This is High Plains Drifter country, made famous by Clint Eastwood's motion picture. It is a land of sage-brush-covered plains leading to towering, snow-flecked sawtooth ranges and dormant volcanoes. Mono County was named for the Indian people who lived here prior to the arrival of American pioneers. The Mono people were a band of the Paiute-Shoshone Indians.
- 1 Bridgeport - the county seat with a classic white courthouse in use since 1880. The countryside surrounding it is speckled with hundreds, nay thousands, nay... Oh well, lots and lots of cattle, and in the background the high alpine peaks of Yosemite National Park. Can you say "cowboy country?"
- 2 Coleville - a ranching town in the Antelope Valley.
- 3 June Lake - California's classic Eastern Sierra fish camp and small ski town.
- 4 Lee Vining - the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park (road closed Nov. - May) and the ideal base for exploring Mono Lake. Classic curio shops, Mono Lake visitor centers, gas, motels, Lee Vining has everything you need to provision a stay on the East Side.
- 5 Mammoth Lakes - the largest town in Mono County. Mammoth Lakes was originally a fish camp, but has become a major resort town serving skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, anglers, golfers, horseback riders, hikers, mountain bikers, road bikers and people otherwise looking for inspirational relaxation.
- 6 Walker - trading posts, art galleries and eat a Walker burger in a forested setting surrounded by bird houses.
- 1 Bodie State Historic Park (13 miles east of the intersection of US Hwy 395 and California State Route 270), ☏ . daily 9AM–4PM winter; 9AM–6PM summer. Bodie is a historic ghost town from the California Gold Rush era, kept in a state of arrested decay by curators and historians of the California State Parks. At Bodie, you get a real idea of what it was like in a big mining town (pop. 10,000), after everyone left... school work scattered across desks, cards left on dusty tables in saloons, lace window curtains blowing in the breeze of an abandoned home. This remote town in the high desert is preserved in ways that are authentic but occasionally uncomfortable for modern visitors, including three miles of dirt roads before you get there, no gas stations, no food for sale, no camping areas, and some dangerous mining areas (look for the signs). You can bring a picnic lunch, and there are wheelchair-accessible restrooms and drinking water by the picnic area (no shade) and parking lot. Dogs must be leashed and may not enter any building. In the snowy winter and muddy spring, Bodie Road (Highway 270) is often impassable even if you have a four-wheel drive truck with chains on the wheels and you think you know what you're doing. If you're still tempted, then keep in mind that the nearest tow truck is more than an hour's drive away and will charge you an arm and a leg. You can, however ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile in and out when the weather is clear. In the summer, arrive early in the morning to beat the heat. Visitors on wheels, whether wheelchair or baby stroller, may find the Cemetery Trail more accessible than the stairs and uneven wooden boardwalk in the old town.
- 1 Mono Lake - We're talkin' a lake that's truly bizarre-a-mundo! At several points around it odd, Seussian-like towers of limestone rise from the water. Rent a canoe or kayak in Mammoth Lakes or take one of the Mono Lake Committee's canoe tours to see these "Tufa towers" close up. Millions of birds stop at the lake to munch on the trillions of brine shrimp living in its salty waters. If you're a birder, plan to attend the Mono Lake Bird Chatauqua on the third weekend of June. It sells out, so reserve early to join walks, talks and otherwise birdy things.
- 2 Rock Creek Lake
- 3 White Mountains
Two national forests, the Inyo National Forest and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, as well as three wilderness areas, the Hoover Wilderness, Ansel Adams Wilderness and John Muir Wilderness can be explored in Mono County. Nearly all the two million acres in Mono County are government owned. What isn't is ranchland for cattle and sheep or supports the county's largest industry... tourism.
Mono Lake, the largest natural lake entirely within California, attracts millions of migratory birds including 90 percent of the California Gull population to nest there. Mono Lake is also downright bizarre, with surreal tufa columns that rise from the water's edge and a chemistry so unusual that NASA has run tests in its murky depths in order to determine whether life might exist on other planets.
Signs of geologic activity can be seen throughout Mono County... steaming hot springs, volcanic flows, obsidian domes, ancient craters, and open faults. There's even a geothermal power plant to tour by calling (760) 934-4893.
Mammoth Mountain (11,053 ft) in the town of Mammoth Lakes is one of the largest ski areas in the U.S. In summer, the ski runs become mountain biking trails at one of the most extreme mountain biking experiences in the U.S. June Mountain, near the town of June Lake, is a favorite of snowboarders, families and backcountry skiers (yes, guided off-piste skiing is permitted there). Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-climbing, backcountry skiing, snowplay, dog sledding and snowmobiling are other popular winter activities.
Mono County is home to California's legendary Alpers Trout, raised by local aquaculturist, Tim Alpers on the historic Conway Ranch. These lunkers are prized for their beefy shape, massive size and fight. Because so many "Alpers Trout" are stocked there and due to its clear water and many lakes and streams, anglers consider Mono County and the Eastern Sierra to be prime fly and bait fishing territory. The region is so renowned for its fishing that field testing of many synthetic baits and lures occurs there. Hiking, horseback riding and wilderness pack trips, backpacking, cycling, motor touring, off-roading, camping, orienteering, golfing, kayaking, water-skiing, jet-skiing, rock-climbing and bouldering are popular summer activities.
