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