An otherworldly remnant of a geologically recent volcanic period, Panum Crater is the smallest and most accessible of the Mono Craters. Just south of Mono Lake, a hike around Panum Crater Rim Trail provides visitors with a unique vantage point to view the Eastern Sierra and Mono Basin.
Panum Crater was formed only 650 years ago by forces that are still shaping the volcanic and seismically active region. In fact, the Mono Craters are the youngest mountain range in North America. Having both youth and a durable composition of rhyolite on its side, Panum Crater is a perfectly preserved specimen.
Hiking the Panum Crater Rim Trail requires modest physical fitness and good footwear. Loose, pea-sized pumice gravel is prevalent throughout the trail and may present a challenge to those with limited mobility.
The 1.5-mile track is completely exposed and subject to high winds. Circumnavigating the crater can take up to an hour; carrying water is recommended.
Steep crater walls and loose scree mandate that hikers stay on the trail to prevent erosion. Geology enthusiasts can continue onto the Plug Trail for a closer look at the dome and toppled obsidian spires. Collecting obsidian and other natural treasures is prohibited.
Highway 120 and the 1-mile dirt road to Panum Crater (1N28) are often closed during winter storms. Check with CalTrans for updated road closures before your trip.
In the summer months, guided tours are available free of charge through the Mono Lake Committee.