Skip to main content

Mono Pass, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (work of art)

Artwork Info

William Keith
American (born Great Britain)
40 × 72 inches (101.6 × 182.9 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina

Object Number
American to 1910

Key Ideas

  • Mono Pass is a mountain trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is located at the edge of Yosemite National Park in California. 
  • This trail was part of an ancient trading route used by several Native American tribes. 
  • William Keith was a Scottish-American engraver and painter. He became famous for his California landscape paintings.
  • Keith crossed Mono Pass in 1875 with an early environmentalist named John Muir.

Learn More

For centuries Mono Pass was an important trade route across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The mountain pass was named for the Mono people, the Native American tribe that originally inhabited the region. Along this trail the Mono traded food, basket-making materials, and obsidian (volcanic glass) with other nearby tribes. Native Americans used obsidian to make hunting tools like arrowheads, knives, and spearheads. 

White settlers began arriving in the region in the mid 1800s. The Indigenous peoples were forced by militias to leave their homeland. Mono Pass was then used by miners in search of gold and silver. 

In 1875 William Keith went on a camping trip in the California wilderness with his friend John Muir. Together they traveled along Mono Pass, just outside present-day Yosemite. The two men were both Scottish immigrants who loved nature. Muir is considered to be America’s first environmentalist. Keith was a wood engraver and painter. He is best known for his California landscape paintings. In his early works, he tried to accurately reproduce what he saw in nature. His painting of Mono Pass portrays it as a rugged wilderness. 

Today Mono Pass is a popular hiking trail. Every year the descendants of Indigenous peoples gather for a five-day hike. This annual event celebrates and honors their ancestors’ journeys. 

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers


Resources for Students

  • Visit a web page to view images of Mono Pass and read a paragraph about it. 
  • Watch a video about an exhibition of Keith’s work.
  • View a map of traditional Native American territories in California.


  • An oil painting of a mountain landscape. Two human figures on horseback are shown crossing the shallow water between two slopes. A few trees grow from the light brown earth of the slopes. In the background there is a rocky mountain range criss-crossed with snow.

    Mono Pass, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California