When you travel to the Mammoth Lakes region, visiting Mono Lake – South Tufa Area becomes an almost inevitable adventure.
Last updated: May 30, 2023
A Quick Guide to Traveling to Mono Lake – South Tufa Area
Located about forty minutes away from Mammoth Mountain, the finest California’s ski resort, Mono Lake has spectacular sites on its own. Tufa towers at the south edge of the lake are by far the most popular natural attractions that entice thousands of visitors annually.
I must admit, like the majority of those tourists, I dreamed of visiting the South Tufa Area of Mono Lake. Last year, after spending a day in Yosemite National Park, we were too exhausted to make this dream come true. During our California road trip a few weeks ago, though, the Mono Lake – South Tufa Area finally landed on our list of places to see in California. No excuses, such as “if time permits”, were allowed to intervene with our plans this time around.
Visiting Mono Lake – South Tufa Area: Direction
Set about thirty miles north of Mammoth Lakes, the Mono Lake – South Tufa Area is a quick trip along US-395 N. After passing June Lake Junction, be on the lookout for a right turn onto Picnic Grounds Road. Make sure not to miss it like we did while exploring the Mono Lake – South Tufa Area the first time. Driving farther down US-395 N takes you to Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center, leaving the South Tufa Area behind.
Know before Visiting: A small parking lot is located near the Mono Lake – South Tufa Area. Although unstaffed, the parking is not free. You must pay $3.00, so make sure to have cash since credit or debit cards are not acceptable.
Interesting Facts: Formed no less than 760,000 years ago, Mono Lake is a saline soda lake in Mono County. Its water that never flows to the ocean periodically evaporates leaving dissolved salt and other minerals behind. These minerals make Mono Lake 2.5 times saltier than the ocean and 100 times as alkaline. The only other lake in the USA with similar behavior is the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
Things to Do at Mono Lake: Apart from enjoying the unique sites and ecosystem, you can indulge in some other popular outdoor activities while visiting Mono Lake. The lake provides numerous opportunities for boating, swimming, hiking and climbing nearby mountains. On top of that, there are plenty of self-guided and guided tours for different ages and activity levels.
Mono Lake – South Tufa Area
The Mono Lake – South Tufa Area, though, is the main attraction of the lake that entices thousands of visitors yearly. The area is breathtaking, especially at sunset, when the golden glow envelopes the tufa towers.
Resembling big rocks, the tufa formations are in essence limestone pillars composed of calcium carbonate formed when underwater springs that are rich in calcium mix with the water of the lake. Indeed, you may not notice or feel it, but the area right near the salt formations is packed with the underwater springs.
TIP: Unlike the regular rocks, the tufa towers are fragile. So you must follow a few regulations while visiting the Mono Lake – South Tufa Area. First, climbing is prohibited. Second, collecting small pieces of the tufa “rocks” is not allowed. But you’re more than welcome to walk around and enjoy these natural wonders and the pristine surroundings.