Bodie is Mono County's most notorious town, yet only caretakers live there, today. It was one of the wildest towns in the West in the late 1800s, but today is a ghost town managed by the California State Parks, as is the Tufa State Reserve at Mono Lake.
California's finest displays of fall color can be found here. From early September through October (usually peaking in early October), spectacular displays of yellow, orange, red, pink, auburn and green leaves descend from the high up in the Eastern Sierra, down canyons to near U.S. 395.
There are seven visitor information centers in Mono County: the Bridgeport Ranger Station, the Bridgeport Visitor Center, The Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine, The June Lake Visitor Center, The Mammoth Lakes California Welcome Center, The Mono Basin Scenic Area Ranger Station and Visitor Center and The White Mountain Ranger Station.
- US 395 bisects the county on a north-south axis allowing access to the county from Southern California to the south and Carson and Reno to the north. 395 is the only year-round highway entering Mono County from California.
- California State Route 108 provides access to Mono County from California's Central Valley over the Sierra Nevada range but is closed during the height of winter.
- US 6 and California State Route 167/Nevada 359 enter Mono County from the sparsely populated western region of Nevada.
- Lundy Lake Beaver dam and ponds
- Twin Lakes - Two, almost identically sized lakes are found 14 miles southwest of Bridgeport. Located at 7,000 ft. in elevation, the lakes are favorite places for shore, float and boat fishing.
- United States Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center - Established in 1951 specifically to provide mountain and cold weather training for replacement personnel bound for Korea, this intense training ground is one of the U.S. Marine Corps’ most remote and isolated posts, and one of its most difficult training grounds. The Center is located at 6,762 feet, on 46,000 acres of the Toiyabe National Forest. Lowest course elevation is 6,800 ft, and highest elevation is 7,800 ft. Average temperature in May is 53 degrees. This is where the U.S. Marines receive high-altitude training before heading to battle the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan. On this terrain is run one of the most challenging 10K runs, anywhere. It's open not only to military athletes, but to anyone willing to take on a Marine Corps-sized challenge. The gain is 1,100 feet beginning at 6,800 ft. and climbing to 7,600 ft in just 2.3 miles. The Marines have named this stretch, "Heart Attack Hill." About the time you hit the first water station at only one mile up the hill, you've hit the runner's proverbial wall and are thankful you're just a marathoner and not one of the Marines stationed here who, in the course of their arduous training, have to do similar things carrying full combat gear. You settle in and begin to understand what the Marines mean when they call each other grunts and experience a little of what it's about to be one of the few, the proud.
- Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
- Inyo National Forest
- Virginia Lakes
- Lundy Canyon
- June Lakes
- McGee Creek
- Crowley Lake
- Mono Craters
- Benton Hot Springs - the name says it all. You can soak in natural hot springs that are temperature regulated.
- Toms Place - Too-kewl general store, bar and cafe. Stop here for prime rib and burgers, rated tops by local newspapers.
- Topaz - a fishing town (population 50) at the south end of Topaz lake, just minutes from a Nevada casino.
- 1 Inyo County - Mono County's southern neighbor is a land of extremes, covering a massive 10,000 square mile expanse of the Eastern Sierra and California Desert. Inyo County is home to Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower-48 states, as well as Death Valley National Park, the largest national park in the lower-48 states and host to earth's hottest temperatures and the continent's lowest elevation. In addition, ancient bristlecone pine trees can be found within the White Mountains, the oldest of which is estimated to be around 5,000 years old.
- 2 Fresno County - Mono County's neighbor to the southwest, sprawling Fresno County is home to Fresno, California's fifth-largest city, and vast agricultural areas. The eastern side of the county is mountainous, featuring the remote wilderness of Kings Canyon National Park, which attracts visitors to its giant sequoias and unspoiled meadows that lie at the crest of the Sierra Nevada range.
- 3 Madera County - West of Mono County lies Madera County, whose agricultural western half offers plenty of hotels and amenities for travelers, while the mountainous eastern half features unspoiled Sierra Nevada wilderness that is home to portions of Yosemite National Park, the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and Devils Postpile National Monument with its impressive basalt columns and iconic Rainbow Falls. Be aware that there are no roads crossing the county from west to east, so it may be a very circuitous route for those who want to see everything Madera has to offer!
- 4 Mariposa County - Located west of Mono County, Mariposa was the largest county in California at the time of statehood in 1850, but later ceded land that formed twelve other counties. Today it maintains a relatively small footprint in the Sierra Nevada foothills, but has kept one of the state's treasures: Yosemite National Park, home to impossibly tall granite cliffs, remote alpine wilderness, and an iconic valley.
- 5 Tuolumne County - Mono County's western neighbor is accessible via California State Route 120 through Yosemite National Park, although Tioga Pass is closed after the first snow in winter. Tuolumne County was one of California's original counties at the time of statehood, and today offers a glimpse into the region's gold mining and logging history, as well as numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation. With limited parking and lodging inside of Yosemite, the YARTS shuttle system makes the county's towns an option to consider for park visitors.
- 6 Alpine County - Located northwest of Mono County, sparsely populated Alpine County advertises itself with the slogan "two people per square mile and you", making it a good option for a quiet mountain getaway. Attractions include the hot spring pools at Grover Hot Springs State Park, amazing views of the Sierras from the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway, and the excellent winter skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
- Western Nevada - Home to Carson City, the capitol of the State of Nevada.
- Southern Nevada