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Panum Crater Plug Trail

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

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Panum Crater Plug Trail

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  • Obsidian spires formed from lava that was too thick to flow away from the volcano's vents.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Sunrise over the Mono Craters.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Looking south from Panum Crater.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Panum Crater at sunrise.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Obsidian at Panum Crater.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Looking west from Highway 120.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • A sliver of Mono Lake seen from the plug of Panum Crater.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Panum Crater Plug Trail.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Obsidian at Panum Crater.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Panum Crater lies just off Highway 120.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Looking west from Panum Crater.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Panum Crater plug and Mono Craters.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • The Sierra Nevada seen from Panum Crater.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Sunrise on Panum Crater.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • Obsidian at Panum Crater.- Panum Crater Plug Trail
  • - Panum Crater Plug Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Unique geology. Mono and Sierra views.
Cons: 
Trail is easily lost. Volcanic debris is hard to navigate.
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Region:
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
0.00 mi (0.00 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Just 650 years ago, the Mono Valley was boiling with volcanic activity.  Today, geologists keep a watchful eye on the Mono Craters east of the Sierra Nevada, which are dormant though not extinct. 

Exploring the steep and shifting slopes of the larger craters can be quite arduous; however, the smaller Panum Crater has developed trails on both the plug and rim.

While the Panum Crater Rim Trail provides great views of the surrounding area, Plug Trail takes geology enthusiasts on a tour of Panum Crater’s rhyolite plug dome, formed by viscous lava filling the vent instead of flowing away from it. Inside the crater, fields of obsidian, once massive spires, make for scenic, albeit difficult terrain.

From the base, the dome is a quarter of a mile walk on a soft, pumice trail. Reaching the dome is relatively easy, though the trail becomes quite technical once inside the plug.

The many divergent trails can become lost in an alien landscape of crumbling breccia, huge rocks pushed aside by each successive lava flow. Taking a detour to inspect obsidian striped with boudinage is well worth your time, though backtracking may be necessary if your chosen path suddenly disappears into a pile of glassy rubble. Scrambling over the plug debris is treacherous at best, and it can easily lead to rockslides and lost footing.

For expert guidance and fun geological insight, tag along on one of the free summer interpretive programs offered by the Mono Lake Committee.

Both the dirt road leading to Panum Crater (1N28) and Highway 120 are subject to closure during heavy snowfall. Verify current road conditions with CalTrans before your visit.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(64 within a 30 mile radius)

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