Although it's a bit of a drive from LA or SF area up to the Eastern Slope of the Sierra, it's well worth a trip there to see the magnificent scenery.
We chose to go after labor day, hence less traffic and crowds. Mono Lake is an alkalai lake with no natural outflow. It is about 14 miles across and most importantly, it can get VERY windy with little or no warning, usually after mid-day.
We followed the advice of another entry on this site and put in at Navy Beach on the southside of the lake. We drove to within 25 yards of the put-in spot, which is nice.
The previous day had been very windy, gusts over 40 mph, but Saturday dawned clear... and still. We headed west from Navy Beach and immediately encountered the famous tufa formations which are calcium carbonate formations and very "moon-like" in appearance. After paddling among the tufa towers, we continued northwest about 3 miles, staying near the shore. (See note on sudden wind above.)
We saw thousands of gulls, grebes and other birds, and paddled right through large groups of birds who scattered as we approached.
Got a little windburned but had a great time on this 3 hour paddle. The only bummer was I forgot to charge our camera battery so only got a few pictures of our adventure!
Highly recommended. Evidently the film "High Plains Drifter" was shot very near the put-in point, rent that movie to get a feel for the scenery you will encounter.
Bring binoculars, camera, and leave time to explore nearby points of interst including unique ghost town of Bodie, Devil's Postpile, Panum Crater, and June or Mammoth Lakes areas.
We stayed in the Murphys Motel in Lee Vining. It was clean and cost $90 per nite.
Food is at one of two restaurants in Lee Vining, both were typical of road-type food, not the healthiest, but very palatable. There is also the famous Whoa Nellie Deli located at the gas station just west of town as you start the rise out of Mono Basin.
From SF area, go east on 580, then hit 205, then I-5, Rte. 120, up to and over Tioga Pass, then down into Lee Vining. The lake will be visible as you descend the Eastern Sierra.
- Trip Duration: Day Trip, 2-3 Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water