DescriptionAccessible via SRs 120 and 167 and US 395, the scenic area is near Lee Vining, within Inyo National Forest. The area, which encompasses Mono Lake, the Mono Craters and sections of Lee Vining Canyon, covers 76,703 acres. The Bodie Hills are to the north and the Anchorite Hills to the east, while the Mono Craters to the south comprise the most recently formed mountain range in North America; the Panum Crater erupted less than 650 years ago. The islands in Mono Lake also are volcanic, as evidenced by hot springs and steam vents. The islands cannot be visited April through August due to the nesting season of the California gull.
Mono Lake itself is estimated to be at least 1 million years old. Over time the salts and minerals in the water have become too concentrated for most species to survive. However, the indigenous brine shrimp and flies attract millions of migratory birds and waterfowl. Most tourists come to see the tufa, spires and knobs formed of calcium carbonate that were exposed as the lake's water level dropped. Note: Tufa, pumice and obsidian are protected by state and federal laws and may not be collected or damaged.
Many basin roads are unsuitable for conventional vehicles; off-road driving is not permitted. Self-guiding nature trails and interpretive signs are at the South Tufa and Panum Crater day-use areas. Guided tours are available; phone for schedule.
The scenic area is open daily 24 hours. The visitor center on US 395, a half-mile north of Lee Vining, is part of the Mono Lake Ranger District, which covers the June Lake Loop Recreation Area, Mono Basin, Lee Vining Canyon and Tioga Pass. Phone for schedule. Free. South Tufa $3; free (ages 0-15). For more information contact Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center, P.O. Box 429, Lee Vining, CA 93541; phone (760) 647-3044.
Things to SeeJune Lake Loop Recreation Area