Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center provides regional information to travelers visiting the Mono Basin Scenic Area in the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite National Park. View exhibits on Mono Lake history, wildlife, geology, and access the interpretive trail. Docent led tours of Mono Lake, South Tufa, or Panum Crater are available. In addition to local information, visitor services include sale of Interagency passes, issuing permits for wilderness trips, campfire permits, rental of bear canisters and sale of fuel wood collection permits. The Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA) operates the bookstore at the visitor center, with a comprehensive selection of books and maps of the region. Revenue from sales of these items helps support interpretative programs. Managed by the US Forest Service, the visitor center is operated in partnership with the National Park Service and the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association. Summer- Open Daily from 8:00 to 5:00 Check out current area updates at www.twitter.com/monoinfo Winter- Closed for the Season Spring & Fall- Open 9-4:30. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Interesting natural formation. Approximately 6000 feet above sea level, the down pour from sierras created this lake, and since there is no outlet to this lake, when evaporates creates excess salt. Calcium from spring water interacts with salt creating limestones that forms tufas/towers up to 30 feet in height. So much science
Awesome flat stroll down to Mono Lake and some amazing tufa formations. Can be buggy, but the brine flies shouldn't bother you. Go in early morning or late afternoon to catch the right light with some great views across Mono Lake to the eastern Sierras. You'll see birds, lizards, maybe some snakes and maybe a rabbit. Highly recommend this if you make a stop at Mono Lake. Good description here: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/long_valley/long_valley_sub_page_16.html
Hands down the best place to see a hill of solid obsidian - beautiful black glass - although it just looks like rock until you break it open - don't remove it (it is sharp and will cut you). Wear good shoes (this is a rocky mound up to 300 ft high from parking lot. Hike up a gravel hill to the right and come to some switchbacks up to the top of the crater, giving you a great view of the eastern Sierras and Mono Lake as well. See cool evidence of the volcanic activity. From Highway 395 and Highway 203 in Mammoth Lakes, head north 20.3 miles on U.S 395 towards Lee Vining and Mono Lake. Take a right on 120-E for 3.1 miles [continuation of Tioga Road if coming from Yosemite and the same road you’d take to the South Tufa trail on Mono Lake], and then take a left at the Panum Crater sign, which takes you about a mile to the trailhead. Nice parking area with a geology hut. Great description here: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/long_valley/field_guides_panum_crater.html - Coordinates: 37°55.537' N, 119°02.923' W (hand held gps); Elevation: 6,830 ft.
Don’t miss this one!
Nice easy stroll through a unique and beautiful landscape. You can spend half a day birdwatching and photographing this area. We visited in the morning and then returned again the same evening to get some amazing tufa and sunset pictures. A must see if you are near the east side of Yosemite or in the Lee Vining area.
I have been here a few times and it never gets old. It's a super easy stroll to the tufas and great for photography. My only complaints are that sometimes it can get crowded, sometimes it smells, and over the past few years some tourists have found it funny to kick over some tufas :( Please don't knock them down!
Panum Crater is awesome. Just outside Lee Vining on some dirt roads is the crater, which is made of obsidian and pumice. Due to the obsidian, I highly recommend wearing shoes that won't let material in because the obsidian can cut you feet! The hike is really short but fun with sweet views of the eastern sierras and Mono Lake. Plus you can take awesome pictures of you holding a "boulder" above your head since the pumice is so light.
Gay C. on South Tufa Loop Trail
I wouldn't classify this as a "hike" but rather an easy breezy walk down to the lake from your car. You'll want sunglasses, a hat and a bottle of water, but that should do it. Oh, and a CAMERA. Mono Lake offers a landscape like no where else in the world so this is a definite must see if you're in the area. You can visit it any time and get stunning views. The ecological system here is unique the world over, and kids will love it. A wonderful learning experience. And it's a good way to introduce yourself and your kids to how birds migrate and spend time here, and to learn about California's water issues. You can learn about how greedy Los Angeles has been siphoning water from Mono Lake's tributary streams since the 1940s and how that has deprived Mono Lake of freshwater sources--so the volume of Mono lake halved while its salinity doubled! Thank God that in 1978 the Mono Lake Committee got folks involved to help protect Mono Lake and today, by golly, the lake is slowly--and I mean slowly--gaining volume. But I encourage everyone to visit Mono Lake, learn about it, and enjoy its other-worldly beauty and amazing ecosystem.