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Mono Basin National Scenic Area

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

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Mono Basin National Scenic Area

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  • Mono Lake's South Tufa.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • Panum Crater at daybreak.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • The Mono Craters are the youngest mountain range in North America.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • Mono Lake's strange landscape is a favorite of photographers.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • Overlooking Mono Lake from the top of Panum Crater.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • The boardwalk at Old Marina.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • Photograhers stop at the famous Mono Lake Overlook on Highway 395.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • Crumble breccia inside the plug of Panum Crater.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • Alkali flies feed the millions of birds that migrate to the Mono Basin each year.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • A couple walks the trail from Navy Beach to South Tufa. - Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • The Mono Basin lies just east of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada.- Mono Basin National Scenic Area
  • - Mono Basin National Scenic Area
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Diversity of activities. Photogenic. Educational.
Cons: 
Some areas are very crowded. Winter road closures.
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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
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

Mono Basin National Scenic Area encompasses the salty waters of Mono Lake and unique geological features that include tufa towers and the Mono Craters. Paoha and Negit Islands, along with Mono Lake itself, are home to over a million migrating birds that feed on alkali flies and brine shrimp.

In much the same fashion, visitors from around the world flock to the Mono Basin where they encounter a landscape Mark Twain described as “a lifeless, treeless, hideous desert, eight thousand feet above the level of the sea. . . guarded by mountains two thousand feet higher, whose summits are always clothed in clouds.”

Whether you agree with Mr. Twain or not, it’s unanimous that the Mono Basin is an area of extremes. Shaped by eons of volcanic activity, and more recently, the presence of man, Mono Basin is an intriguing destination for photographers and geology enthusiasts. 

Hiking trails take visitors on a tour of the basin’s main features. Two groomed trails traverse Panum Crater’s plug and rim, respectively, and offer a bird’s eye view of Mono Lake and the valley below. Walkways at Old Marina, South Tufa and Navy Beach are flatter and more accessible than the pumice and obsidian-laden trails of Panum Crater. 

An easy round trip journey from South Tufa to Navy Beach registers under 2 miles and gives visitors an up-close look at the endemic tufa towers that were formed by underwater springs.

The Mono Basin Visitor Center offers insight into the history of Mono Basin National Scenic Area. Designated in 1984, Mono Basin was the first area to receive Congressional protection under the status of National Scenic Area.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(10 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(73 within a 30 mile radius)

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