High Sierra Camp Tents

High Sierra Camp Trail Descriptions

The following descriptions are intended to help orient high country guests to the wide variety of terrain on the High Sierra Camp Loop.  Please always carry a reliable hiking map when visiting the backcountry.  We recommended these hiking maps and guidebooks of the High Sierra Camps. The National Park Service website also offers detailed USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps (available in PDF format to download) as well as comprehensive High Sierra Camp trail descriptions.
 

Additional Trails by High Sierra Camp:

Trails around Merced Lake
• Yosemite Valley to Merced Lake
• Tuolumne Meadows to Merced Lake
• Merced Lake to Washburn Lake
Trails around Vogelsang
• Merced Lake to Vogelsang via Lewis Creek
• Vogelsang to Tuolumne Meadows via Evelyn Lake
• Vogelsang Lake and Pass
Trails around Sunrise
• Tuolumne Meadows to Sunrise via Cathedral Lakes

High Sierra Camp Loop, approx. 49 miles (79 km)

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge to Glen Aulin
Starting Elevation: 8775 ft. (2675 m)
Ending Elevation: 7800 ft. (2378 m)
Approximate Mileage: 8 miles (12.9 km)

This is a gentle hike descending along the Tuolumne River with views across the meadows toward Unicorn Peak, Cathedral Peak & Echo Peaks.  A free shuttle can take you from Tuolumne Lodge to the Lembert Dome picnic area and saves approximately a mile of hiking.  Otherwise, begin at either the trailhead sign at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge parking or the Dog Lake parking and follow the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River to Hwy.120.  Cross the road and follow the dirt road at the Lembert Dome picnic area for a third of a mile to a sharp right curve.  There will be a metal gate across the old road with a trailhead sign for Soda Springs and Parson’s Lodge.  The High Sierra Camp trail to Glen Aulin passes Soda Springs and winds through a lodgepole forest and meadows for approximately 4 miles before crossing the river and dropping down a mile of switchbacks paralleling a series of cascades to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. 

Glen Aulin to May Lake
Starting Elevation: 7800 ft. (2378 m)
Ending Elevation: 9270 ft. (2825 m)
Approximate Mileage: 8.5 miles (13.7 km)

From the junction by the bridge across the Tuolumne River the trail ascends to McGee Lake and continues through a lodgepole forest, crossing Cathedral Creek with views towards Falls Ridge.  As the High Sierra Camp trail climbs higher towards May Lake, it offers more views of the Sierra Crest with Mt. Conness & Mt. Dana being the most prominent.  After a gentle descent to Raisin Lake, the trail climbs steeply again the last half mile to May Lake.  As you ascend, you gain amazing panoramas of Southern Yosemite while Mt. Hoffman dominates the view behind May Lake.

May Lake to Sunrise
Starting Elevation: 9270 ft. (2825 m)
Ending Elevation: 9400 ft. (2865 m)
Approximate Mileage: 8.25 (13 km)

The High Sierra Camp trail from May Lake descends to the old Tioga Road and follows it down to Tenaya Lake, paralleling Highway 120 briefly.  After crossing Tenaya creek the trail rises gradually for awhile, then turns into a steep 1.5-mile set of switchbacks up to the Clouds Rest junction.  This is a hot portion of the trail, but offers great views of Mt. Hoffman and Tenaya Canyon with its polished granite.  For an even better view once you reach the Clouds Rest junction travel 100 yards west to the top of a small rise to see Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.  Otherwise, continue on past Sunrise Lakes and ascend for 2 miles before a 1/2-mile descent to Long Meadow and Sunrise High Sierra Camp.

Sunrise to Merced Lake
Starting Elevation: 9400 ft. (2865 m)
Ending Elevation: 7150 ft. (2179 m)
Approximate Mileage: 9.5 miles (15.5 km)

This trail begins with a gentle stroll the length of Long Meadow with views of the granite peaks all around.  Soon the trail switchbacks up a small ridge before it descends to the Cathedral Fork of Echo Creek.  It parallels Echo Creek for several miles, mostly through forested areas and the vegetation gradually changes from lodgepole & hemlock trees to Jeffrey pines, chinquapin and manzanita at the lower elevations.  After the junction in Echo Valley the trail flattens out through an old burn, and then climbs past granite pools to Merced Lake.  Continue along the north shore of Merced Lake to find the High Camp at the far end.

Merced Lake to Vogelsang via Fletcher Creek
Starting Elevation: 7150 ft. (2179 m)
Ending Elevation: 10100 ft. (3078 m)
Approximate Mileage:  7.8 miles (12.5 km)

Travel through the large forest towards the Merced Lake Ranger Station.  Just before the ranger station, the trail leaves the Merced River valley and begins a long series of switchbacks through a canyon of polished granite.  The trail levels off near the Babcock Lake trail junction.   A 1/2-mile off the main trail, Babcock Lake may not be all that scenic but it is a prime swimming lake.  The trail continues to climb and then levels off for a walk through a scenic meadow bordered by granite domes & knobs.  The last stretch of the hike ascends again to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp at the base of Fletcher Peak. 

