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Camping in Mono Lake

For out-of-this-world camping, explore Mono Lake's towering limestone formations by day and starry mountain views by night.

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Nestled in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mono Lake is one of California's most unique treasures. The shallow lake covers 70 square miles and is among the oldest on the continent. As you gawk at the eerie limestone formations rising from the still waters, you just might feel like you're on another planet.

Camping near Mono Lake puts endless wilderness adventure at your fingertips. Hiking trails meander through the lakeshore and surrounding forests. Plus, the east entrance to Yosemite National Park is just a short drive away.

The lake itself lies just outside of Lee Vining—a great place to stock up on supplies. You can also swing by the visitor center for maps and regional info.

A few top activities in the Mono Basin National Forest include hiking through volcanic landscapes and fishing trout streams. To see the lake's famous tufa towers, head to the South Tufa Area. Itching to get on the water? kayaking and SUP boarding are a few ways to explore the motorboat-free lake. Just don't bust out your pole and tackle box here—there's not a single fish in Mono Lake.

Driving south on highway 395, you find even more outdoor adventure throughout Inyo National Forest. Drive the scenic June Lake Loop, or enjoy boating and downhill skiing at the Mammoth Lakes.

Out of respect for Mono Lake's fragile landscape, there's no camping on the lake itself. Mono Basin National Forest allows free backcountry camping, but you do need a fire permit. You can also choose from an array of RV parks and private campgrounds. Many are located in the surrounding mountains and Lee Vining Creek Canyon.

The Mono Lake area is known for its high winds, so be sure to bring some good stakes if you're planning on tent camping. This California destination welcomes visitors year-round, but if you want to beat the crowds, consider a winter retreat. Cool weather and solitude are the perfect backdrops to your Sierra Nevada adventure.

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