Hiking trails in Tuolumne Meadows

July 9, 2009 

Peaks of the Cathedral Range, including from left to right, the Cockscomb, Unicorn Peak and Cathedral Peak, provide a sculpted backdrop to the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park.


Few places on Earth boast such a variety of fantastic hiking trails. Here are some of the best. All distances are round trip.


Meadows Loop

Length: 1.5 miles

Highlights: Does carbonated water really bubble out of the ground? It does at log-enclosed Soda Springs, which in John Muir's day were known for their healing properties.

Lyell Canyon

Length: Variable

Highlights: Trace the Tuolumne River as it meanders gently upstream toward Mount Lyell. Turn around whenever you wish, but it's worth walking 4 flat miles to see the Kuna Creek cascade.

Dog Lake & Lembert Dome

Length: 4.5 miles

Highlights: Shallow, scenic Dog Lake is a popular swimming hole. Climb Lembert Dome on the way back for a bird's-eye view of Tuolumne Meadows and the Cathedral Range.


Elizabeth Lake

Length: 5 miles

Highlights: There's a reason this hike is so popular. For relatively little effort (800 feet of climbing), you get to visit a glacier-carved lake at the base of Unicorn Peak. Views of the Sierra Crest are included at no extra charge.

Cathedral Loop

Length: 8.5 miles

Highlights: Visit both Lower and Upper Cathedral Lakes for the total experience. To experience Cathedral Peak, climb cross country from the upper lake to the obvious saddle and return via a climbers' trail that follows Budd Creek.

Mono Pass

Length: 8 miles

Highlights: How did Native Americans cross the Sierra Crest? Hike this trail and find out. Cross meadows and rushing creeks on the way to 10,600-foot Mono Pass with views of Mono Lake and Bloody Canyon.


Vogelsang Lake

Length: 15.5 miles

Highlights: To reach the highest-elevation High Sierra Camp (10,130 feet), follow Rafferty Creek while climbing 1,300 feet. Vogelsang Lake lies a half-mile beyond the camp, where you can sometimes walk in and purchase a hot meal.

Young Lakes

Length: 16.5 miles

Highlights: Most folks backpack to this lovely cluster of lakes that sit beneath the Ragged Peak Crest. But day hikers don't need a wilderness permit or bother with a heavy pack.

Waterwheel Falls

Length: 18 miles

Highlights: Tucked in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, these falls get their name from the circular sprays of water produced when the river is at high volume. Along the way, you'll pass numerous cascades nearly as spectacular. Best before mid-July.


To alleviate parking hassles, free shuttle buses run along the Tioga Road during the summer months between Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and Olmsted Point. Shuttles arrive at 30-minute intervals between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The shuttle also makes morning and afternoon runs to Tioga Pass.


A Tuolumne Meadows map and hike descriptions are available at Click for site www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tmhikes.htm.

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