Vogelsang to Tuolumne Meadows via Rafferty Creek
Starting Elevation: 10100 ft. (3078 m)
Ending Elevation:  8775 ft. (2675 m)
Approximate Mileage: 6.8 (11 km)

The shortest High Sierra Camp trail to Tuolumne Meadows from Vogelsang follows Rafferty Creek.  Leaving Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, the trail descends to Tuolumne Pass through a lodgepole and whitebark pine forest. Then the scenery opens up during a series of long meadows. After a few miles, the trail reenters a lodgepole forest and switchbacks steeply for a mile to Tuolumne Meadows.  The last mile parallels the Tuolumne River and crosses the river at twin bridges to return you to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.
 
back to top

Additional Trail Descriptions by High Sierra Camp

Trails around Merced Lake


Yosemite Valley to Merced Lake
Starting Elevation: 4040 ft. (1231m)
Ending Elevation:  7150 ft. (2179 m)
Approximate Mileage: 14 miles (23 km)

This is an arduous but beautiful hike up the Merced River canyon from Yosemite Valley.  Most hikers attempt it in two days, though the experienced hiker can do it in one long day if not burdened by a heavy pack.  This High Sierra Camp trail begins at Happy Isles, shuttle bus stop #16, in Yosemite Valley.  Cross the shuttle bus bridge to find the trailhead on the other side of the river.  One uphill mile gives the first view of Vernal Fall at a footbridge crossing the river.   

At the trail junction a 1/4 mile beyond the footbridge, the trail splits into the Mist Trail or the John Muir Trail.  The Mist Trail is the more direct route and saves approximately 1 mile.  It is so named for the 500 steps leading to the top of Vernal Fall, which are directly in the path of the mist from the fall.  If you choose this trail in late spring or early summer, plan on getting wet.  The second half of the Mist Trail passes the Silver Apron Cascade and then ascends steeply, paralleling Nevada Fall.  This is a strenuous trial, but it gives a unique perspective on both of these magnificent falls. 

 The John Muir Trail is a more traditional, higher elevation trail which avoids the Vernal Fall area and switchbacks up to the top of Nevada Fall, where the two trails rejoin.  After another short ascent, the trail to Merced Lake levels off in Little Yosemite Valley.  This 2-mile stretch,which ends in the Moraine Dome area, is a sandy walk through incense cedars, lodgepole and Jeffrey pines with views up towards the backside of Half Dome and Clouds Rest.  After the Moraine Dome area, the trail enters a series of more steeply sided granite canyons.  A set of switchbacks will bring you to quiet Lost Valley and then another set of switchbacks will take you past the Bunnell Cascade.  The trail then crosses the Merced River over a pair of bridges and begins a longer ascent up the side of the next river gorge.  After a descent through a beautiful wildflower garden the trail continues levelly through an old burn area in Echo Valley.  A final small set of switchbacks brings you to Merced Lake.  Follow the north shore to find Merced Lake High Camp in the forest on the far end.

Tuolumne Meadows to Merced Lake
Starting Elevation: 8775 ft. (2675 m)
Ending Elevation: 7612 ft (2320 m)
Approximate Mileage: 14.5 (23.5 km)

Similar in length to the Merced River canyon hike, the High Sierra Camp trail to Merced Lake from Tuolumne Meadows is a higher altitude route over Tuolumne Pass with cooler temperatures on average and a variety of scenery. Most guests choose to break the hike into two days with a night at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp rather than combine it into one very strenuous day hike.  If attempting to hike this trail in one day, be sure to pack light and start early.  

The trail begins at the Dog Lake parking area next to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.  Following signs for Vogelsang, the trail first crosses the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River then the Lyell Fork at twin bridges.  It continues levelly for the next mile and then leaves the Lyell canyon to ascend a steep set of switchbacks for another mile.  After the switchbacks, the trail heads more gradually uphill to Tuolumne Pass, paralleling Rafferty Creek through a series of alpine meadows alternating with lodgepole and whitebark pine forests.   

Tuolumne Pass (elev. 9992 ft., 3046 m) is the highest altitude point along this route and has a wonderful panorama of the surrounding peaks. From the pass you also see for the first time the Clark Range, which will dominate the skyline during your descent to Merced Lake.  Instead of following the signs at Tuolumne Pass for Vogelsang, hike down to Booth Lake, a wonderful lunch and swimming spot.   

