Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California

Mono Hot Springs is a remote and primitive natural hot springs on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Inyo County, California. It is also a very popular destination for locals and visitors alike who are looking to escape the demands of modern life and reconnect with nature. The Mono Hot Springs sits at an elevation of 8,600 feet and is accessible by an 11-mile dirt road that travels along the eastern shore of beautiful Mono Lake.

The 40-acre hot springs property has been in private hands since 1942, and it is currently owned by the Schattner family who have been operating it as a clothing-optional resort since the early 1960s. To preserve this unique hot springs, they have done away with traditional signage and rely on word-of-mouth to attract visitors.

The Schattners invite you to visit their family-friendly resort, but they do ask that guests abide by their rules: Here’s what you need to know if you plan on visiting this unique natural attraction in California’s High Sierra.

History

Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California
Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California

Mono Hot Springs has been enjoyed by humans for more than 8,000 years and was once a popular destination for the neighboring Mono Lake Paiute Tribe.

The hot springs, along with the rest of the Eastern Sierra, was first visited by non-natives in 1822, when explorer Jedediah Smith traveled through the area. The first permanent white settler was Samuel Knight who established a cattle ranch along the eastern shore of Mono Lake in 1868.

The hot springs was used as a retreat by Knight and his ranch hands to soothe tired muscles following the long days of working a cattle ranch.

In 1941, brothers Leon and Philip Schattner were granted use of a small cabin on the property by Knight’s son who owned the land. When Knight passed away in 1942, his son reclaimed the cabin and sold the property to the Schattner brothers who had been using it as a retreat for their family and friends. In 1963, their family opened it up to others who were looking for an off-the-grid experience in a clothing-optional setting.

What to Expect

Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California
Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California

What to expect from your visit to Mono Hot Springs depends greatly on what type of accommodation you choose. If you are planning a visit to the resort’s campsite, then you can expect to rough it a bit. The campsite is a large field with available fire pits and picnic tables with nearby portable toilets and cold water sinks. There is water available for campers who have their own containers, and the nearby hot springs are open to all guests.

The resort also offers two cabin villages with a total of eight rustic cabins available for visitors. Each cabin sleeps up to six people and features wood stoves, outhouse facilities, a small kitchen area with a propane stove, and mattresses on real beds. There are also hot spring tubs located near each cabin with beautiful views of Mono Lake.

Guests staying in the cabins have access to all of the resort’s hot springs facilities including the new swimming pool complex and historic bathhouse.

Spas with Natural Hot Spring Bathtubs

Spa and hot tubes at Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California
Spa and hot tubes at Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California

Since the nineteenth century, Mono Indians have been guiding visitors to the springs so that visitors can experience the beneficial effects that the geothermally heated mineral water has on one’s health. The Mono Hot Springs Resort incorporates a number of pools and tubs into its design in order to take advantage of the springs’ long-established curative properties.

The expansive bathhouse at the Mono Hot Springs Resort features multiple showers and soaking tubs, all of which are supplied with natural mineral water that is piped in from outside. The water in the bathhouse is typically maintained at a temperature that ranges from 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the ideal temperature range for unwinding and relaxing.

The Bathhouse complex features an outdoor mineral water spa in addition to the indoor showers and soaking tubs, and guests can enjoy views of the nearby peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains from the spa’s outdoor location.

The Old Pedro pool, which has a cement lining and was constructed by the California Conservation Corps in 1934, is the one that holds the most historical significance among these twelve pools. As a result of the significantly higher temperature, which is typically around 107 degrees Fahrenheit on average, swimming in this pool requires more frequent breaks in order to prevent one from becoming overheated.

Natural Hot Spring Pools

For guests who are interested in having a more authentic connection with nature, the resort also offers over a dozen geothermally heated natural pools spread out across the property. Simply walk across the natural log bridge that has been erected over the San Joaquin River in order to reach the more secluded pools.

Little Eden is perfect for those who value their privacy because it is perched high on a ridge above Old Pedro and offers breathtaking vistas to those who are willing to make the strenuous ascent.
Accommodations

Campsites, historical cabins, and traditional cabins are all part of the variety of lodging options that are available at Mono Hot Springs. The Historic Cabins are the option that offers the highest level of comfort and convenience among these various choices. Kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms are provided in each of these cabins, which range in size from one room to two bedrooms and have anywhere from one to all three. Despite the fact that there is access to electricity, the property does not feature any electrical outlets because there is a restricted supply of energy. There are power outlets available in the General Store for anyone who needs to charge their devices.

