Day Hikes in Tuolumne Meadows
The Tioga Road, which provides the only access by car to these hikes, usually opens around late May or early June, depending on conditions. Once the road opens, trails can remain wet and/or snowy for a few to several weeks. The Tioga Road usually closes sometime in November.
Free shuttle service is available in the Tuolumne Meadows are from approximately mid June through mid September.
Tuolumne Meadows: Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge (easy)
1.5 miles (2.4 km) round-trip; 1 hour
Begin at Lembert Dome parking area (shuttle stop #4)
Walk along the gravel road and pass the locked gate (signed Glen Aulin and Soda Springs). Soda Springs—carbonated, cold water bubbling out of the ground—is protected within a log enclosure. Historic Parsons Memorial Lodge offers exhibits (limited hours—see Yosemite Guide for schedule). A path winds to the bridge below and continues on to the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center.
Lyell Canyon via the John Muir Trail (easy)
8 miles (12.9 km) round-trip, 200-foot elevation gain; four hours
Begin across the road from the Dog Lake parking area (shuttle stop #2)
This trail passes through Lyell Canyon, along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Early in the season, the trail can be muddy in places (please remain on the trail even if it's muddy). There are several creek crossings, including Rafferty Creek (bridged) and Ireland Creek (unbridged). Spectacular Kuna Creek cascades down the side of the east canyon wall near the eight-mile mark.
For a shorter trip, walk 1/2 hour each way to the Lyell Fork and "Twin Bridges."
Elizabeth Lake (moderate)
4.8 miles (7.7 km) round-trip, 1,000-foot elevation gain; 4 to 5 hours
Begin at Tuolumne Meadows Campground near group camp
The trail begins in the B loop of the campground and climbs steadily to a glacier-carved lake at the base of Unicorn Peak. The return hike follows the same route.
Gaylor Lakes (moderate)
2 miles (3.2 km) round-trip, 500-foot elevation gain; 2 hours.
Begin at Tioga Pass Entrance Station. (Free shuttle service is available twice per day.)
This hike offers some of the most spectacular high-country views off of Tioga Road. From the trailhead, climb steadily to a ridge with views of the high Sierra including Mt. Dana and Dana Meadows with its scattered ponds. At the ridge crest, the trail drops 200 feet to Middle Gaylor Lake. Return via the same route.
Cathedral Lakes (moderate)
7 miles (11.3 km round-trip), 1,000-foot elevation gain; 4 to 6 hours.
Begin at Cathedral Lakes trailhead, 1/2 mile west of the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, Shuttle Stop #7
The trail climbs steadily to Upper Cathedral Lake. Near the top of the climb, it passes a spur trail to Lower Cathedral Lake (0.5 mile to lake). The return hike follows the same route. This is one of the busiest trails in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Since parking at the trailhead is limited, consider taking the free shuttle bus.
Mono Pass (moderate)
8 miles (12.9 km) round-trip, 1,000-foot elevation gain; 4 to 6 hours.
Begin at Mono Pass trailhead, on the Tioga Road six miles east of Tuolumne Meadows (free shuttle service is available twice per day).
This historic, trans-Sierra trail climbs gently at first from the Mono Pass parking area, through wet meadows and rushing creeks. At the Spillway Lake junction, the trail climbs steadily and more steeply to Mono Pass (elevation 10,600 feet). Don’t miss the spectacular view of Mono Lake and Bloody Canyon: from the pass, hike a bit farther toward Upper Sardine Lake.
Glen Aulin (moderate)
11 miles (17.7 km) round-trip, 800-foot elevation gain; 6-8 hours
Follow the Tuolumne River as it drops to Glen Aulin. Tuolumne Fall and White Cascade are four miles from the trailhead. Beyond Glen Aulin are California Fall (13 miles roundtrip), LeConte Fall (15 miles roundtrip), and Waterwheel Falls (18 miles roundtrip). The return hike follows the same route.
Dog Lake and Lembert Dome (moderate)
Dog Lake: 2.8 miles (4.5 km) round-trip, 600-foot elevation gain; 3 hours.
Dog Lake and Lembert Dome: 4 miles (6.4 km) round-trip; 4 hours
Begin at the Dog Lake parking area (shuttle stop #2, just west of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge).
The trail rises steeply for 0.75 mile to a signed junction. Turn left to reach the top of Lembert Dome for a spectacular view of Tuolumne Meadows and surrounding peaks. To reach Dog Lake, continue straight at the junction. Allow four hours for a leisurely four mile (6.4 km) roundtrip visit to both Dog Lake and Lembert Dome.
Stay off domes during thunderstorms!
Vogelsang High Sierra Camp (strenuous)
13.8 miles (22.2 km) round-trip, 1,400-foot elevation gain; 8 hours.
Begin across the road from the Dog Lake parking area (Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle Stop #2)
The first two miles of the John Muir Trail are relatively level as they follow the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. At the Rafferty Creek junction, the trail begins its 1,200-foot ascent to Tuolumne Pass. Follow the signs to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, another 160 feet higher in elevation. Hike beyond the camp to Vogelsang Lake (0.5 mile, 280-foot elevation gain) or to Vogelsang Pass (1.5 mile, 600-foot elevation gain).
Did You Know?
Riparian communities are adjacent to the river channel and tributaries; they are the interface between the river and surrounding meadow and upland communities. They provide specialized habitat and important nutrients to the meadow and river systems.