Upper basin below Lyell Peak as we climb for Donohue Pass on the Southernmost end of Yosemite on the John Muir Trail. Banner reading, "Tahoe to Whitney" for the High Sierra trail guide. East and Northeast Yosemite from near Donohue Pass.
North and East Yosemite from Donohue Pass.
Upper basin below Mount Lyell
Mount Conness North beyond Lyell Canyon, Kuna Crest to our Northeast, from just below Donohue Pass.
East and Northeast Yosemite

 

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Trail Segment
JMT-PCT
Ireland Lake Trail Junction
in
Lyell Canyon
to
Donohue Pass

 

Trail Section
Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadow

 

BACKPACKING
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

 

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The John Muir Trail
South
to
Reds Meadow

 

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Trail Guide
INDEX


JMT-PCT

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow

Trail
Guide
NORTH


JMT-PCT

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Ireland Lake Junction

Trail
Guide
SOUTH
WEST

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp
to
Yosemite
Valley

Trail
Guide
SOUTH


JMT-PCT

Donohue
Pass
to
Island
Pass

7.5 min
Topo
Map


Tuolumne
Meadows
MAP

30 min
Trails
Map


Tuolumne
Meadows
&
Central
Yosemite

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds
Meadow


MILES
and
ELES
TOPO MAP INDEX

Tuolumne
Meadows
to
Reds
Meadow

Resupply

North

Tuolumne
Meadows

South
Reds
Meadow

Forest
&
Parks
Permits



Toiyabe
&
Stanislaus
&
Yosemite

Sierra
Weather

North
Yosemite
Weather


Two-Way
The John Muir Trail
Trail Junction

To
Ireland Lake
&
Vogelsang Junction
or
Donohue Pass


8901
feet of elevation

Trail
Section

John Muir Trail

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow Pack Station

34.25 miles

 

 

PCT

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Agnew Meadows Pack Station

27.63 miles

 

 

River Route

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Agnew Meadows Pack Station

26.74 miles

Trail
Segment

 

John Muir Trail
&
PCT

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Ireland Lake trail junction

6.24 miles

 

 

John Muir Trail
&
PCT

Ireland Lake trail junction
to
Donohue Pass

6.45 miles



Lyell Canyon
Ireland Creek Trail Junction

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

 

Backpacker Resources
and
Hiker Information

Though this trailads.

John Muir Trail Backpacking
Information

This
Page Index
top

 

Trail Junction
Ireland Lake to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp

 

 

 

Snake in the Grass

 

 

 

Peak 12356

 

 

 

End of Lyell Canyon

 

 

 

Mount Lyell

 

 

 

Locate Donohue Pass

 

 

 

Upper Footbridge

 

 

 

CCC Camp, 2012

 

 

 

First Basin

 

 

 

Climbing out of First, Lower Basin

 

 

 

Upper Basin

 

Central
Yosemite Wilderness

Weather and Road Information

 

Below find the closest Ground Stations, Point and Regional Forecasts near Tuolumne Meadows.

Satellite and Radar Imagery provides Long Range and Regional overviews.

Check out the Ground Reporting Stations for real-time current snow and temp data.

 

Yosemite Weather Forecast

NWS
REGIONAL FORECAST
Yosemite to Kings Canyon Forecast

NWS
STATION REPORT
Tuolumne
Meadows

 

Regional Forecasts

NWS
REGIONAL FORECAST
East Sierra

NWS
REGIONAL FORECAST
Northwest Sierra

Emigrant Wilderness
&
North Yosemite

Regional Weather Information
All
High Sierra Weather
Resources
Real Time
Ground Reporting Stations

North of Yosemite
Hwy 108 Corridor

Sonora Pass reporting station

Leavitt Lake reporting station

Leavitt Meadow reporting station

Horse Meadow Reporting Station

Around our Position

Tenaya Lake

Tuolumne Meadows

Tioga Entry Station

Northeast

Slide Mountain

All
Ground Reporting Stations

MesoWest
N Calif Stations

Calif Snotel

Note that the ground reporting stations above are North and East of our position backpacking across Central Yosemite Wilderness.

The reason is that there are no automated reporting stations in the North Yosemite Backcountry or the Central Wilderness.

These reporting stations are given to ascertain snow conditions and temps at various altitudes and aspects of exposure.

That will help figure out the conditions in terrain with similar terrain.

