As we leave Lone Pine and head north on Hwy 395 we have gorgeous views in all directions and not much traffic. A wonderful drive!
We had read a few reviews about boondocking on Picnic Grounds Rd near Mono Lake so we decided we should check it out especially since we were going to be in the area. We didn’t want to stay in an RV Park and they are few and far between in the Lee Vining area. So off we went to Picnic Grounds Rd. which runs along the west side of Mono Lake.
Heading north on Hwy 395 just a few miles south of Lee Vining is a a road sign for Test Station Rd. That is the road to turn right (east) on and is the same road which Google Maps labels as Picnic Grounds Rd. It can be a bit confusing but realize they are one in the same for the boondocking site. After you turn onto Test Station Rd you drive about half a mile and the boondocking area is on the left. You pass 4 other small dirt roads prior to the boondocking site. It is easy to miss or it can be full and you might not be able to turn around if driving a big rig with a tow vehicle. If this happens then you can just keep driving, remaining on Test Station Rd (forks to the right in about another half a mile) for about 4.5 miles when you will arrive at Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve. There is a large parking lot there when you can unhook or turn around. Luckily the boondocking site was empty when we arrived as we had the GPS coordinate (37.9448, -119.0936) programmed in so we just pulled in and parked! No neighbors appeared. But it would be a tight squeeze with a few other rigs in that site.
Do not take the Picnic Grounds Rd north of town unless you have a rugged 4WD drive vehicle as it is bumpy, rocky, steep, narrow and flooded in one area by the creek. I would not recommend the northern Picnic Grounds Rd for a big rig BUT we did see one parked deep in the woods down by the lake to the south side of the creek.
Campground: Picnic Grounds Rd – Inyo National Forest
Location: Lee Vining, California
Services: dry camping
Comments: A small dirt area with fantastic views down to Mono Lake. Perfect for boondocking for a few nights to enjoy the surrounding area. We did notice some small biting insects down by the lake and later in the day at our campsite but as the weather cooled towards sunset they disappeared.
Overall the site was quiet and peaceful. No noise could be heard from Highway 395 which is only a half a mile away. We had the area to ourselves and had fabulous views.
A must see in the area besides Yosemite, if Highway 120 – Tioga Pass is open, is the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve. You can go directly from the boondocking site east on Test Station Rd for about 4.5 miles where there is a large parking and you can get out and walk the shores of Mono Lake and view the tufas.