This is High Plains Drifter country, made famous by Clint Eastwood's motion picture. It is a land of sage-brush-covered plains leading to towering, snow-flecked sawtooth ranges and dormant volcanoes. Mono County was named for the Indian people who lived here prior to the arrival of American pioneers. The Mono people were a band of the Paiute-Shoshone Indians.
Two national forests, the Inyo National Forest and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, as well as three wilderness areas, the Hoover Wilderness, Ansel Adams Wilderness and John Muir Wilderness can be explored in Mono County. Nearly all the two million acres in Mono County are government owned. What isn't is ranchland for cattle and sheep or supports the county's largest industry... tourism.
Mono Lake, the largest natural lake entirely within California, attracts millions of migratory birds including 90 percent of the California Gull population to nest there. Mono Lake is also downright bizarre, with surreal tufa columns that rise from the water's edge and a chemistry so unusual that NASA has run tests in its murky depths in order to determine whether life might exist on other planets.
Signs of geologic activity can be seen throughout Mono County... steaming hot springs, volcanic flows, obsidian domes, ancient craters, and open faults. There's even a geothermal power plant to tour by calling (760) 934-4893.
Mammoth Mountain (11,053 ft) in the town of Mammoth Lakes is one of the largest ski areas in the U.S. In summer, the ski runs become mountain biking trails at one of the most extreme mountain biking experiences in the U.S. June Mountain, near the town of June Lake, is a favorite of snowboarders, families and backcountry skiers (yes, guided off-piste skiing is permitted there). Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-climbing, backcountry skiing, snowplay, dog sledding and snowmobiling are other popular winter activities.
Mono County is home to California's legendary Alpers Trout, raised by local aquaculturist, Tim Alpers on the historic Conway Ranch. These lunkers are prized for their beefy shape, massive size and fight. Because so many "Alpers Trout" are stocked there and due to its clear water and many lakes and streams, anglers consider Mono County and the Eastern Sierra to be prime fly and bait fishing territory. The region is so renowned for its fishing that field testing of many synthetic baits and lures occurs there. Hiking, horseback riding and wilderness pack trips, backpacking, cycling, motor touring, off-roading, camping, orienteering, golfing, kayaking, water-skiing, jet-skiing, rock-climbing and bouldering are popular summer activities.
Bodie is Mono County's most notorious town, yet only caretakers live there, today. It was one of the wildest towns in the West in the late 1800s, but today is a ghost town managed by the California State Parks, as is the Tufa State Reserve at Mono Lake.
California's finest displays of fall color can be found here. From early September through October (usually peaking in early October), spectacular displays of yellow, orange, red, pink, auburn and green leaves descend from the high up in the Eastern Sierra, down canyons to near U.S. 395.