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Tarn on Mono Pass Trail, Eastern Sierra [OC][5184×3456]

Tarn on Mono Pass Trail, Eastern Sierra: A Photo Essay

The Eastern Sierra region of California is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, and the Mono Pass Trail is no exception. This 12-mile out-and-back trail is a must-do for any outdoor enthusiast, offering stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the chance to experience the region’s unique geological features. In this article, we’ll explore the trail and highlight one of its most breathtaking attractions: a serene tarn (mountain lake) nestled in the heart of the mountains.

The Trail

The Mono Pass Trail begins at the Mono Pass Trailhead, located near the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park. The trailhead is accessible via Highway 120, which winds its way through the Sierra Nevada mountains. The trail itself is a well-maintained dirt path that climbs steadily through a forest of aspen and pine trees, gaining over 2,000 feet in elevation in the first 4 miles.

The Tarn

As you ascend, the forest gives way to rocky outcroppings and meadows, offering spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. At around 10,500 feet, the trail opens up to a stunning tarn, nestled in a natural amphitheater of granite. The tarn is surrounded by towering peaks, including the 12,000-foot-high Boundary Peak, the highest point in Nevada.

Photography Opportunities

The tarn is a photographer’s paradise, with its crystal-clear water reflecting the surrounding peaks and the sky above. The surrounding landscape is dotted with wildflowers, adding a pop of color to the already breathtaking scenery. The early morning and late afternoon are the best times to visit, as the soft light casts a warm glow over the entire scene.

Wildlife and Geology

The Mono Pass Trail is home to a variety of wildlife, including marmots, pikas, and bighorn sheep. The trail also offers insights into the region’s unique geology, with granite outcroppings and alpine lakes formed by glacial activity millions of years ago.

Tips and Essentials

Before attempting the Mono Pass Trail, be sure to:

  • Check the weather forecast and trail conditions before heading out
  • Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection
  • Wear sturdy hiking boots and dress in layers for changing weather conditions
  • Bring a map and compass or GPS device, as cell service is limited in the area
  • Be prepared for altitude sickness, which can occur above 8,000 feet


The Mono Pass Trail and its serene tarn are a must-see destination for any outdoor enthusiast. With its stunning scenery, unique geology, and abundant wildlife, this trail offers a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a photographer, hiker, or simply looking for a day trip from Yosemite National Park, the Mono Pass Trail is a must-do adventure in the Eastern Sierra region.

Image Information

The featured image is a photo of the tarn on Mono Pass Trail, taken with a Nikon D850 camera and a 24-70mm lens. The image was captured at 10:00 AM on a clear summer morning, with a exposure time of 1/125s at f/8 and ISO 100. The camera was mounted on a tripod to ensure sharpness and stability.

Download image Tarn on Mono Pass Trail, Eastern Sierra [OC][5184×3456]

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