Flickr album link: Mono Lake & Inyo National Forest ~ Highway 120
California Highway 120 runs along the south side of Mono Lake into the Inyo National Forest, then this lengthy touring route continues east through several mountain passes to the town of Benton near the Nevada Border. Most visitors are only interested in taking in views of the odd looking tufa rock formations along the shoreline of Mono Lake and very few actually tour the vast desert mountain wilderness east to Benton. Those who do complete the entire trip can attest to the fact that the magnificent panoramic views do not necessarily end at Mono Lake. Some of the most picturesque mountain landscapes in the entire west await east of Mono Lake, so be sure to pack a camera or artist palette for the ride.
The golden hour is the best time for visiting the south shore of Mono Lake, because the colorful sunsets with the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background truly are inspirational to see. The other worldly tufa and the red sky reflections cast upon the calm water truly attract artists worldwide. The sunset views from the South Tufa Area and Navy Beach will certainly create memories that last a lifetime, so be sure that the timing for the visit is optimal since the towering mountains to the west will block the direct sunlight much earlier than expected. On the downside, access is limited along the south shore due to wildfire recovery efforts, so hiking in from the main road may be the only option.
The colorful sunset views definitely do not end at Mono Lake. As the surrounding pine forest enters the calmness of the blue hour shortly after sunset, even more colorful scenery can be captured by traveling east on Highway 120. The bold glowing golden sunlight will still be illuminating the landscape further east beyond the shadows of the Sierra Nevadas, so be ready to witness one beautiful view after another until twilights starts to set in. There are many camping opportunities to be found in the mountains on the way to Benton, so doing an overnighter in this peaceful remote setting can be part of the plan. During late autumn it is best to check the weather for snow forecasts, because this region is known for powerful blizzards that can leave a visitor completely stranded with little warning. Autumn is the best time for viewing a once in a lifetime sunset along Highway 120, so be sure to chalk this scenic drive high on the list!
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