Lee Vining (formerly, Leevining, Poverty Flat, and Lakeview) is an unincorporated community in Mono County, California, United States. It is located 21 miles (34 km) south-southeast of Bridgeport, at an elevation of 6781 feet (2067 m). Lee Vining is located on the southwest shore of Mono Lake. According to the Mono County's government website, the population as of 2000 was 250. At the previous census (1990) the town population was 398, and at the census before that (1980) it was 315.
The economy of Lee Vining relies largely on tourism, since it is the closest town to the east entrance of Yosemite National Park, and is near other tourist destinations such as Mono Lake, the ghost town of Bodie, popular trout fishing destinations, and June Mountain and Mammoth Mountain ski areas and the June Lake recreational area. Tourism is mostly confined to the summer months, because State Route 120 through Yosemite is closed otherwise because of heavy snowfall, although year-round tourism has been increasing in recent years. Lee Vining has a year-round Information Center for visitors.
The town was named after Leroy Vining, who founded the town in 1852 as a mining camp. His life came to an untimely end when he accidentally shot himself at the nearby town of Aurora, Nevada. In 1926, the town was laid out by Chris Mattly and named "Lakeview", but when a post office was sought in 1928, it was learned that another town, Lakeview, California already had the name. The unique name of Lee Vining was chosen in 1953. The place was also called Poverty Flat for its unfavorable conditions for agriculture.
The town is the site of the Upside-Down House, a distinctive local landmark built by silent film actress Nellie Bly O'Bryan.
Lee Vining is situated near the foot of Lee Vining Canyon. State Route 120 runs from town, through the canyon, up to Tioga Pass. Lee Vining Canyon is one of only two ice climbing venues in California. U.S. Route 395 also runs through the town, connecting to Los Angeles 390 miles (630 km) to the South, and Reno, Nevada 135 miles (217 km) to the North.
In the state legislature Lee Vining is located in the 1st Senate District, represented by Republican Dave Cox, and in the 25th Assembly District, represented by Republican Tom Berryhill. Federally, Lee Vining is located in California's 25th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +7 and is represented by Republican Buck McKeon.