Mono Lake, California, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Mono Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Mono Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Mono Lake

Mono Lake, located in California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, has a long and rich history dating back to its formation over 760,000 years ago. Sediments below the lake’s surface indicate that Mono Lake might be a leftover of an earlier, larger lake. Today, Mono Lake is fed from melting runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains with no outlet, filling its depths with salt and raising the pH levels.

Mono Lake’s natural shoreline used to be at 6,417 feet above sea level (approximately 54,900 acres). However, when Los Angeles County diverted water from Mono Lake’s source of water in 1941, the lake fell to only 6,372 feet (approximately 37,700 acres) at its lowest point in 1982. In 1978, conservation efforts went into effect and water levels have continuously risen to today’s 6,382 feet (approximately 44,700 acres). Hopefully, Mono Lake will rise to 6,392 feet within another decade, but it is not expected to return to its pre-diversion size.

The lake’s saline levels mean that there are no fish in Mono Lake. However, the lake is famous for the Mono Lake brine shrimp which measure no longer than a thumbnail and live nowhere else in the world. NASA scientists recently discovered a lake organism that can grow and live on arsenic, a poison, raising hopes that other creatures far from Earth could live in similar hostile environments.

In addition to being home to a unique species, Mono Lake plays a vital role to migratory shorebirds every year. Recognized by Western Hemisphere Reserve Network as an International Reserve, almost 2,000,000 birds sit atop tufa towers, soar through the air, stop to feed, and build their nests at the lake annually. Bird watchers at the lake should be on the lookout for American Avocets, California Gulls, Eared Grebes, Killdeers, Red-necked Phalaropes, Wilson’s Phalaropes, and sandpipers as they seek refuge in this quiet, peaceful California nature haven.

With the Sierra Nevada Mountains reflected in the quiet waters of the lake, the visitor enjoys breathtaking scenic views from the lakeshore. Take a wilderness hike along a lake ridge, stop by the visitor’s center to brush up on your lake knowledge, explore neighboring ghost towns, and fish in one of the nearby freshwater streams, all the while enjoying the absolute tranquility that Mono Lake offers.

Canoe and kayak tours are available during summer months. If you choose to venture out into Mono Lake in your own canoe or kayak, be aware that the lake’s waters hide many underground obstacles. Mono Lake’s water– 2.5 times as salty and 80 times as alkaline as the ocean — provides an unusual swimming experience.

The lake is famous for its graceful tufa towers (calcium-carbonate deposits) that were once submerged under the surface. Rising out of the water like rocky aquatic stalagmites, the dramatic tufa towers beg to be photographed, with the barren desert and surrounding hills as their only backdrop. Take a free walking tour to learn more about the tufa and Mono Lake’s ecosystem, or explore the aquatic environment on your own, best seen at the South Tufa area on the lake’s south shore.

Mono Lake is just 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park, covering 761,266 acres and hosting an incredible 3.5 million visitors every year. As a World Heritage Site, Yosemite basks in international recognition of its towering Giant Sequoias, intense biodiversity, great tumbling waterfalls, and spectacular, graceful granite cliffs. As you hike the park’s trails, drive along scenic parkways, bike a mountain path, or take a guided tour, you’ll discover the spectacular natural beauty of Yosemite. The Giant Sequoias are almost too large to be believed, 150 species of birds pass through the park each year, and from mountaintop vantage points, you’ll swear you can see to China.

Mono Lake is a beautiful getaway, perfect for unwinding and getting back to the basics. Camp in the mountains, wake up to a powdery covering of snow, climb the surrounding hills, drink in picturesque fall scenery, or enjoy the warm sun of summer on your trip, and enjoy one of the most remote and beautiful places you’ll ever see.

Things to Do at Mono Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Waterfall
  • Birding
  • National Park
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Find Places to Stay at Mono Lake

If you’re considering a Mono Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Mono Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Mono Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.
ALL TRAVEL RESOURCES

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Mono Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Not Known

Water Level Control: Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power

Surface Area: 44,762 acres

Shoreline Length: 40 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,382 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 6,372 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 6,417 feet

Average Depth: 57 feet

Maximum Depth: 159 feet

Water Volume: 2,407,820 acre-feet

Lake Area-Population: 400

Trophic State: Hypersaline, Alkaline

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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