The sign as you turn east off Highway 395 just south of Lee Vining, California states “Narrow Winding Road Next 46 Miles,” but don’t let that discourage you from driving the span of Highway 120. It is mostly RV friendly and full of adventure.
The following is a list of things to see and do as you travel the route listed west to east:
1. Mono Craters
The mono craters are a series of recent volcanic cones that occurred just 650 years ago, making them the youngest mountain range in North America. Panum Crater has developed hiking trails for those who would like to get up close and personal with a volcano.
2. Mono Lake
Ancient and shrinking, Mono Lake is visible along the western part of the route and famous for its tufa formations.
The largest tufa groves can be found along the south side of the lake via a short gravel road to the South Tufa viewing area.
3. Mono Mills
At Mono Mills, you can view the scant remains and learn the history of the lumber industry that supplied needed building materials to the mining boomtown of Bodie over one hundred years ago.
As you descend out of the pine forests that supplied the hungry saws of Mono Mills you will enter the Adobe Valley. The road is straight and stretches for miles through the scenic valley. While there are no specific sites of interest through this portion of the highway, there are some surprises that RVers will encounter.
For example, while this section contains long straight portions of the road, the engineers must have been fans of rollercoasters as they didn’t spend much time filling the small drainages that run crosswise to the road through most of the valley. Fair warning when you open your RV refrigerator to prepare lunch!
4. Wild horses
The area along Highway 120 is also home to a herd of wild horses, so be on the lookout as you travel.
5. Rock formations
Next, you will climb a small pass over the Benton Range. As you approach the summit you will encounter beautiful rock formations worthy of state or national park status.
There are no pull-outs, so instruct your co-pilot to have their camera ready and proceed with caution.
6. Benton Hot Springs
Benton Hot Springs was established in 1852 to support mining in the area. Today it clings to life catering to tourists who come by to soak in the namesake springs.
7. The buildings and relics
There are many photogenic buildings remaining along with rusty vehicles and farming equipment. The ghostliest buildings are located on private property on the southwest outskirts of town and can only be viewed from the highway.
Your journey on Highway 120 comes to an end at the town of Benton, where you can obtain fuel and a few other amenities before heading north or south on Highway 6.
The highway is closed in the winter, so plan accordingly.
Where to camp:
Sagehen Meadows Campground is the closest thing to a developed public campground and is located about halfway along the route a mile or so off the highway.
There is a private campground at the Benton Hot Springs where each RV site contains a private hot tub!
Coordinates for places mentioned:
- Panum Crater turn off: N37° 54.844 W119° 02.797
- South Tufa turn off: N37° 55.587 W119° 01.400
- Mono Mills Interpretive Site: N37° 53.270 W118° 57.630
- Rock Formations – Vicinity of: N37° 47.300 W118° 33.670
- Benton Hot Springs: N37° 48.023 W118° 31.780
So don’t let that narrow and winding road sign keep you from enjoying Highway 120. Other than limited shoulder width and a couple sharp turns, there is nothing for an experienced RVer to worry about.
Follow Dave’s RV adventures as he travels the West in search of forgotten and unique places. For Dave, home is where you park it, the more remote the better!