Based on the eerie, otherworldly photos everyone has seen of Mono Lake, I was really looking forward to witnessing it for myself, and attempting to take some photographs as well. We arrived at The Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor’s Center at midday – not great for taking pictures, but we were excited to see it any time of day. There is a smallish section of the shore near the Visitor’s Center on 395 just north of Lee Vining, sporting the tufa towers that are the focal point of most photos of Mono Lake.
We drove down to the picnic area on the northwest shore and ventured out toward the tufa. It looked unusual and interesting from a distance.
But as we tried to get closer we found ourselves slipping and sliding in the mud. You can see the footprints of others who tried the same approach in the picture below.
Our hosts at Meadocliff KOA in Walker had told us that the best place to view the tufa was on the south shore, and they were certainly right. Called the South Tufa area, it is accessed via Rt. 120 about 6 miles south of Lee Vining. There is a fee to access the area, collected by the National Forest Service at the parking lot. (National Parks Senior Passes apply!)