South Tufa Loop Trail is a 0.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Lee Vining, California that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Eastern California's dramatic landscapes don't end at the Sierra Nevada mountain range as anyone who's visited Mono Lake will attest. 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.
Strange and beautiful. Stopped and did this loop way, way back. 5 stars just because it's the only place I've ever seen like it. we use to come through quite a bit on motorcycle rides.
One of the most Unique place I have had the privilege of seeing, Great place to spend a few hours!!!
Fabulous views. A site to see and explore.
It was really nice didn't know the trail was this long.
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
Tufas were something I've never seen very cool
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.
A bizarre site to behold indeed. Very cool and almost prehistoric looking. If you're in the area, it's a must see. The water had like red little plankton or something cruising around in it and the formations are amazing. A super easy walk.
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!
Wow! Been there many times. This last time we watched the sunset!!!!
Definitely worth a visit, although this is not really a hike. It is a unique nature walk through a "moonscape" of rock formations along a salt lake. Very cool.
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.
Very cool, worth the visit!!!!
Agree with Susie, not much of a hike but man are the views or this spectacular Lake amazing. We camped out at June Lake down the road because no camping exists on the Lake. This place is truly truly unique and is a top 10 must see spot not only in California but USA!! I took the plunge into the lake at Navy beach, lots of natural chemicals make it dry the skin out but it's still cool to take a dip.
Not really a hike but absolutely worth a visit! The tufas are so unusual and interesting. In late May when we visited, we were able to see the brine shrimp and alkali fly larva in the water.
This was a flat and very easy stroll among the tufa and all the birds.
do this every year mulitple times for photography / birding and base camping
Mono Lake is a prehistoric salton sea which has pretty cool mineral formation called Tufa's. After a long battle with LADWP,we have finally started to let water back into the lake insted of diverting it all the SOCAL. This is one of the main breeding grounds for Seagulls. There is a great new visitor center that will fullfill all your questions as well as a couple of pretty cool trails. If your headed for Yosemite via Tioga Pass/east entrance then this is definately a must see destination. If your hungry for lunch,I would suggest stopping by local burger stand "THE MONO CONE" which is located in Lee Vining!