Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area

courtesy of Nolan Nitschke Photography

Located immediately east of Yosemite National Park, Mono is the westernmost basin of the Basin and Range Province, which stretches across western North America between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the heart of Mono Basin lies the strange and majestic Mono Lake, a vast inland sea nestled amidst the 13,000 foot peaks of the High Sierra to the west, the ancient volcanic Bodie Hills to the north, rolling oceans of sagebrush to the east and the towering cinder cones of the young Mono Crater volcanoes to the south. Here, the high desert environment harbors a thriving but fragile ecosystem of interdependent plant and animal species--some found nowhere else in the world but Mono Lake. From waters saltier than the oceans and as alkaline as household ammonia have evolved unique species of life, unearthly limestone spires of tufa and the dedication of countless human advocates who have devoted their efforts to the preservation of the Mono Basin. To help protect the unique ecological and cultural resources of the Mono Basin, the U.S. Congress invented the concept of the National Scenic Area, and in 1984 designated the Mono Basin National Scenic Area--the first in U.S. history.

Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center

The visitor Center located 1/2 mile north of the town of Lee Vining, just east of Tioga Pass (the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park), on Highway 395. A variety of activities and exhibits introduce the natural and human history of the Mono Basin. Enjoy a twenty-minute film, an interactive exhibit hall, two art galleries and a Book Store. The center's staff would be glad to help you plan your explorations of Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra.

The Mono Basin Scenic Area is one of 47 National Forest sites throughout the country that are taking part in the Congressionally-initiated Recreation Fee Demonstration Project, in which 80% of fees collected will be returned to the collection site to support resource protection, education and recreational services. Presently, there is a charge of $3 per person at the South Tufa exhibit and trail.

Mono Basin Recreation Information