Tent Cabins, which are constructed from heavy-duty canvas and do not include any furnishings, are also available at the resort. Beds are provided without linen, and there is a restroom for the community located nearby.

How to Get There

The only way to reach the Mono Hot Springs is by car. There is no public transportation, no shuttles, and no camping available on-site. The closest airport is located in Mammoth Lakes, about 70 miles away and along Highway 395. The Schattners recommend that visitors rent a car from the Mammoth airport as it is difficult to find a rental car in Lee Vining and other towns along Highway 395.

There are two ways to drive to Mono Hot Springs: the faster but more expensive route and the slower but cheaper route. The fast route is by taking Highway 395 North until it intersects with Highway 120 West, then drive West on Highway 120 until it intersects with Highway 395 South, then take Highway 395 South until it intersects with Highway 136 West, then take Highway 136 West until it intersects with Highway 120 East, then take Highway 120 East until it intersects with Highway 395 South.

The slower route is by taking Highways 120 and 395 all the way to Lee Vining and turning right onto State Route 120 (Donner Pass Road). Then follow State Route 120 (Donner Pass Road) through the town of Mammoth Lakes and out of town. Drive past Minaret Summit Boulevard on your right; stay straight at the Y intersection and continue on State Route 120 (Donner Pass Road).

Drive about 3 miles past Minaret Summit Boulevard on your right; turn left onto State Route 203 (Mammoth Scenic Loop Road). Then drive about 4 miles straight through the town of Mammoth Lakes; turn left at Thayer Ave/Forest Service Rd 203/Tioga Rd, driving through the town of Mammoth Lakes.

This road becomes Forest Service Road 203 (Tioga Road) as you leave town and continues for about 20 miles up to Tioga Pass. From here you can see Fish Lake Valley below you; turn left at Mono Hot Springs Road at a small turnout, driving down for about 4 miles to reach the hot springs access point.

Accommodations, Amenities & Facilities

In a similar fashion, Mono Hot Springs has a modest collection of wood-paneled camping cabins that come complete with beds and linens. In close proximity, just like the Tent Cabins, you’ll find a shared bathroom for the community.

A campground that is run by the California Land Management is located just on the other side of the San Joaquin River for those who would like to spend the night sleeping under the open sky. This riverfront campground provides guests with access to 23 different sites. Due to the fact that there are only two sites that operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, making reservations up to six months in advance is strongly recommended.

The Mono Hot Springs Resort offers accommodations in the form of rustic tent cabins and RVs, as well as a gift shop, a restaurant (seasonal), and restrooms and showers. There is no running water at the hot springs, but there is a large swimming pool fed by an artesian well.

The resort also has a pavilion that can be reserved for special occasions. The pavilion seats 100 guests and includes a large stone fire pit, electricity, and water. Guests of all ages are welcome here, but children must be kept under close supervision at all times. Pets are not allowed on the premises due to insurance issues and other considerations.

Mono Hot Springs does not have phone or internet connections, and there isn’t even cell phone service throughout much of the area. If you plan to visit during an off-season (generally from September to May), make sure to contact the resort ahead of time so they can make arrangements for your stay.

Activities

Activites at Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California
Activites at Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California

Guests staying at the Mono Hot Springs Resort have access to the John Muir Wilderness in California’s John Muir Wilderness that is second to none. The resort is located in what is known as the Range of Light. Hikers have the option of making the one-to-seven-plus mile journey to any of a number of lakes that are either close by or further away.

In addition, the area around the resort is home to a plethora of lakes and streams, all of which provide world-class trout fishing opportunities. In addition to fishing on the San Joaquin River, guests have access to a number of other, more remote fishing locations in the surrounding area.

Last but not least, visitors have the opportunity to go canoeing and boating on the lakes in the area. At Florence Lake, visitors can rent fishing boats, kayaks, and other watercraft, and there are a number of ferry services that offer trips across the water.

The hot springs provide the perfect setting for a variety of relaxing and rejuvenating activities, including soaking in the hot waters, sunbathing, hiking on the many trails that surround the springs, fishing in the lake, picnicking, and stargazing.

The resort is open year-round and offers cabin rentals, RV sites with hookups, and tent camping. Pets are allowed in most areas of the resort as long as they are on a leash. But they are not allowed in buildings or any of the rental units.

