Overview: Many hikers chose to hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley starting at Tenaya lake, but this hike offers a slight different... more »
Many hikers chose to hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley starting at Tenaya lake, but this hike offers a slight different... more » perspective, and allows you to stop at the Merced Lake High Sierra Camp as well. The hike is 28 miles and can be completed in 2 days with an overnight stop at Merced Lake, or can be stretched to as many as 4 days with extra nights at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and Little Yosemite Valley (with an optional trip to Half Dome).
The first day you will gain about 2000 feet of elevation before losing 5000 more, and hiking almost 15 miles on granite can become quite hard on your feet, so wear good hiking boots. You will pass several rivers, lakes, mountains and 2 of the park’s best waterfalls on this backcountry trek, and it is a great way to escape the crowds to see all the Yosemite National Park has to offer. less «
Tips: You will be near rivers for most of the hike, so bring a water pump with you to save you from carrying too much extra weight.
Park your car at one of the parking lots just outside the main road leading towards the Tuolumne Meadows lodge (or keep your car parked in Yosemite Valley and take a bus to Tuolumne Meadows) and sling your pack over your shoulder. As is expected in a place called Tuolumne Meadows, you start with a very level hike away from Tioga pass and towards ... MoreLyell Canyon.Less
After almost a mile in you will arrive at a river, which is a temping place to stop and take a break while soaking your feet from the bank. The day ahead is a long one, so continue across the river via the wooden bridges. Bear right after the second bridge and continue your hike.
For the next segment of the hike you will hug the edge of the... More meadow as you walk around it, eventually leading into a more densely wooded area.Less
Look out for trail signs after another 0.7 miles, as you will need to take a fork to your right to continue up hill towards Yosemite Valley, and away from Lyell Canyon.
The next portion is steeper than one would expect when hiking in a meadow, and it seems like it will never end. You will gain a total of about 2,000 feet from the start of the ... Morehike before reaching the highest point of the day. After some patience and maybe some trail mix you will arrive at a flat opening; you are back in another meadow.Less
You will pass a couple of lakes during the next few miles and soon the flat meadow will end and you will enter a brief forest. Before finishing the day off with a final descent you will have a breath-taking view of Merced Lake and Little Yosemite Valley beyond. The last mile or so is almost exclusively granite, which is anything but forgiving on... More the knees and feet after a long day.Less
Just when your feet are about to quit on you, you will arrive at the High Sierra Camp, just shy of Merced Lake. Unless you have reserved a tent cabin, continue through the camp, past the fire pit to the backpackers are where you can drop your pack, set up your tent, and start cooking dinner.
If you are taking the trek more luxuriously, head... More over back past the fire pit to the mess tent, where you can order dinner from the “restaurant” inside the food tent.
At night, head back to the campfire, as there are often ranger-led programs on various relevant topics such as bats, constellations, geology, or just a ranger’s story of why he loves Yosemite. The campfire programs don’t go too late, so you will still be able to rest up for the next day.Less
On the second day, pack up your gear, and head out the other end of the camp (near the backpackers’ camp) to continue towards Yosemite Valley. After only a few minutes you will meet up with Merced Lake, which will accompany you for the next 5-10 minutes as you walk along its northern side.
The beginning of the second day is much more forgiving... More that the first: it’s almost all flat or downhill, and about 2 miles shorter than the first day. You will hike next to a river running off of Merced Lake for the first couple of miles, with a few small waterfalls along the way.Less
A little ways further and you will arrive at Little Yosemite Valley Campground, a great place to set up up camp if you plan to extend your trip and hike up Half Dome the next morning before finishing in Yosemite Valley. If you just want a break for lunch, head through the camp, past the bathrooms, to the river where you can soak your punished... More feet in the fresh (cold) water. If you are trying to make good time, simply give the campground a friendly wave as you pass by on your way to Nevada Fall.Less
About half a mile later you will arrive at another fork with 2 routes to finish the trek: you can continue down the Mist Trail, which offers more amazing views of Nevada Fall, Emerald Pool, and Vernal Fall, or you can continue to the left at the fork and finish the hike along the John Muir Trail, which has a bit of a climb but you are rewarded... More with a different view of Nevada Fall with Liberty Cap in the background.
It is a steep, stair-filled 2.5 miles along the Mist Trail to the trailhead, or a more gradual 4 miles along the John Muir Trail. If you haven’t seen Vernal Fall before, you should take the Mist Trail (and shaving off 1.5 miles is pretty nice too).
Whichever route you decide, make sure to walk a few minutes to the top of Nevada Fall to see the water flow over the edge.Less
Emerald Pool sits at the top of Vernal Fall, and at the end of the Silver Apron, a granite "slide" leading coming from Nevada Falls. While it may look fun to slide down, restrain yourself, and the current underwater is much stronger than it looks, and swimmers have been swept off the edge of the Fall. But that doesn't mean you can't sit ... Moreby the water, soak your feet, and enjoy your lunch or a snack!Less
Soon you will arrive at the top of Vernal Fall where you can take a water break and creep to the edge (don't worry, there are rails) to look straight down at the river below. You likely will have learned why the trail is called "The Mist Trail" on your way down. The rock stairs can be a bit slippery when wet, so be careful. To see Vernal... More Fall at its fullest, visit around May or June when the snow is mostly melted and the upper lakes are at their fullest.Less
Before getting back on the YARTS shuttle head over to the refreshment stand and reward yourself for your hard work. If you want a little more variety to choose from, visit Curry Village for lunch or an afternoon snack.
If you left your car in Tuolumne Meadows you can catch a bus back, but make sure you figure out the details before hand so that... More you don't miss the last bus for the day.Less