Human Measured Stations

Wilma Lake

Road Conditions

Caltrans Hwy 108

Caltrans Hwy 120

Big View
Radar

North
California Radar

Big View
Space

Western
US Satellite

Check these Resources

 

All
High Sierra Weather
Resources

 

High Sierra
Fire and Smoke
Information

 

 

 

Mount Conness

 

 

 

Lyell Peak

 

 

 

Climbing out of the Upper Basin

 

 

 

Donohue Peak

 

 

 

Donohue Pass

 

 

 

Donohue Pass Map, Miles, and Elevation

 

 

 

Scramble to Two Lakes

 

 

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John Muir Trail
North & South

 

Ireland Creek Trail Junction
on the

John Muir Trail

Lyell Canyon,
Ireland Creek Junction


8901
feet of elevation

 

6.24 miles
South of Tuolumne Meadows
Post Office-Store-Grill

 

6.45 miles
South to Donohue Pass

 

Here we find a trail branching off the John Muir Trail Southwest first up to another trail breaking off to Ireland Lake in its expansive basin wedged into the Eastern Flank of the Cathedral Range under a spur off the Cathedral Crestline composed of Amelia Earhart Peak reaching down to Potter Point, marking this junction near the top of Lyell Canyon.

The main trail up to Vogelsang continues beyond the Ireland Lake junction up to an unnamed lake, then around Evelyn Lake before crossing the Cathedral Crest to the East of, and above Tuolumne Pass, to shortly after enter Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.

We can continue to follow the John Muir Trail South to Donohue Pass on the page below, or we can turn Southwest at this trail up to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, depicted on the trail guide page linked to below, which is one of the series tracking our hike to the John Muir Trail in Lyell Canyon from the Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley.

 

Trail Southwest
out of
Lyell Canyon

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp
to
JMT-PCT Ireland Lake junction, Lyell Canyon

 

Vogelsang HSC is situated in a picturesque location towards the Southern end of the crestline of the Cathedral Range of Yosemite National Park.

 

Trail North

Tuolumne Meadow
to
Ireland Lake Trail Junction, Lyell Canyon

 

The Tuolumne Meadows Post Office, Store, and Grill facilities are located 6.24 miles to our North traveling downriver in Lyell Canyon from the Ireland Lake trail junction.

The point where the John Muir Trail meets the wilderness boundary at the end of the car campground road is 5.63 miles

 

We Continue South
on the
JMT-PCT


Our mission on this page below continues South on the John Muir Trail on our way climbing out the South end of Lyell Canyon, and the South end of Yosemite National Park into the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Inyo National Forest, through Donohue Pass.

This will be our last segment of trail in Yosemite since entering Yosemite what seems so long ago, when we hiked through Bond Pass on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail into the top of Jack Main Canyon (map) in the far Northwestern Corner of the Park.

Since then we've crossed the North Yosemite Backcountry, followed the John Muir Trail "backwards" down to Yosemite Valley, and now have climbed back to the Sierra Crest and the John Muir Trail via the Merced River to Merced Lake, from where we crossed the Cathedral Range into Lyell Canyon via Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.

 

The Long View
We've gotten a pretty good view of Yosemite National Park along this particularly unique Tahoe to Whitney route variation. I thought swinging us down through Yosemite Valley while hiking from Tahoe to Whitney was a bit aggressive, but a good idea.

It was and is a good idea!

 

Lyell Canyon Junction
Ireland Creek

8901
feet of elevation

 

Maps & Miles

Map South

Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North

Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

Location
John Muir Trail

Ireland Creek
&
South Bank of the Tuolumne River

 

 

 

SOUTH

 

OF

6.24 miles
South of Tuolumne Meadows Post Office-Store-Grill

5.6 miles
South of the Yosemite Wilderness Boundary at TM Car Campground

4.17 miles
South of the Rafferty Creek trail junction

 

 

TO

6.45 miles
South to Donohue Pass
.

28.01 miles
South to Reds Meadow, JMT ROUTE

 

 

SOUTHWEST

(Lyell Canyon to Vogelsang)

 

6.09 miles
Southwest to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp
.

25.94 miles
Southwest to Yosemite Valley via Vogelsang HSC & Merced Lake

 

 

Page Index


North to Tuolumne Meadows
Wilderness Boundary

Miles back to Tuolumne Meadows boundary from the Ireland Lake trail junction in Lyell Canyon.

