Yosemite National Park is often called a hiker’s paradise as it features over 800 miles of hiking trails. Often the biggest challenge is figuring out which trail to explore. If you don’t have the time to take on one of the park’s longer hikes, but still want a moderately challenging day hike that showcases some of Yosemite’s unique beauty, this is an excellent choice.
At 2.4 miles up-and-back, the May Lake trail is just the right length for those on a tighter schedule who only have a couple of hours set aside for a hike. And since it’s located off the Tioga Pass (in the general vicinity of Olmstead Point), it tends to be much less crowded than the trails originating in Yosemite Valley.
The turnoff to the trailhead is well-marked and easy to see (as long as you’re not speeding along the Pass), and from the turnoff you will enter a one-lane road that will take you up to the May Lake trailhead. There are vault toilets located at the trailhead and at May Lake.
The trail itself is a steady 500-foot climb in the shadow of Mt. Hoffmann through that stunning combination of evergreen trees and granite that is Yosemite’s hallmark. There are several points where you will be walking on either granite or decomposed granite which can make for slippery footing, so proper hiking footwear is strongly recommended. Be sure to stop a couple of times to take it the beautiful views from the granite cliffs, including Half Dome. At this point you’ll probably want to stop anyway to gulp some air due to the elevation – the trailhead starts at just over 8,700 feet.
May Lake itself is a fine payoff to the ascent; it’s a pristine mountain lake framed by evergreen trees and Mt. Hoffmann. From this point, the ambitious can continue and climb another 1,500 feet to ascend Mt. Hoffmann. Or, you can be like us and pause to enjoy the beauty and serenity of May Lake before venturing back down the trail to seek out yet another Yosemite adventure.
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