This High Sierra Camp trail continues past Booth Lake and rejoins the main trail to Merced Lake at Fletcher Creek.  Follow the creek down to a small valley with an optional side trip to Babcock Lake, one of the warmer swimming lakes in Yosemite but a mile detour off your route.  After leaving this valley Fletcher Creek becomes a series of whitewater cascade over granite slopes.  The trail ascends the perimeter of the granite area and then steeply descends a series of cobblestone switchbacks.  Be prepared for a few miles of this terrain until you reach the valley floor of the Merced River.  You have a great views of Mt. Clark and Obelisk Peak directly across the valley.  As the elevation drops quickly, the vegetation changes to chinquapin, manzanita, Jeffrey pines and juniper trees.  Once you have reached the valley floor, there is a level mile through a large forest of white firs, Jeffrey and lodgepole pines to reach Merced Lake High Sierra Camp.

Merced Lake to Washburn Lake
Starting Elevations: 7150 ft. (2179 m)
Ending Elevation: 7612 ft (2320 m)
Approximate Mileage: 3 miles (5 km)

Washburn Lake is popular with fisherman and a great destination for a layover day at Merced Lake.   

This gentle hike begins with a long, level forested section.  The trail then ascends gradually along the river, passing a rusty muddy area caused by a soda spring. A beautiful series of granite pools finally leads you to the lake itself. Washburn, like Merced Lake, has brown, brook & rainbow trout.  From the lake you have views up canyon to the headwaters of the Merced River.

Trails around Vogelsang

Merced Lake to Vogelsang via Lewis Creek
Starting Elevation: 7150 ft. (2179 m)
Highest Point of Elevation: Vogelsang Pass 10750 ft. (3277 m)
Ending Elevation: 10100 ft. (3078 m)
Approximate Mileage: 8.5 miles (13.7 km)

Travel through the large forest towards the Merced Lake Ranger Station.  Just before the ranger station, the trail leaves the Merced River valley and begins a long series of switchbacks through manzanita and juniper trees.  The trail branches off up the Lewis Creek canyon and enters a red fir and western white pine forest.  Higher up Florence Creek crosses the trail with a beautiful cascade.  Near the head of this canyon you’ll find a side trail to Bernice Lake, but for most hikers it is enough of a challenge to continue up the main trail to the steep set of switchbacks leading to Vogelsang Pass, which offers amazing views of the Cathedral Range.  Finally, the trail descends past Vogelsang Lake - and after crossing Fletcher Creek you will find Vogelsang High Sierra Camp at the base of Fletcher Peak. 

Vogelsang to Tuolumne Meadows via Evelyn Lake
Starting Elevation: 10100 ft. (3078 m)
Ending Elevation: 8775 ft. (2675 m)
Approximate Mileage: 11.6 miles (18.7 km)

The trail leaves Vogelsang past Fletcher Lake and climbs through a small gully to the Evelyn Lake bench.  This large windswept meadow has little vegetation and the feel of a high plateau with views straight across to the Kuna Crest and the crest of the Sierra Nevada.   

The High Sierra Camp trail continues east, climbs briefly and then drops past a small unnamed lake to the junction with the Ireland Lake trail.  Ireland Lake is 1.5 miles off the main trail, and while it is a very special place in Yosemite, it is probably worth a separate trip rather than increasing this already long hike.  The main trail switchbacks down through a dense forest of lodgepole and white bark pines until you reach the floor of the Lyell Canyon.  The last 5 miles is a wonderfully level walk through the meadows along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

Vogelsang Lake and Pass
Starting Elevation: 10100 ft. (3078 m)
Ending Elevation:  Vogelsang Lake - 10341 ft (3152 m),
Vogelsang Pass - 10750 ft. (3277 m),
Approximate Mileage:  Vogelsang Lake – 1 mile (1.6 km)
         Vogelsang Pass – 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
   
This day hike is popular with hikers who want the view offered by Vogelsang Pass, but do not want to take the longer Lewis Creek route to Merced Lake.   From camp, cross Fletcher Creek and begin the hike uphill to Vogelsang Lake.  Once you reach the lake, the trail skirts the west end, then continues uphill to Vogelsang Pass.  From Vogelsang Pass you have fantastic view south towards the Cathedral & Clark Ranges, plus a pleasant look down on Vogelsang Lake.


Trails around Sunrise
 
Tuolumne Meadows to Sunrise via Cathedral Lakes
Starting Elevation: 8500 feet (2,590 m)
Ending Elevation: 9400 ft. (2865 m)
Approximate Mileage: 7.5 miles (12 km)

This is a popular alternative route to Sunrise High Sierra Camp through one of the most scenic areas in Yosemite.   

The trail begins on the west end of Tuolumne Meadows, between the Visitor Center and Pothole Dome.  The first 3 miles gains the majority of the elevation as the trail switchbacks along the base of Fairview Dome through a lodgpole pine forest to the junction with Lower Cathedral Lake trail.  Follow along Upper Cathedral Lake, skirting the base of Cathedral Peak and continue on a gradual ascent to Cathedral Pass, an amazing panoramic opportunity.  From the pass, this High Sierra Camp trail continues its gentle ascent along the side of Tresidder Peak until you reach the base of Columbia Finger, one of the many distinctive granite peaks in this area.  Finally the trail descends to the upper portions of Long Meadow and the last level mile to Sunrise.

back to top