With a circumference of approximately 40 miles, exploring the shores of Mono Lake is an ambitious task. Travelers on Highway 395 are most familiar with the western banks, conveniently located just off of the highway.
For those with only a little time, a quick stop at Old Marina offers a glimpse of the famous Mono Lake tufa, though examples here are not as impressive as the giant formations of South Tufa.
A short, ADA-accessible boardwalk named for David Gaines, an integral force in preserving Mono Lake, leads to the briny water’s edge. An additional 1.5-mile dirt trail climbs the ridge to the visitor’s center, where information on native tribes and the geology of the Mono Basin can be found. The visitor’s center is also accessible by car, it should be noted.
Picnic Grounds Road skirts along the southwestern shore of Mono Lake between Old Marina and the visitor’s center. Though the old marina is no longer there, a primitive launching ramp is located off of Picnic Grounds Road. All boats are welcome on Mono Lake, but beware of submerged tufa and high winds.
A somewhat dicey crossing of Lee Vining Creek is necessary to continue farther than the boat launch on the gravel road. To reach the opposite side of Lee Vining Creek, pick up Picnic Grounds Road just south of town and the airport.
Parking at Old Marina is $3. Exploring the undeveloped areas of Mono Lake is free of charge.