Mono Lake State Natural Reserve, California, USA



About 15 miles east of Yosemite's Tioga Pass East entrance is Mono Lake.  One of North America's oldest lakes, Mono Lake is over a million years old and 2.5 times the ocean's salinity.  The lake had grown in salinity as it has shrunken in volume, as its tributary streams got diverted to meet the demands of Los Angeles’ growing water needs. Tufa – the rock that these towers are made of, are formed underwater, as underwater calcium-rich springs meet with the lake water rich in carbonates.  Calcium carbonate precipitates out of the water forming tufa towers.  Tufa towers grow underwater up to 30 feet high.  We see so much of it today because of receding lake water levels.  There is a short flat unshaded trail (about 1 mile) that meanders through these sculptures.  It is a pretty neat trail, to be walking amongst these giant oddly shaped rocks.  We had a quick lunch in the shade of one of these rocks. 


Walking amongst the Tufa spires, Mono Lake, California

Walking amongst the giant Tufa towers in Mono Lake, California

Tufa Almost-Arch at Mono Lake, California

Tufa Almost-Arch at Mono Lake, California

Up Close with the Tufa Towers, Mono Lake, California

Up Close with the Tufa Towers, Mono Lake, California

Tufa Island in the middle of Mono Lake, California

Tufa Island at Mono Lake, California


After lunch, we headed down the shore to Navy Beach and saw other tufa formations.  The signs along the “beach” state that tufa formations are very fragile and are constantly changing due to winds and visitor handling.  I had seen some amazing pictures of these Navy Beach tufa formations but on the day that we went, we did not encounter them.  The ones we did see though were pretty cool to see. Mono lake is devoid of fish due to its high level of salinity. However it is home to brine shrimp, alkali flies and the California gulls that feed on them. It is the second largest nesting ground for the gulls, second only to the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Different Tufa Formations at Navy Beach, Mono Lake, California

Different Tufa Formations at Navy Beach, Mono Lake, California


Conservation efforts have been underway at Mono Lake restoring previous water levels.  Water levels are expected in increase 17 feet in the next 15-20 years.  It is very possible that the trail amongst the tufa spires that is easily accessible now will be underwater in the future.  So, if you are excited about seeing these natural wonders on foot, there is no better time than the present!

While exploring the area, we stayed at June Lake Campground.   June Lake also boasts white sandy beaches.  Our campsite along the lake was not the greatest. It came equipped with bear canisters, for good reason. We heard a bear in neighbouring campsites three times in the two nights we stayed there.  Luckily the bear left us alone in our tents.


Practical Information (as of August 2015)

Directions:  Mono Lake State Natural Reserve

Features:  Tufa Towers, Tufa Island in a lake saltier than ocean, Ancient Lake (over 1 million years old), Nesting ground for Seagulls

Hike: South Tufa Trail:  1 mile loop, Mono Lake and Area Map

Entrance Fee:  $3 per adult, Free with Annual National Parks (Interagency Pass)


Warning:  All listed adventures come with inherent risks. The information provided is based on personal experience which may or may not be typical. The safety of these adventures are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to: terrain, weather, wildlife, hiker skill level, human error, preparation and other foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. We do not assume any liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided.  As such, we will not be held responsible for any harm, injury, and/or loss that may result. Your personal preparation and judgement on the safety of each adventure is required at all times. Please use your own discretion and always be safe.

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