towers are spire of porous “rock” that looks like moon rock. They are formed when natural fresh water springs interact with the highly alkaline lake water and give Mono Lake it’s unique “landscape” (or lake-scape, if you will.)

Mono Lake Half-day Itinerary

  • Stop by the Visitor Center in Lee Vining
  • Take the one-mile, self-guided nature trail at South Tufa.
    •  Don’t forget to bring your camera. Photographers from all over the world come to Mono Lake to photograph the grandeur of the Sierra juxtaposed against the moon-like features of the tufa towers. The light on Mono Lake can be particularly spectacular at sunset. Famed 20th-century photographer Ansel Adams dubbed the Eastern Sierra for good reason!
  • Take a quick swim. Because of Mono Lake’s saltiness, the water is denser than regular water, which means you can float without treading water! Don’t stay in too long though. Prolonged exposure to the alkalinity in Mono Lake can be unhealthy. Keep your swim to under 20 minutes.
  • Enjoy a gourmet dinner at Mobil Mart on Tioga Pass…yes, the gas station. Trust us, this is a must do!

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