Hike-in Required
Open Year-round
ADA accessible
Guided tours
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The Crowley Lake Stone Columns are a series of strange geological formations standing near the edge of Crowley Lake only visible for parts of the year where the reservoir level is lower.

During the Summer, following much of the snow in the Eastern Sierra melting, the lake level will be higher, submerging the columns. But in the Autumn, as the reservoir level lowers, what emerges are dozens of stone columns that stand up to 20 feet tall, creating a surreal otherworldly landscape that is possible to visit with a 4WD vehicle and short hike, or a slightly longer hike in if visiting with a passenger or all wheel drive vehicle.

It's believed that the columns were formed as a result of volcanic activity mixed with snow on the surface melting and seeping downward about 760,000 years ago. This activity hardened the columns and made them more resistant to erosion, while years of water in the volcanic caldera that now makes up Crowley Lake lapping up against the land wore away the softer material, leaving the columns remaining.

Researchers believe that there are about 5000 columns present in a 2-3 mile area today. Though the 20 foot stone columns at the lake's edge make up some of the most visually dramatic of those that exist today.

Visitors with high clearance 4WD vehicles can drive to within a quarter mile of the location, with a dirt trail the descends about 150' in elevation leading the rest of the way to the columns. Those looking to visit without a 4WD car can do so, parking in a dirt area before the steep section and walking about 2 miles in each direction along the double track to reach the columns.

There are no amenities of any kind along drive or at the columns. This is a pretty remote area between the towns of Bishop and Mammoth Lakes, so visitors will often find themselves alone at the columns. 

Conditions at the columns vary, but in the warmer season following periods of snow, the lake level will rise and cover the columns, so Autumn through Spring is the best bet to find the coluns exposed.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass



Strange and unique formations. Few crowds.


Can be hard to reach. Submerged in water seasonally.

Pets allowed



Geologically significant
Near lake or river
Big vistas



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