Sapphires Hidden In The Mountains: Exploring North Mono County

Sapphires Hidden In The Mountains: Exploring North Mono County

Mono CountyProfessional photo by Steve Dutcher Photography 760.920.9127

One of the distinct advantages of living in Bridgeport or elsewhere in North Mono county is the quick access to one of the most beautiful cluster of lakes in the country. After you pass the iconic tufa towers that line the shores of Mono Lake, turn left at Virginia Lakes Road when you reach Conway Summit. The road will take you into the mountains to Virginia Lakes Resort, and, a few minutes later, you will find yourself in high country paradise.

Besides the towering snow-capped peaks, picturesque summits, and thick pine forests that encircle you, this area has become well-known for its abundance of lakes. Like sapphires and emeralds tucked into little valleys between the mountains, the lakes are everywhere. The bright shimmer of sunlight hitting the water catches your eye the moment you arrive at what the locals affectionately call "the lodge," which has a small general store, a tackle shop, and a rustic cafe.

Two lakes, the Little and Big Virginia, sit a short distance from the lodge's large wooden porch. Another lake, Trumbull, lies within walking distance. All three lakes sit at the foot of large mountains with wide sweeping slopes and snow-capped peaks.

The Summit Trail hike, a popular trail at the resort, is one of the best ways to see many of the area's most beautiful lakes. The trailhead begins at the end of Big Virginia Lake's large dirt parking and takes you on a five mile (round-trip) journey into some of the most stunning scenery in the High Sierras. Some of the things you will see include:

  • Blue Lake: the first of the alpine lakes on this trail and true to its name, its sparkling hue varies between bright blue and emerald.
  • The Miner's Cabin: an old miner's cabin still intact from the 1800s sits near the trail and takes the hiker back in time to California's gold rush.
  • Cooney Lake: a larger lake that sits at the foot of an impressive mountain slope where large rocks and scree surround a narrow winding trail along the mountainside.
  • The Frog Lakes: a small cluster of emerald lakes, rocky mountain streams, and gorgeous green meadows, this area boasts one of the most amazing views of the hike, including a clear sight of the lakes you already passed, stacked below like the tiers of a multi-level garden.
  • The Summit: after hiking about 2.5 hours, you will reach the pinnacle of the trail, the summit of a large mountain. From this breathtaking vista, not only can you see all of the lakes and miles of the surrounding wilderness, you can see across the state line into Nevada.

Although stunning and worth the effort, this hike does climb from 10,000 to 14,000 feet to a mountain's summit. Hikers should be in good physical health and be willing to cross streams and navigate switchback trails at the higher elevations.

For more excellent tips on Mono County and the High Sierras, explore my website or call me at (855) GO-MAGGIE. If you enjoy this blog, please like my Facebook page and feel free to post a comment.

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