Down Lyell Canyon

One of the three trail signs at the Ireland Creek trail junction in Lyell Canyon. The trail branching off from this junction climbs Southwest up to Ireland and Evelyn Lakes on its way up to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.

The sign above indicates the distance on the JMT down Lyell Canyon to the Wilderness Boundary located on the Southeastern-most end of the Tuolumne Meadows Car Campground.

From that point we can get on the campground roads for the most direct line to the Post Office, Store, and Grill, which is a total of 6.24 miles.

 

Tuolumne Meadow Backpacker Resupply Facilities

 

Tuolumne Meadows Backpacker Permits

 


To the
Southwest
is our
Second Vogelsang Trail Junction
via
Ireland and Evelyn Lakes to Vogelsang

Miles sign at the trail junction leading to Vogelsang HSC via Ireland and Evelyn Lakes.

Climbing Out of Lyell Canyon
to
Cathedral Range Crestline

Miles sign at the trail junction leading Southwest up to Vogelsang HSC via Ireland and Evelyn Lakes.

For us Southbound hikers out of Tuolumne Meadows we passed by our first trail option for hiking up to Vogelsang back at the Rafferty Creek trail junction, 4.17 miles to our North, further down Lyell Canyon. That route to Vogelsang through Tuolumne Pass is much more direct than this option.

Together, they compose a nice loop route out of Tuolumne Meadows.

 

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South
John Muir Trail

Southbound John Muir Trail sign at Ireland Lake trail junction in Lyell Canyon.

Southbound John Muir Trail sign at Ireland Lake trail junction in Lyell Canyon. This is the only "plate" on this post for Southbound hikers. It feels like this post is missing its miles plate.

 

Trail miles South from this trail junction

2.88 miles to the end of Lyell Canyon, where we exit the flat but tilted floor
of Lyell Canyon and begin climbing earnestly for Donohue Pass.

4.84 miles to First Flat-Pooling area, the "Lower Basin."

5.5 miles to Second Flat-Pooling area, the "Upper Basin."

6.45 miles to Donohue Pass.

 

Merced Lake to Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

 

South PCT & JMT
Hiking South brings us to the Top End of the floor of Lyell Canyon, from where we begin a difficult climb to Donohue Pass.

 

 

Page Index


South on the John Muir Trail
Trail to the end of Lyell Canyon from Ireland Creek trail junction.

Trail to the end of Lyell Canyon from Ireland Creek trail junction.


Deer well Covered
A lot of wildlife accesses the lushness in the top of Lyell Canyon.

A lot of wildlife accesses the lushness in the top of Lyell Canyon.

 

Page Index


Marshy Meadow Upper Lyell Canyon
Marshy segment of Upper Lyell Canyon.

Earlier in the Summer hiking season.

 

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Marshy Meadow Upper Lyell Canyon
Marshy upper section of Lyell Canyon.

Later, and further South, we come up along the marshy pool above the Ireland Lake trail junction.

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Pool along the Tuolumne River
Nice pool along the Tuolumne River in Upper Lyell Canyon.

Nice pool along the Tuolumne River in Upper Lyell Canyon.

 

Page Index


Slower, Wider section of the Upper Tuolumne River
A sweet section of the Tuolumne River pooling up, high up in Lyell Canyon.

Only the Western bends of the ribbon like course of the Tuolumne River up here even come close to the trail.

 

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Deer Watch
Deer observing in Upper Lyell Canyon along the John Muir Trail.

Spring or Fall, I find more wildlife in the upper portion of Lyell Canyon than the lower.


Page Index


Snake in the Grass
Snake in the Grass of Upper Lyell Canyon, Yosemite National Park.

The garter snakes were thick.

This one was particularly curious, as you can see. Most garter snakes don't come in to say, "hi."

 

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Last Bend of Lyell Canyon
Last rise of the trail off the floor of  Lyell Canyon before climbing out of the canyon.

Last rise of the trail off the floor of Lyell Canyon before climbing out of the canyon.

 

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Check Out that Snake
Yet another Garter Snake.

Yet another Garter Snake.

 

Top of Page


View North down Lyell Canyon
View down Lyell Canyon as we approach the top.

View down Lyell Canyon as we come closer and closer to the top of this amazing canyon.

 

Page Index


Tuolumne River in Upper Lyell Canyon
The upper run of the Tuolumne River in Lyell Canyon.

The upper run of the Tuolumne River in Lyell Canyon.

