Mono Pass is a moderately difficult hike at a high elevation that offers stunning views of the Sierras, including lakes, alpine mountains and lush green meadows. Below is my guide on hiking to Mono Pass from the Mosquito Flats Trailhead.
- Elevation gain – 1,800 ft
- Total Distance – 7 miles round trip
- Duration – 6 to 8 hours
- Dog Friendly – Yes
- Major landmarks and viewpoints – Summit Lake, Pioneer Basin Lakes, Golden Lake, Mono Pass, High Sierras, Ruby Lake.
Reaching the Mosquito Flat Trailhead
The Mosquito Flat Trailhead is approximately 300 miles north of downtown Los Angeles in the White Mountain Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest. Expect at least five hours’ driving time, depending on your starting point and traffic. For Inyo National Forest road conditions, campground statuses and other alerts, click here.
Most hikers reach the trailhead the night before and camp there overnight to begin the hike early the next day. Accommodations that are available are the Mosquito Flat Backpacker Campground, the Rock Creek Lodge and the Rock Creek Lakes Resort.
This hike starts at over 10,000 feet. If you do not have experience hiking at this altitude, plan accordingly. Spending the night before (or ideally the whole day before) at the campground can help you acclimate. Also consider consulting your doctor about medications that can help combat altitude sickness. For more tips on high altitude hiking, click here.
Since it is an active bear area, bear canisters are required to store your food if you are planning to camp at Mosquito Flats or in the back country. Several outlets in Bishop and Lone Pine rent canisters.
The best time to visit is from March to October. However, the Sierras often have extreme weather, even in the summer months. For up to date conditions at Mosquito Flats, click here. (Also check here for up to date road and campground conditions).
The first half mile from the campground is shared with the Little Lakes Valley Trail. After half a mile and about 200 feet of elevation gain, stay right at Y-junction. In another mile and a half (600 vertical feet) you reach Ruby Lake Junction. This scenic spot is a good place to rest and enjoy a snack before the steep climb ahead. Before you turn north to continue to the Mono Pass, you look for a small cairn atop a large flat rock that leads a short distance to a spot with an epic view of Ruby Lake.
From here, it is only 1.4 miles to Mono Pass, but you gain over 1,000 feet in that distance – if you haven’t been feeling the altitude yet, you surely will by this point. You are rewarded with iconic views of the Sierra backcountry. Mono Pass (elevation 12,077) itself resembles a moonscape and is incredibly scenic.
Beyond Mono Pass
There are also spurs off the main trail that lead to Pioneer Basin. First make your way to the Trail Lake, then onto Golden Creek. Then a steep rock climb brings you to Pioneer Basin, where you can enjoy the beauty of the many lakes. You also have camping options at the lakeside. After camping/picnicking at one of the lakes in the Pioneer Basin, hike from Golden Creek up to Golden Lake for more views.
So, that’s it guys! Have a great time hiking Mono Pass to get awesome views of the Sierra and most importantly stay safe!
Have you hiked this trail before? Let me know of your experience in the comments. I would love to hear them!
Author’s BIO: Mark Bennett is an American writer and traveler, whose major inspiration has been camping with his father ever since his childhood. He aims to visit 75 countries before he’s 30. You can also follow his adventures on his site outdoorily.com.
Text and photography copyright 2019 by Mark Bennett, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.