OUTING 3 - Half Moon-Mono Pass

Over the Sierra crest by Half Moon Pass, returning via the Mono Pass trail.

Back (north) to Summit Lake from just below Mono Pass.
Half Moon Pass is a sharp notch on the skyline (center) from upper Golden Creek basin.
Ascend Golden Creek south.
SSW to Mono Pass (left) from Half Moon Pass.
Golden Lake and the Mono Creek drainage from Half Moon Pass.
Rock Creek Lake from Half Moon Pass.
Upper east side of Half Moon Pass.
The higher, steeper, sharper notch left is Half Moon Pass.
Sloping meadows lead to the head of the valley.

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Route Description

Outing 3 Data TableThis cross country loop makes a direct crossing of the Sierra crest at Half Moon Pass just west of Rock Creek Lake and returns via the trail over Mono Pass, circling Mt. Starr in the process. Half Moon Pass, reached in 1.1 miles, provides a quick crossing of the Sierra crest and direct access to the Mono Creek drainage. The total distance is 7 miles and is comfortably accomplished in about 5.5 hours.

From US 395, take Rock Creek Road south out of Tom's Place. Park in an area on the left above Rock Creek Lake, which gives access to overlooks of the lake below and Half Moon Pass to the west. If you get to the Mosquito Flat overflow parking, or Mosquito Flat itself, you have gone too far, but in reality you can start the loop from anywhere along here.

From the parking area, cross the road and head northwest, traversing right and up into a broad valley, at the head of which sits Half Moon Pass. A series of ascending meadows leads toward the pass marker 1; the going is probably easier on the rocks and slabs to the right. Higher up, the head of the valley unfolds. The easy crossing is the higher, steeper, sharper notch on the left marker 2. The climb looks easier the closer you get. Some use of the hands is required in places marker 3, but it's Class 2.

Half Moon Pass (11,574 ft) gives nice views east to Rock Creek Lake marker 4, west to Golden Lake and the Mono Creek drainage marker 5, and south toward Mono Pass marker 6.

A descent over sand and rocks leads to the south end of Golden Lake; meandering a bit makes it Class 2. Ascend the Golden Creek basin south marker 7; a use trail climbs the right side. marker 8 is a view back (northeast) from the point where the grade eases; the pass itself is the small, sharp notch center on the skyline.

From here, quickly gain the trail and follow it south past Summit Lake marker 9 to Mono Pass (12,040 ft).

Take the trail down, back toward Mosquito Flat. At the second intersection, follow the left fork leading to the pack station. In about 1.2 miles, as the trail begins to descend steeply after crossing a shoulder, turn right (east) toward the parking area. Depending on exactly where you parked, your vehicle should be quickly visible below.