 

Page Index


Exclamation Blaze
Exclamation blaze amuzing, rather than guiding backpackers in Upper Lyell Canyon.

Exclamation blaze amusing, rather than guiding backpackers in Upper Lyell Canyon.

Interestingly, this blaze still fits the "rectangle and square" specification, if it does knock them a bit askew.

 

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Peak 12356
Peak 12356 on the South end of the Cathedral Range.

Iconic Peak 12356 along the South end of the Cathedral Range comes into view.

This is the double peak we see on the Southernmost end of the crestline holding Lyell and Maclure, being the high point before the crestline turns East and descends to Donohue Pass.

I identify Peak 12356 as the Left of these sawtooth twins.

 

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Lazy Bends of Upper Tuolumne River
Upper placid waters of the Tuolumne River in Lyell Canyon.

Next to us we hike past the uppermost pools along the Tuolumne River.

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Trout Fry
Trout fry in upper Tuolumne River in Lyell Canyon.

Backpacking with the fish on the John Muir Trail along the Upper Tuolumne River.

 

Page Index


Trail Branch
Trail branching off to our East at the top of lyell Canyon.

Trail branching off to our East at the top of lyell Canyon.

I figure there is a set of nice camps over there, where this trail breaks off at the top of the uppermost section of meadows running up the floor of Lyell Canyon.

 

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Trail in Uppermost Lyell Canyon
Trail work in the uppermost bit of Lyell Canyon.

One more line of rock solid trail up across trees and rock off the floor of Lyell Canyon before we come up on the end of the canyon floor.

We've seen the endless variations of the old trail routes recovering and being reclaimed by meadow and forest even as new scars are cut.

But here trail remains on these impenetrable islands of granite.


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Upper End of Lyell Canyon
along the
John Muir Trail

In the next two images below we can see the South end of the run of Lyell Canyon's meadows.

That point I measure out to be 9.12 miles South of the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office.

But we are not quite there, yet.

We've a few hundred more yards to cross until we begin to climb in earnest towards Donohue Pass and our Southern exit from Yosemite National Park. And we've still got a few more sights to see as we hike up to the top very top-end of Lyell Canyon.

 

End of Lyell Canyon
9000
feet of elevation

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

 

 

SOUTH

 

OF

9.12 miles
South of Tuolumne Meadows Post Office-Store-Grill

8.51 miles
South of the Yosemite Wilderness Boundary at TM Car Campground

7.05 miles
South of the Rafferty Creek trail junction

 

 

TO

3.57 miles
South to Donohue Pass
.

25.13 miles
South to Reds Meadow, JMT ROUTE


 

Page Index


End of Lyell Canyon
Mount Lyell atop the South end of the Cathedral Range from the end of Lyell Canyon.

The South end of the Cathedral Range with Mount Lyell on the far Right and Peak 12356 on the furthest Left.

 

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End of Lyell Canyon
Mounts Lyell and Maclure from the very end of Lyell Canyon on the John Muir Trail.

The South end of the Cathedral Range with Mount Maclure on the far Right, Mount Lyell to its Left, and the twin sawtooth peaks of "Mount Lyell Number Two" to the Left of the main mass of Mount Lyell.

Peak 12356 is the tallest and furthest Left of the sawtooth twins on the almost-furthest Left of the Cathedral Crestline ahead.

 

Page Index


Mount Lyell
Mount Lyell at the top end above Lyell Canyon.

We get clear views of Mount Lyell taking our last steps across the top of its namesake canyon.

 

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View
South-Southwest
Mounts Lyell and Maclure

Mount Lyell and Mount Maclure come into view at the top of our hike up Lyell Canyon.

Mount Lyell and Mount Maclure come into view at the top of our hike up Lyell Canyon.

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View West
East Flank of Amelia Earhart Peak

The creek tumbling down the sheer face of the East Flank of Amelia Earhart Peak into the very top of Lyell Canyon.

The creek coming down the East Flank of Amelia Earhart Peak.


Page Index


NOW
we are at the
Upper End of Lyell Canyon

along the
John Muir Trail

 

I put the point below, where we step out of the meadows at the top of Lyell Canyon to begin climbing on rock up to Donohue Pass at 9.12 miles South of the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office.

We are there.

 

End of Lyell Canyon
9000
feet of elevation

 

Next
Climbing to Donohue Pass

Let the serious climbing begin. This is a hard one.

