Tuolumne Meadows Day Hikes

Tuolumne Picture Sets

There are many beautiful day hikes in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. This list has been compiled from National Park resources along with special, unmarked "fisherman's trails" added for convenience and variety.

Tuolumne Meadows: Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge

Begin at Lembert Dome parking area (shuttle bus stop #4)
1.5 miles round-trip
1 hour

Walk north-west along the gravel road and continue straight, past the locked gate (signed GLen Aulin and Soda Springs). Soda Springs, where carbonated water bubbles up from the ground, is found inside the wooden enclosure. Although many people drink this water, health officials advise against it due to possible surface contamination. Ahead, historic Parsons Lodge offers exhibits (limited hours, see Yosemite Today for schedule). A path winds to the bridge below and continues on to the Tuolumne Visitor Center.

The Cascades - Fisherman's Trail

Begin at the trailhead along Tioga Road
~3 miles round-trip
2 hours

This trailhead is not marked. Park in the tree-covered space on the north side of Tioga road, about 2 miles west of the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, just east of Pothole Dome. Head off across the meadow on the narrow trail, which leads you through several groves of pine trees. When you reach the Tuolumne River, follow its edge down through the cascading waterfalls, until you reach a large sandy beach. If you have plenty of time, you can continue down the river for a few more miles until you reach the Glen Aulin trail where it crosses the river.

Dog Lake or Lembert Dome

Moderate to Difficult
2.8 miles round trip
2 1/2 to 3 hours

Both Dog Lake and Lembert Dome

Moderate to Difficult
4 miles round trip
4 hours

Begin at the Dog Lake parking area (shuttle bus stop #2, just before the Tuolumne Lodge). The trail begins at the top of the parking area. Turn left to reach the top of the dome for a spectacular view of the Tuolumne Meadows area. The trail on the dome itself is not marked. Just head toward the top and bear left to avoid the steep section. If your destination is Dog Lake, go straight ahead beyond the junction. Never climb domes in a thunderstorm.

Glen Aulin

Moderate to Strenuous
Begin at Soda Springs
11 miles round-trip
600 ft. elevation gain on return trip
8 to 10 hours

Begin at Soda Springs and follow the Tuolumne River as it drops to Glen Aulin. This particular route is noted for its scenic cascades. Tuolumne Fall and White Cascade are 4 miles from the trailhead. Beyond Glen Aulin are California Fall (13 miles round-trip), LeConte Fall (15 miles round-trip), and Waterwheel Falls (18 miles round-trip). The return hike follows the same route.

Elizabeth Lake

Easy to Moderate
Begin at Tuolumne Meadows Campground (shuttle bus stop #5)
4.8 miles round-trip
4 to 5 hours

The trail begins in the Tuolumne Meadows Campground (group camp area) and climbs steadily to the glacier-carved lake at the base of Unicorn Peak. The return hike follows the same route.

Cathedral Lakes (Upper Cathedral)

Begin along Tioga Road (shuttle bus stop #7; 1/2 mile from the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center)
7 miles round-trip
4 to 6 hours with 1,000 ft. elevation gain

This is perhaps one of the busiest trails in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Parking at the trailhead is limited. You are encouraged to take the free shuttle bus which is operated during the summer.

The trail climbs steadily to Upper Cathedral Lake. Near the top, it passes a spur trail to Lower Cathedral Lake. The return hike follows the same route.

Cathedral Lakes - Fisherman's Trail

Moderate to Strenuous
Begin on the Tioga road just east of Pywiak Dome
3 miles round-trip
3-4 hours with 800 foot elevation gain.

There is a small parking area on the south side of Tioga Road, just east of Pywiak Dome. The trail is narrow and unmarked. It heads across a small meadow and then climbs up to the base of Medlcott Dome. Continue around the west side of the dome and continue climbing until you reach the majestic and peaceful Lower Cathedral Lake.

Lyell Canyon via the John Muir Trail

Begin across the road from the Dog Lake parking area (shuttle bust stop #2)
8 miles round-trip
Approx. 2 miles/hour

This nearly flat trail (only 200 feet elevation gain in 8 miles) wanders through the Lyell Canyon, mostly alongside the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. It is a route well-traveled by those setting out for (or returning from) the 211-mile journey on the John Muir Trail. So unless you are heading for Mt. Whitney at the trail's end, this hike really has no destination. Return via the same route. Early in the season, the trail can be muddy in places.

You will travel over several creek crossings, including Rafferty Creek (bridged) and Ireland Creek (unbridged). Spectacular Kuna Creek cascades down the side of the east canyon wall at about the 8-mile mark.

If you have a limited amount of time, take the short walk from the trailhead, cross the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River where wildflowers abound, and head over to the Lyell Fork bridges. About a 1-hour round-trip.

Mono Pass

Begin at signed trailhead along Tioga Road, 6 miles east of Tuolumne Meadows
8 miles round-trip
4 to 6 hours with 1,000 ft. elevation gain

This historic trans-Sierra route has been used by travelers for hundreds--maybe even thousands--of years. The trail climbs gently at first from the Mono Pass parking area, through the wet meadows and rushing creeks. At the Spillway Lake junction, the trail climbs steadily and more steeply to Mono Pass (elevation 10,500 feet). Don't miss the spectacular view of Mono Lake and Bloody Canyon from just beyond the pass. Hike another short 3/4 mile to Upper Sardine Lake.

Gaylor Lakes

Moderate to Strenuous
Begin at Tioga Pass Entrance Station
2 miles round-trip
2 hours with 500 ft. elevation gain

It looks daunting from the bottom of the trailhead, but this hike offers some of the most spectacular high country views directly off the Tioga Road.

From the trailhead, climb steadily to a ridge with rewarding over-the-shoulder views of Mt. Dana and Dana Meadows with its scattered ponds. At the ridge crest, the trail drops 200 feet to the first of the Gaylor Lakes. If you have time, explore the other lakes, wildflower-filled meadows, and the remnants of the Great Sierra Mine. (Not included in the mileage/time estimate). Return via the same route.

Vogelsang Area

Begin at John Muir Trailhead, just across from Dog Lake parking area (near shuttle bus stop #2)
15.8 miles round-trip
6 to 8 hours with 1,360 ft. elevation gain

The first 2 miles of the John Muir Trail are relatively level, following the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. The Rafferty Creek trail splits off at this juncture and begins the 1,200 foot ascent to Tuolumne Pass. Follow the signs to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, another 160 feet in elevation gain. If you would like to explore Vogelsang Lake and Vogelsang Pass, they are .5 to 1.5 miles, respectively, beyond the camp. Vogelsang Lake is a 280 foot ascent and Vogelsang Pass is 600 feet higher than the camp.