Mono Lake is a highly unusual place that better resembles landscapes seen in science fiction movies. From emerald green water to unique rock formations called tufas, Mono Lake’s atmosphere emits a certain extraterrestrial feeling. This natural phenomenon is a fairly short drive from Yosemite’s eastern entrance and is highly recommended for anyone trying to conquer the Tioga Pass drive.
The Tufas of Mono Lake
The southern portion of Mono Lake features the best spot to see tufas. This area is a 15-minute drive from Lee Vining and offers plenty of parking. Being a State Natural Reserve, you’ll have to pay a really small entrance fee. It’s only $3 so the experience definitely outweighs the cost.
After walking a short distance from the parking lot you’ll start to run across a large variety of tufas. There are a couple trails to choose from but they all end up going towards the same general area. As you start to approach the water you’ll notice there is more open space. You’re free to roam around but climbing the tufas is strictly prohibited!
You may also notice the water has an unusual smell, that’s because Mono is no ordinary lake. There is no outlet which has caused a high level of salt to accumulate in the water. If you were lost in the desert this isn’t oasis you’d want to stumble across. However, for certain creatures Mono Lake is a paradise. Millions of migratory birds come here to feast upon alkali flies which inhabit the shoreline.
One of the many trails that lead towards Mono Lake
After experiencing Mono Lake I felt as though I had just visited a distant planet. Never have I seen anything remotely close to the tufas which line the southern shore. It is truly a one of a kind place that’s only a stone’s throw from Yosemite National Park. Don’t pass up the opportunity to visit Mono Lake!
Check out my Yosemite Travel Guide for more things to do!