Mono Lake North: Rattlesnake Gulch and Black Point


What? : A large lake the middle of eastern sierra corridor. One of the unique geological point of interest at the lake are the Tufa rock formation on the lake shores. In this blog I will focus on the south side of the lake, there is another blog-post covering the north side of the lake.


Where? : The large Mono Lake is located near the small town of Lee Vining on hwy 395, near the intersection with hwy 120 leading to Yosemite.

Google Map Link


When? : Year round but Winter can be cold.


Due note 1: Although not popular as in other nearby lakes swim in the lake is allowed.


Due note 2: The federal land in this area is part of the greater Inyo National Forest Mono Basin Scenic Area.


Due note 3: Most dirt roads are in good condition and can be access by 2-wheel drive car.


My thoughts: Mono lake is one of my favorite eastern sierra attractions to visit, especially at the South Tufa Area. The north shore or Black Point are also interesting places to visit if you have few hours to spend but I will not recommend this as a must visit place.


The visit:

At more than one million years old, Mono Lake is one of North America’s most ancient lakes. The lake has interesting “recent history” where in the 1940’s the lake water was taken with canals 350 miles south to meet the water demands of Los Angeles. Mono Lake lost 50 percent of its water, and its salinity doubled. With that water level went down dramatically and as a result the Tufa limestone rock formation were exposed and can be seen at the lake shores.


The city of Lee Vining is a good place to refuel and to find something to eat. Here you start hwy 120 west Tioga Pass to Yosemite up in the high sierra mountains.

The main lake attraction is the Tufa area at the south side of the lake but there are few places to visit at the north side of the lake.


DeChambeau Ranch:

This ranch was established in 1871 on the shores of Mono Lake. Its peek time was at it peek together with the flourish of the nearby Bodie mining town. When the mining industry went down, and people left the area the same thing happen to all nearby farming communities.

The old ranch buildings are managed in an “arrested state of decay” and are periodically stabilized. When visiting this old farm where many buildings are still standing you can imagine how settlements live here.

The easiest way to reach the farm is to drive east on highway and turn right into Cemetery Rd (4.4 mile from the 395 intersection).

Overall, this is a short, 30 minutes stop, just to walk near the houses and explore the farm.


From DeChambeau Ranch you can keep driving south and turn left to the road that will lead you to Black Point Parking Lot.


Black Point:

Disclaimer: I did not have the chance to visit up here, probably next time

Black Point is a low volcanic hill unremarkable from a distance but concealing several deep, narrow cracks, which resemble small slot canyons.

The hidden small “canyon” can be reached by a one-mile hike from the trailhead, a ease climb to the level plateau on top of the point.

From the end of the dirt road parking, you can walk down to the lake shore, the Tufa here are not as impressive and they are not near the shore but more near the lake island.


Rattlesnake Gulch:

Rattlesnake Gulch is a small valley and hill section north of Mono lake, just east at the point where hwy 395 climb the ridge out of Mono Lake and the hwy 167 junction.

At this location, elevation of 6870 feet, overlooking Mono Lake you can explore the hills and the old, deserted farmhouses.

There is a private ranch nearby, but the hill section and the old mining digs are in public access land. I went and took some of the dirt roads in this area, exploring the old farmhouses and hills. Recommend to come with 4WD.