Our first segment of climbing is 1.06 miles up 640 feet of elevation up to the footbridge. We'll find campsites on the other side of the bridge running downstream, and more once we climb into a lightly forested flat above the footbridge.

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

 

SOUTH

 

OF

9.12 miles
South of Tuolumne Meadows Post Office-Store-Grill

8.51 miles
South of the Yosemite Wilderness Boundary at TM Car Campground

7.05 miles
South of the Rafferty Creek trail junction

 

 

 

TO

3.57 miles
South to Donohue Pass
.

25.13 miles
South to Reds Meadow, JMT ROUTE

 

 

Page Index


Stone Trail Begins
The John Muir Trail climbs out of the South end of Lyell Canyon.

The John Muir Trail climbs out of the South end of Lyell Canyon.


 

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Moving Up & In
Moving up into the throat of the upper canyon.

Moving up into the throat of the upper canyon.

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Bria Coming into Lyell Canyon
Bria entering the top of Lyell Canyon on a nice solo backpacking trip.

Bria coming down into the top of Lyell Canyon as she comes to the end of her hike from Mono Pass to Tuolumne Meadows.


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Granite Staircase
Lots of stairs and granite steps to Donohue Pass. These are a few of them.

Lots of stairs and granite steps to Donohue Pass. These are a few of them.

Nice granite staircase.


 

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Moving Up & In
Looking down upper Lyell Canyon as we climb to Donohue Pass.

Climbing a bit we start to get long views North up Lyell Canyon.

 

Page Index


Granite Waves
The upper meadow in Lyell Canyon first comes into view as we climb.

We can almost detect motion as we look at the line of the Kuna Crest as a series of ocean waves running up the Sierra Crestline above the upper meadow in Lyell Canyon as this tranquil but dynamic scene comes into view as we climb higher.

Never forget to look back, as well as forward. Both views are in constant flux.

Ironically, the Kuna Crest is more related to ocean waves than one might first think.
The waves of the Kuna Crest are a reflection, a physical impression, a granite fossil of the force and nature of water long present now long departed.

The waves on bodies of glacial ice, unlike bodies of water, are hidden on their bottoms. While the tops of oceans are where all the action is at, it's the bottom of glaciers where most of the action is, where their long term effects leave deep impressions.

We can still see this set of granite waves left behind by ancient waves on the bottom of an ocean of ice flowing over its surface for centuries. Here we see a clean example of some serious pressure waves up against some seriously hard rock, and the shape of their ultimate compromise of forces.


 

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Upper Lyell Canyon Meadow
Upper Lyell Canyon meadow viewed from above as we climb to Donohue Pass.

Climbing a bit we start to get long views North up Lyell Canyon.

 

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Upper Lyell Canyon and the Kuna Crest
Perspective on the shape of Upper Lyell Canyon and the Kuna Crest.

Perspective on how the North-South alignment of the Upper Lyell Canyon bends Northwest under the Kuna Crest, shaping an interesting bend and shoulder, which is perfectly highlighted be by the shadow.

 

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Trail South
John Muir Trail above Lyell Canyon climbing to Donohue Pass.

A nice but short segment of flat John Muir Trail above Lyell Canyon as we're first climbing to the footbridge under Donohue Pass.


Page Index


Hiking Team
Mark, Maria, Linda, Lewis, Scott, and Jeff hiking from Mono Pass to Tuolumne Meadows.

A Northbound Hiking Team
Mark, Maria, Linda, Lewis, Scott, and Jeff.

Mono Pass to Tuolumne Meadows.

A delightful group. My only negative was that we were going in opposite directions, so we could not tarry too long to enjoy each other's company in the face of the demands of our paces.

 

 

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Llamas!
Llamas Kicking Back

Llamas taking a break in Yosemite as they hike North on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Coming around a bend in the trail I noted these five llamas laid out in the rest position, along a narrow section of trail.

They got a bit nervous seeing me, so I sweet-talked them, trying to calm them enough to get past without sparking them to all jump up in fear. My sweet talk did not make them friendly, only less scared, and not needing to get up, which was just fine.

Now, llamas are tough critters, and seem to enjoy spitting and biting as much any of their other activities, so I always use caution and observe them carefully when in proximity.

Since my sweet talk prevented them from getting up, there was not much of a spitting and biting threat. Except the closest one. He was looking a bit peckish, like he did not trust my sweet-talking, and was ready to put me in place if necessary.

