Mono Lake Camping – Free Dispersed Camping Near Lee Vining California

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Mono Lake camping near Lee Vining is a great way to enjoy the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Whether you’re traveling through on Highway 395 or planning a trip to Yosemite National Park, you should plan to spend at least one night dispersed camping near Mono Lake.

In this post I’ll share how to find free camping, camping conditions, what it’s like to camp in the area, and things to do in the area.

Mono Lake Camping Near Lee Vining

Mono Lake Camping view

To find a free dispersed camping spot near Mono Lake visit the U.S. Forest Services Ranger Station (1 Visitor Center Drive, Lee Vining, CA). Ask the ranger for a dispersed camping map of the area which also includes rules about campfires and low-impact camping.

This will help you avoid accidentally camping on privately-owned land or within areas where dispersed camping is illegal.

The dispersed camping limits in this area is 28 day within a six month period. Keep in ind the public land

Obtain a free California State Campfire Permit to build a campfire or use a stove top that is not contained within an RV.

As about about road conditions to find out if four wheel drive is recommended for the area you want to camp in.

If you have Allstays, campings options are available with GPS coordinates and additional information.

Mono Lake Dispersed Camping Conditions

There are washboard roads and areas with soft sand. Make sure to check with the rangers for current road conditions.

Little to no shade. Spots with shade are usually occupied by other campers.

Some campgrounds have pit toilets and picnic tables. Sagehen Meadow Campground is one of them.

Tip: Showers are available at Mono Vista RV Park for $3.50 for 5 minutes

What It’s Like to Camp Near Mono Lake

We have camped near Mono Lake twice and you can get an idea of what it’s like by watching the two videos below.

Video 1: Camping near Mono Lake in a Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 Pop Top Camper. The epic views alone are worth planning a trip to the area.

Video 2: In this Slice of Van Life video we share what it’s like to camp off-grid near Mono Lake in a ProMaster conversion van.

Things to Do in the Area

Yosemite National Park. The entrance to the park is less than a 25 minute drive from Lee Vining.

Whoa Nellie Deli. This casual eatery inside the Mobil gas station is dishing up popular items like fish tacos, burgers and pizzas.

Mono Lake South Tufa Site. Learn about the history of the area and take in incredible views of Mono Lake.

Bodie State Historic Park. Take a tour of a former gold-mining community.

This is just a short list of things to do near Mono Lake. With June Lake and Mammoth Lakes near by, there is plenty to explore and see in the area.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 21, 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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20 thoughts on “Mono Lake Camping – Free Dispersed Camping Near Lee Vining California”

  1. Great videos. Is there any disbursed camping near the water in the Mono lake area? We are starting to plan a trip for next month.

  2. This looks like an awesome spot. We visited Yosemite back in 2015 when we were new to RVing and knew little to nothing about boondocking. Now it looks like we will have to go back and revisit the place. We have a 38′ Open Range Roamer, do you think it might be too big to fit? I love the idea of traveling in a smaller van but we’re going to need to wait until the kiddos go to college!

    Great video.

    • Hey Grainne! There are dispersed camping spots in the Inyo National Forest to accommodate a rig your size. My recommendation is to talk to the ranger to find out which area would be best for a 38′ camper.

  3. Just found your you tube channel and when the Mono Lk vid was finishing there was mentioned the van battery had died. Did you ever find the cause?

    We have seen many of your videos, and thanks for them. We enjoy them greatly. We will be traveling with our big miniature poodle “Bill”.
    Wife specifically said to give our best to Leo and his people.
    Keep up the good work,

  4. Have to say this first! Hi Leo from my girls ? and to you Joe & Kait
    I want to do this so bad!! What about safety ? as a single gal? That is my concern. Also you talk about you have a global gym plan? Where and whom do you purchase it from? Last what kind of medical coverage do you use? Keep up the great videos ? I’m living vicariously through your videos. Safe travels

    • Hey Susan! Leo say hello back!

      Safety is a very personal thing and where one person might feel safe, another may not. The same is true for whether or not you decide to have something to protect yourself with…mace, bear spray, a bat, a gun. You have to be comfortable with being able to use whatever you carry and aware of any repercussions for what happens if/when you decide to use it. I wrote a post about Tips to Stay Safe While RVing.

      We use Planet Fitness for our gym and have a health plan through the exchange.

  5. Hi Joe and Kait… Kait and Joe. Not sure who should get top billing lol. And scratches to Leo! Been watching your vids the last week on YouTube and now on your website. And this is the one that has really got me pumped to become a full time RV-er! Joe, you said it wasn’t a very exciting day, rather a typical one. But I gotta tell ya it seemed like the best kind of typical day I’d ever hope for. Just relaxing with the one you love, doing some work you truly enjoy, eating great healthy, fresh and simple food, and taking those amazing views in some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world. I can’t wait to do that one day. My girl and I are ready! It may be a few years but thanks to your great quality vids I’ve got a lot of motivation. Much thanks to you two for sharing your van life and showing us the way! 🙂

    • Hey Charles!

      That’s awesome and so happy you’re enjoying the content. Leo and Kait typically go back and forth for top billing…I’m obviously last 😉 It definitely was a typical day for us and looking back on our old lives, we would have killed for that to be “typical”. It’s good that you have a few years so you get time to plan, which we did a lot of. If you’re interested in reading about the two years it took us to plan and what we did, check out our new book, Take Risks:

      See you on the road in a few years!

  6. Joe’
    Was reading the comments especially the person who talked about wine and an RV wineery location. Don’t know why it dissapeared but its gone. Can you let me know what the message entailed so we can look up the place he was talking about.

  7. Guys once again an amazing video and the website is really improving. I have a suggestion if you get bored and in Tahoe go to the very small city of Groveland and see the city, the iron horse saloon and carlon falls trail. There are a few RV parks and this place is amazing on one of the routes to Yosemite. This is also about an hour away from Murphys and some of the best wine tastings you will ever encounter. Great hike.

    I love the site what are you working with angular, visual studio? I know youtube gave you some amazing ideas and we are all happy to see you succeeding at living a roaming lifestyle. Have you ever contacted Hymer about sponsorship or possibly co-funding your adventures as I am one of many of your fans looking at purchasing a van just because of you guys.


  8. I read that Mono Lake is out of danger for the time being with regards to water depletion. Is it back up to more “normal” water levels? I loved the Lake Tahoe Video and remember my visits as a kid every summer to State Line and Stopping in Bidhop for Bakery. I look forward to making the trip soon!

    • From what we saw, yes it’s out of the danger zone but not sure if there is a “normal” considering that at one point it was so high most of that valley area was underwater.

  9. Hi Kait,

    Just watched your latest youtube video and your use of the instant pot. I notice that, like me, when you are using the IP you don’t come close to filling it for the two of you. I have the 5 Quart (not even the 6 Quart) that I use all the time but I just bought the Instant Pot mini duo (3 Quarts) (Here is the link
    It is the perfect size for the two of us and as a bonus it actually fits in the overhead cabinet of my Travato 59K and is a much better size to wash in the van’s sink. Thought you might find it interesting.

    • Hi Lisa! Thanks for the suggestion. I do love the 3 qt option and will probably get it if the big IP ever breaks. It is nice to have the option to make a double or triple batch for leftovers though 🙂

    • You’re welcome! Let us know if you end up camping out there. The spot we camped at was right along the creek so it was nice to hear it throughout the day. You will have to venture further down the road from the GPS coordinates to get closer to the creek.


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