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South Tufa to Navy Beach

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

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South Tufa to Navy Beach

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  • A couple enjoys a peaceful morning at the often crowed South Tufa Area.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Alkali flies are an important part of the food chain at Mono Lake. - South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Calcium carbonate built up around underwater springs to form the tufa of Mono Lake.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • South Tufa Trail.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Visitors are dwarfed by the tufa towers at Mono Lake.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Mono Craters and tufa formations.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Park rangers lead a school group on a tour of South Tufa.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • South Tufa, Mono Lake.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Looking west to the Sierra Nevada from Navy Beach.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • The road to South Tufa is sometimes closed after large storms.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Mono Lake.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Tufa of Mono Lake.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Photographers flock from around the world to see the tufa of Mono Lake.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Giant pillars at South Tufa.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • Tufa only forms under water. These pillars were revealed as lake levels dropped.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • An easy hiking trail connects Navy Beach to South Tufa.- South Tufa to Navy Beach
  • - South Tufa to Navy Beach
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Educational. Close-up view of the tufa. ADA-accessible portion.
Cons: 
Extremely crowded.
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Region:
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
General Day Use Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
2.00 mi (3.22 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

A walk through the tufa of Mono Lake is a glimpse into its tumultuous natural and human history. You can get up close and personal with the otherworldly towers on over 2 miles of trails at South Tufa and Navy Beach.

Much like the Great Salt Lake, Mono stands as a remnant of the inland seas that once filled the Great Basin. More saline than the ocean, Mono Lake now covers approximately 65 square miles. 

Mono’s delicate ecosystem was jeopardized when, in 1941, Los Angeles began diverting freshwater streams from the lake to fill the city’s coffers 300 miles to the south. With freshwater sources cut off, lake levels dropped and salinity concentrated. 

The lower water levels revealed the strange calcium carbonate pillars known as tufa. The ubiquitous limestone structures were formed by calcium rich spring water that mixed with the alkaline water of Mono Lake.

First thought to be a dead sea by early settlers and a notably dour Mark Twain, Mono Lake is actually teeming with life.  While it is too salty to harbor fish, algae, brine shrimp and alkali flies are integral to the life of birds and even humans in the Mono Basin.   

Historically, the native Kutzadika’a tribe relied on the protein of alkali fly pupae to survive in the sparse high desert. It has been hypothesized that the name Mono is a neighboring tribe’s term meaning “fly eater.”

When visiting Mono Lake, please do not collect or climb on the tufa. An extra half-mile walk to Navy Beach will offer a different perspective of the columns, especially aside humans to give them scale. Mono Lake is seriously popular in the summer.  Expect crowds.

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(7 within a 30 mile radius)

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(61 within a 30 mile radius)

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