I was ready to dodge spit.

My Approach is Simple:
Observe carefully, cause no problems, lay out good intentions, but use any problems as an opportunity to get schooled. Sometimes it's me getting schooled, learning new things. Other times I hold the high ground, and do the schooling.

My point is we must be ready to play our role well, when the Game of Life is on the trail. Life on the trail can get very serious very quickly.

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Llama Packers on the Pacific Crest Trail
Ray and Marion Davidoson on the Pacific Crest Trail with llamas.

The llama packers were Ray and Marion Davidson.

Ray and Marion seemed a bit like me, but with llamas.

They appeared to spend every Summer doing a big section of the PCT, which they loved, and Winters making money and tending llamas to be ready for the next Summer's PCT Section.

Tahoe to Whitney Videos
YouTube
Tahoe to Whitney Videos
YouTube Playlists

 

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Southbound
Climbing to Donohue Pass

Steep granite stairs and surface climbing out of Lyell to Donohue Pass.

A fully reinforced granite staircase climbing along the uppermost section of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

Approaching a hundred years of heavy use have had their toll.


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View South
Cathedral Crestline through the Forest

The South end of the Cathedral Crestline hiking the John Muir Trail out of Yosemite National Park.

Closer
The prominent peak in the distant-center through the trees we see is the Peak 12356 along the South end of the Cathedral Range. That position along the Cathedral Crestline is immediately above where that spur of the Sierra Nevada Crestline (here dividing the Tuolumne from Rush Creek Watersheds) descends (East, to the Left from our perspective above) down to Donohue Pass's low point along the Sierra Crestline linking Koip Crest at the end of Kuna Crest to the bottom of the Cathedral Range and the top of the Ritter Range.

Locate Donohue Pass
In fact, the position where John Muir Trail crosses Donohue Pass is located at almost exactly the point where the Left side of the tree in the center of the image crosses the crestline. That position lines up almost perfectly with West side of the low rise below the South Flank of Donohue Peak we've seen since we could first see Donohue Peak from Lyell Canyon.

Donohue Pass and the route of John Muir Trail through it runs across the Sierra Crestline at the base of the Right side of that low granite rise along the distant Sierra Crest. That's Donohue Pass, if but we could clearly see it!

The tree almost exactly marking the position of Donohue Pass also masks its position, to some extent.

Note the location of the white peak to its Southwest (Right), then peak 12356 immediately to its further Right.

We could even say that peak in the center of the image locates the very South end of the Cathedral Range, actually marking the end of the spur ridge running East, a spur ridge connecting the South end of the Cathedral Range to the Sierra Crestline coming across Donohue Pass from its path South along the Kuna Crest.

South of that peak in the center of the image above the Sierra Crest runs South across the top of the Ritter Range.

 

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Upper Footbridge
of the
Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River

along the
John Muir Trail

 

Our first segment of climbing was 1.06 miles up 640 feet of elevation from the end of meadow in Lyell Canyon to this footbridge. We'll find campsites on the other side of the bridge running downstream, and more once we climb into a lightly forested flat above the footbridge.

 

I put the footbridge at 10.18 miles South of the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office.

 

Footbridge
9640
feet of elevation

 

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

 

SOUTH

 

OF

10.18 miles
South of Tuolumne Meadows Post Office-Store-Grill

9.57 miles
South of the Yosemite Wilderness Boundary at TM Car Campground

8.11 miles
South of the Rafferty Creek trail junction

 

 

 

TO

2.51 miles
South to Donohue Pass
.

24.07 miles
South to Reds Meadow, JMT ROUTE

 

 

Next
Climbing to Donohue Pass

Two Basins

We've a short .3 of a mile climb up to what I call the meadow, then another .6 of a mile up to the First Basin, where we've got not much in the way of camping. It does have an array of campsites, and a very nice custom flat with Whitebark Pines, but the lower basin always appears full during the high Summer backpacking season. Another climb twice as long and high beyond the meadow brings us into the first basin, for a total of .9 of a mile South from the footbridge.

The first basin is the first of two upcoming segments where the route of the John Muir Trail crosses the Tuolumne River as it runs through two majestic granite basins as it makes its first steps running off the Cathedral Crestline under Lyell Peak.
Each basin is surrounded by sheer granite walls, floored in sweet high-altitude meadows, and offers the thinning river the chance to spread its waters out into beautiful pools reflecting crest and sky.

