Mono Lake: Hike the South Tufa Nature Trail

In December, the Schwarz family vacationed in Mammoth Lakes, California. While Dad and my sister set off on skis, Mom and I hit the road in search of adventure.


Our first destination was Mono Lake, an ancient saline lake located at the edge of the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada mountains. In 1941, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power diverted excessive amounts of water from Mono Basin streams. The water level dropped 45 feet and doubled in salinity, exposing the underwater tufa (too’-fah) towers. (Source: Mono Lake Committee)



Though fish cannot survive, brine shrimp, the alkali fly and migratory birds thrive at Mono Lake. In 2010, NASA even discovered a possible “alien” life form living at the bottom of the lake! (Source: National Geographic)


Mom and I hiked the 1-mile nature trail at South Tufa, one of the largest groves of the unusual limestone rock formation on the lake. We bundled up in our coats and gloves to explore the snow-dusted shoreline, while we planned our next adventure to a remote hot spring.


South Tufa Nature Trail

  • About This Hike: 1-mi self-guided flat loop
  • Fitness Level: Easy
  • Trailhead Coordinates: 37.938698,-119.027127
  • Trailhead Directions: From Mammoth Lakes, take US-395 N and turn right onto Highway 120 East. If you pass Yosemite’s Tioga Pass (eastern) entrance on your left, you’ve gone too far. From 120 East, drive 5 miles and turn left onto unpaved Test Station Road for about 1 mile.
  • Parking: Self-serve $3 parking permit

Get Directions

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