Growing up, my dad would take me over Sonora Pass to camp and explore the east side of the Sierra’s. Some of my favorite memories are driving along the dirt roads, dipping our toes into the hot springs, and seeing the famous Tufa at Mono Lake. A few weeks back he invited us to go on a weekend trip with him and I couldn’t resist. I packed the car full, buckled the kids up, and we were off! We stopped a few times along the way to see some of the most beautiful California views from Sonora Pass.
Since the kids have been raised in the mountains, it is honestly their happy place! Matthew and I always joke because the kids have more fun in the woods than they did when we took them to Disneyland this past summer. After some sightseeing, we arrived in Bridgeport. During this time of the year, most of the shops and restaurants have closed for the season. That didn’t stop us from exploring though. We walked around, let the kids play, and saw some beautiful buildings. Mono county has so much rich history, with being a history lover myself it’s the perfect spot to soak in the gold rush history. From there, we headed to Mono Lake and Lee Vining. Mono Lake is a saline soda lake that was formed at least 760,000 years ago. Due to no outlet, the lake water is alkaline. Famous for its Tufa Towers and Alkali Flies, Mono lake is a must stop spot when visiting Mono County.
After the kids played a little, we headed to Panum Crater. Panum Crater is a volcanic dome that is part of the Mono-Inyo Craters. Believed to be between 600 and 700 years old, Panum Crater is rhyolitic lava dome. This was my first time exploring a crater and it was so neat. OverWith beautiful pumice and obsidian, we had so much fun hiking and exploring.
When we finished up at Panum Crater, we decided to grab some food before heading to camp. The Mobile in Lee Vining has delicious food and an outside patio seating with a view of Mono Lake. We ate dinner and called it a day. My dad reserved us a cabin at the Virginia Creek Settlements since temperatures were expected to be below freezing this time of year gets very cold at night or else we would have tent camped as there are a ton of free camping areas. When we arrived, we were pleased to find a perfect little cabin with a gas heater and an outside gas fire pit. They also offer bigger cabins, wagons, and hotel rooms as well as a full service restaurant. The kids took no time picking their bed and we went on a short walk before sitting around the fire for s’mores.
Stay tuned for part two of our trip where we explored hot springs, a famous old ranch, and a old ghost town that was once a booming gold rush town!
More pictures from our first day
Overlooking Mono Lake We stopped at the Mono Basin Museum but it was closed. Around the museum, there are a ton of old tractors, an upside down house, and items from the gold rush days.