Sunday, August 11, 2013

Black Point Fissures, Mono Lake, CA



Thanks to our Lazy Daze friend Mary for the email suggesting this hike to the Black Point Fissures. We had not heard or read about it, and although we almost couldn’t locate the fissures, it was a fun and challenging hike. And it’s just on the north side of Mono Lake off Cemetery Rd, across the lake from where we are but a slow drive on a washboard road to get to the parking area.

The Mono Lake Basin is an interesting geological area, surrounded by a volcanic landscape, with two volcano cones actually in the lake itself.


The area we hiked does not have a marked trail to the fissures, although the map at the trail head kiosk made it look like there was one. It’s simply a matter of bushwacking your way up a climb of almost 500 feet over ash, cinders, sand and small shrubs with thorns and stickers in them. In reality, we were the ones who got bushwacked. Jim was wise to wear long pants.



It’s a deceiving climb up, because you just keep coming to another ridge, then another, then another. Walking uphill in the soft sand was not easy. But the expansive views of the lake and mountains were lovely. And we knew the fissures were up there somewhere.




We thought we’d find the fissures if we could get on top of this rocky outcropping.



But they weren’t here, so I kept going up. I finally found them, and then had to go looking for Jim and Debbie, who had gone off searching in different directions.




About 13,000 years ago, near the end of the last Ice Age, the Black Point Volcano erupted beneath Mono Lake, which was much deeper then. As the cinders and lava cooled and hardened under the water, the top split open and formed several cracks, each about a hundred yards long. The fissures range from 20 to 50 feet deep, but are only a couple feet wide. Black Point is thought to be the only fully exposed underwater volcano on earth.


The fissures are like small slot canyons, and we were able to find a couple of sloping edges with rocks to get down into them. Some places required rock scrambling and butt scooting, but that’s what made it so much fun.

Black Point Fissures 4







It was a much easier walk downhill back to the parking lot, and we even got to see a jackrabbit, along with dozens of lizards scurrying across the sand.


Don’t miss this hike if you’re in the Mono Lake area, but be sure to give yourself a few hours to find the fissures and explore. It’s well worth it.



  1. OMG - that gives me the creeps! You guys are so brave to go down into the fissure. I think as I get older, the idea of being inside something like that freaks me out. I would definitely be the one standing on the top taking photos of everyone else scurrying around below ground.

    Keep the photos coming - that's the only way I'M going to see these things. :)

  2. Reminds me a little of the narrows at Zion. I imagine you have to watch for flash floods. I think I'd get claustrophobia.

  3. Here's another suggestion - Twenty Lakes Basin starts at Saddlebag Lake just outside the east entrance to Yosemite. You can take a boat to shorten the hike. I have a post on it, but can't seem to put a link here.

  4. I hope it was easier to get out of the fissures and back to your car than it was to find them.

  5. Neat! Love that you found an interesting hike that kept you out of the crazy tourist-land just down the road!

    Metamorphosis Lisa