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.