A few miles south of the junction of Hwy 120 to Yosemite, along Hwy 395, a small pyramidal peak at the foot of the range catches the eye. This curious little peak is Williams Butte. Having driven by it numerous times on trips to the Eastern Sierra I figured it was worth a scramble. As it turns out this quick up and down offers some fine views! The giant Sierra scarp mountains above Mono Lake dominate only 5 miles to the west. There's an unobstructed view of the high Sierra around June Lakes to the south and to the east is Mono Lake and the Mono Craters. This loosely forested class 1 hike can be easily be done in a few hours. It has a small class 2 summit rockpile and even a classic little mayonnaise jar register to sign. (Or maybe it was 2 rusty coffee cans stuffed together?)
Dirt road up Williams Butte
From the junction of Hwy. 120 and Hwy. 395 go south 2.7 miles. Turn right on road 1n18 and go .2 miles. Continue to the left at a small junction for another 1.1 miles southwest past a junk yard with potentially barking dogs below the southeast slope of Williams Butte to a dirt road that jack-knifes sharply back to the right. This road (2 wheel drive-high clearance) climbs up the southeast slope, gains a few hundred feet of elevation, levels off and skirts the southeast side of the butte. The easiest route is at about .8 miles along the road from the jack-knife, (7,170'). Park and head up though the scrub and pines (not dense) a half mile to a small saddle at 8,100'. Go north .2 miles to the summit. The quickest descent is mostly a sand surf staight down the east slope a little north of the ascent back down to the road. This can be done in probably 15 or 20 minutes!
June Lakes area from Williams Butte
Since this is an easy day hike in the Inyo National Forest, no permits are required. TAKE NOTE:: The dirt road that climbs up the southeast side of the peak could be a bummer for some 2 wheel drive vehicles. It was almost spin-out city going up for my high clearance 2 wheel drive van. If you have doubts about making it up you can always park below on road 1n18 .3 miles to the left from the first junction (6,850') and add a few hundred feet of sage brush scrambling to the ascent.
Mono Craters from Williams Butte
This is Inyo National Forest and there are dirt roads around the area of the Mono Lake Basin with pull-outs that offer camping without facilities.
There are several campgrounds in Lee Vining Canyon on the south side of Hwy. 120 starting about 2 miles east of Hwy. 395.
Current weather conditions
For weather conditions in the Mono Lake Basin click here.