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South Tufa Reserve

Mono Lake

June 22nd, 2004

1.0 miles
25 vertical feet
Total Time: 0:45

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Highway 395, take Highway 120 East toward Benton. After about 4 miles, turn left onto the signed, unpaved (but easily driven gravel) road. Take the left fork (the right fork takes you to Navy Beach) to the South Tufa parking lot. There is a $3 fee per person.   View Driving Map


This isn't so much of a hike as a little stroll. The parking lot was only half full on a Tuesday morning. Still, I could distinctly hear foreign languages being spoken, as this is a pretty popular place to see for international visitors.

Mountains looming behind tufa formations

Mono Lake

The setting here is beautiful. The Sierras rise up to the west. The Mono Craters rise up to the south. I won't go into the history of the lake, which is probably well-documented elsewhere on the web. I was here mainly to see the distinctive tufa formations, and I wasn't to be disappointed.

Mountains over Mono Lake

The main trail to the shore is paved. Small displays of tufa on the left frame the Sierras beyond. When we reached the shore, we could see alkali flies on the ground, tufa here and there, and birds fluttering about. It's definitely not someplace you'd want to hop in for a swim, but some people do just that over at nearby Navy Beach. The water is three times as salty as the ocean!

Bird sitting on tufa

Tufa towers at Mono Lake

It's hard to really describe the tufa formations. I'll let my pictures do the explaining. My only wish is that I can revisit this place at sunrise or sunset, rather than 11am, which is when we arrived. The lighting at sunrise or sunset would turn this place into a photographer's delight. As it was, I shot several different scenes. I could easily spend a couple hours here, but we were heading back home today so I tried to restrain myself.

Tufa towers in Mono Lake

After following the shore for a bit, the trail turns inland through the low brush and returns to the parking lot.


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