The resort offers picnic lunches that can be delivered to your picnic site or cabin. They also offer a complete menu of breakfast and dinner dishes at their full-service restaurant. Breakfast is served until 11:00 am with lunch available on weekends only.

During winter months (November through March), you can enjoy snowshoeing on one of their two trails (1 mile or 3 miles) along with cross-country skiing along the snowy roads leading up to the resort. And at night, you can take advantage of their clear skies for stargazing.

Spend some time at the Mono Hot Springs resort and rediscover your passion for the natural world around you.

Rules & Regulations

One of the biggest challenges associated with visiting Mono Hot Springs is the 11-mile unpaved road that leads to its remote location. The road is often closed due to snow in the winter months, and it can be extremely difficult to drive during inclement weather. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time and drive cautiously as potholes, washouts, and deer often roam along this rough gravel route.

The resort itself has a few simple rules:

There are no facilities at this clothing-optional retreat. There are outhouses and a small pavilion with picnic tables, but that’s about it. Showers are not available either, but you can rinse off in the hot springs.

The resort is only open from May to October. The last weekend in September is the annual “Hot Springs Folk Festival” when visitors can enjoy live music, dancing, arts and crafts, a campground full of colorful tents, and delicious home-cooked meals served up by the Schattner clan and their friends and family members.

Safety & Practical Tips

There are no services along the 11-mile road to Mono Hot Springs, so it is recommended that you make a full tank of gas one of your first stops once you reach the town of Lee Vining. The road offers beautiful views of Mono Lake and several interesting points of interest like the New York Mountains, but it is not suitable for RVs or low-clearance vehicles.

Four-wheel drive is not necessary as the road is wide and well-maintained, but do note that you will be driving through a wilderness area with wildlife, so drive at a safe speed and exercise caution at all times.

There are no restrooms along the way, so make sure to stop at the gas station in Lee Vining or pack out what you need from home. There are no water taps along the road, so you will need to bring your own drinking water and pack out any waste. Make sure to bring appropriate outerwear for changing conditions as there can be extreme temperature variations along the drive.

Mono Hot Springs is open year-round, but it can get very busy during summer holidays and weekends in spring and fall. Fall through winter sees significantly fewer visitors; however, conditions can be extreme due to snowfall and dropping temperatures. Make sure to check weather conditions before you leave home as hypothermia can become a serious risk at these altitudes with prolonged exposure.

Nearby Attractions

The Mono Hot Springs is within driving distance of several major attractions in Inyo County, California. The closest is Bodie State Historic Park, which preserves the remains of a 19th-century ghost town. You can visit the site and take a self-guided tour of the buildings that were restored by the state after it was acquired in 1967.

California’s largest lake, Mono Lake, is also nearby and is worth a visit if you are a nature lover. You can take a boat tour during the summer months to learn about the migratory waterfowl and other wildlife that depend on it for survival.

If you are more into modern history, you can visit the town of Mammoth Lakes that allows visitors to experience four distinct seasons while enjoying some interesting sites. Among them are the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and the National Ski Area Museum at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

How to Find More Information

There is plenty of information about the Mono Hot Springs Resort on their website, including directions to the resort, costs, and rules. You can also find out about available accommodations and activities on their website.

You’ll also find plenty of information about the hot springs resort on various review websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook.

To learn more about the history of the hot springs, visit the Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve which is located just east of the hot springs. The Tufa State Reserve Visitor Center has a great deal of information about Mono Lake and the Mono Hot Springs.

If you’re looking for other natural hot spring adventures in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, check out Waterfall Hot Springs in Sequoia National Park or Dumont Hot Springs in Inyo National Forest near Mammoth Lakes.

Bottom line

Mono Hot Springs is a great vacation destination for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With its breathtaking natural beauty, magnificent lakes, and hot springs, Mono Hot Springs is the perfect destination for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Whether you are looking for adventure or simply want to take in the scenery, Mono Hot Springs has something to offer everyone. With its unique combination of activities and attractions, it is sure to make your vacation a memorable one. So if you’re ready to explore one of California’s most beautiful and remote destinations, head to Mono Hot Springs – Lakeshore, California!

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Local information

Address: 62804 Huntington Lake Rd, Lakeshore, California 93634
GPS: 37.326842,-119.017876
Phone: 559-325-1710
Season: Spring-Late Fall
Website: monohotsprings.com

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