Hiking The Mono Lake South Tufa Trail

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Mono Lake is a large and shallow salt water lake just east of Yosemite National Park on HWY 395. Mono Lake is best known for it’s sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and it’s iconic tufas. Tufas are limestone columns that form when calcium rich springs shoot up from under water and mix with the carbonate rich waters of the lake. One of the best places to see tufas along the shores of Mono Lake, is on the South Tufa Trail.

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail


Directions And GPS Tracks:

  • The trailhead to hike the South Tufa Trail is located at the Mono Lake South Tufa Area parking lot. Click here for directions
  • From the 395, take the 120 east towards Mono Lake. Drive for 4.7 miles util you reach Test Station Rd. This is a dirt road. Drive 1 mile on Test Station Rd until you reach the parking lot.
  • Download GPX
  • See track on Gaia GPS

Key Points:

  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 31 ft
  • Minimum Elevation: 6386 ft
  • Maximum Elevation: 6416 ft
  • Time: .5-1 hours
  • Difficulty: (1/5)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Permit Required: No, but a $3 parking fee is required or an America The Beautiful Pass
  • Parking: There is a large lot right at the trailhead
  • Trail Condition: A mix of dirt, sand, wood planks, and asphalt
  • Cell Phone Reception: Pretty good
Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Pay Station At The Parking Lot

Make sure to hike with the right gear. See my current hiking gear list. 


Hike Map And Elevation Profile:

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail


Hike Description:

0.0 Miles- For this loop hike of the South Tufa Trail, I went in a counterclockwise direction. Start out by walking towards the lake on the asphalt path near the information kiosk. You will soon see a dirt trail on the right hand side of the asphalt path. Take the dirt path.

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
See Trail To The Right
Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Towards The Lake

From the dirt path, you will soon be at the shores of Mono Lake, with a series of tufa columns and formations all around you.

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Approaching The Shores
Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Isla and Lilly At Mono Lake

0.25 Miles- The South Tufa Trail continues northwest along the shores of Mono Lake and takes hikers towards some of the most impressive tufa formations of this entire hike.

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Among The Tufas
Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Shorelines
Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
On The Water

0.45 Miles- After reaching the northern most tip of the loop, you’ll continue to follow the shoreline southwest. At this point in the hike, you’ll get to see views of the Sierra Nevada mountains at their very finest.

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Sierra Views
Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Tufa Formation
Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Tufa Columns
Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Lake Views

After this spot along the shores of Mono Lake, the South Tufa Trail heads back towards the parking lot. You’ll see the trail of wooden boards followed by the asphalt path you began on.

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail
Wooden Boards

Hiking Mono Lake South Tufa Trail

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Tim Dinte
3 years ago

Hey Drew, what do you record your GPX files off? i see you use GaiaGPS and what looks like Google Earth, I’m going to start sharing my GPX files as no one here in Australia really creates them for hikes.

Susan
3 years ago

I hiked this trail with my parents when I was in 3rd grade. I’ve not been back since but I vividly remember it! Such interesting salt tufas.

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