Although they occupy less than 10% of the Sierra Nevada, meadows always leave a large impression.
Nothing jazzes up a hike more than sauntering across a lush, green meadow, and for the next couple of weeks most will be at their peak.
Mono Meadow is one such jewel.
Not to be confused with the same-named Mono Meadow in Yosemite, this version lies tucked in the Ansel Adams Wilderness not far from the Mono Hot Springs resort.
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The trail begins with a sandy uphill section, passing the Doris Lake/Tule Lake trailhead information station, before climbing into a typical Sierra forest of mixed pines and firs.
At the first signed junction, less than a mile past the resort, go left toward Edison Lake. The turnoff for Tule Lake comes 0.5 miles later. Continue right in the direction of Edison Lake.
After another 0.7 miles, just as you're getting accustomed to the granite outcroppings that dominate the landscape, the trail exits the forest and enters Mono Meadow.
Everything suddenly comes alive. Bright yellow coneflowers and light purple shooting stars bloom in abundance. Green grasses bob and weave in the wind. Welcome to paradise.
Still standing at the far edge of the meadow is the old High Sierra ranger station. A plaque mounted on the one-room wooden shack commemorates its standing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Mono Meadow also can be reached from Edison Lake. However, the bridge spanning adjacent Mono Creek is in terrible shape (rangers have it roped off) and the creek often is too high to be crossed safely.
Side trips are plentiful. No visit is complete without a dip in Doris Lake, the central Sierra's finest swimming hole. Another popular destination, Tule Lake, is pretty but swampy. Cross-country hikers will want to explore Devil's Table, a reminder of the area's volcanic history.
Before heading home, be sure to refuel at the Mono Hot Springs café. Try the buffalo burger. It's quite tasty.
Originally published in The Fresno Bee and on fresnobee.com on July 13, 2005.