Both basins are small, each offers only a few campsites, but I always figure each deserves a break adequate to appreciate their beauty. Plus, we explore the alternative campsites in proximity to the basins, so we can access their beauties, if not camp in them.

 


 

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Uppermost Footbridge on the Tuolumne River
Upper footbridge, John Muir Trail, Tuolumne River.

Finishing the first set of brutal switchbacks, climbs, and little flats is marked by our arrival on a little flat mixture of meadow and forest where we find the uppermost footbridge over the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

 

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Restoration World
Area Closed sign at the uppermost footbridge of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

As we approach the bridge we notice that the flat around the bridge is compressed, compressed by the feet of so many folks. We have noticed this compression almost everywhere in Yosemite National Park. Along with this compression we also note the cycle of trails.

The cycle of trails is the rotation of the trail bed across a given piece of soft terrain over time. After a certain amount of time soft trails become degraded and must either be moved or reinforced. We see examples of reinforcement where moving the trail is impossible. Therefore we find many segments of fully granite-clad trails in Yosemite, who's work and reinforcement by nearly a century of trail crew work has had the long term effect of "paving" many of Yosemite's trails in granite.

Many meadow trails are now triple tracked, with two or three abandoned trails slowly recovering, next to the current trail. The warming and drying trends we are experiencing will slow the recovery of damaged meadow trails.

Armored & Triple Tracked
HEAVEN?
Yosemite's contradictory role in a contradicted American society creates a unique set of unbalanced individual and institutional relationships between Man and Nature. Triple and even quad-tracked trails through meadows and fully granite armored trails through forest and over mountain are symbols of these unique contradictions.

The American Contradiction we've evolved and expressed with and through Yosemite is that our own success, our growth, wealth, and power has been based on our absolutely ravaging Nature and our Natural Environment. Asset-stripping a whole continent. Our wholesale physical destruction of Nature and our social loss of Natural Experience and Engagement has caused many of us to to put greater and greater value on those places that preserve a small slice of the mental and physical spaces of what we've lost.

 

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Uppermost Bridge over the Tuolumne River
Uppermost footbridge John Muir Trail along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River as we climb to Donohue Pass.

Uppermost footbridge John Muir Trail along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River as we climb to Donohue Pass.

 

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Bridge
Uppermost bridge along the John Muir Trail climbing out of Lyell Canyon to Donohue Pass.

The uppermost footbridge over the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.


 

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Backpacker
Robert Hildebrandt hiking on the John Muir Trail.

Robert Hildebrandt hiking on the John Muir Trail.


 

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Wilderness Ranger
The 2012 Yosemite Wilderness Ranger in the uppermost Lyell Canyon.

The 2012 Yosemite Wilderness Ranger in the uppermost Lyell Canyon.


 

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California Conservation Corps
Trail Camp

California Conservation Corps campsite in Upper Lyell Canyon near the footbridge.

California Conservation Corps campsite in Upper Lyell Canyon near the footbridge.

The site is hidden and not visible from the trail, but I was alerted to its presence by Erin Anders when I ran through his Office in Yosemite Valley during a 2012 Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip.

Erin suggested I visit this camp, giving me instructions on just how to find its hidden delights in the apron of forest between the meadows on the floor of Lyell Canyon and the granite running up to the Cathedral Range Crestline. This is an ideal camp.

 

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California Conservation Corps
Trail Camp

California Conservation Corps Yosemite Trail Crew Camp in uppermost Lyell Canyon 2012

California Conservation Corps Yosemite Trail Crew Camp in uppermost Lyell Canyon 2012.

I was perplexed by the complete lack of personnel.

CCC crews don't have extensive weekend-leave privileges, and all Trail Crew Camps maintain a 24 hour per day, 7 day a week "guard." I could find neither crew members or guard on-site. Both I and the Wilderness Ranger were perplexed.

Other than that, this was a super-clean, totally "tight" camp. Everything was in its place and in good order.

But where was the crew?

I left a note, and hit the trail South.

 

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Up to the First Basin
This is a nice bit of loose soil trail.

We've beginning the climb up to the meadow above the bridge, up there about a third of a mile South.

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Looking North
Dirt Trail

Looking back at the rough trail above the bridge.

After reaching and crossing the meadow flat above the bridge we execute an even steeper and longer climb.

Above we're looking back at the rough trail we've been climbing up from the meadow above the bridge.


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View North into Lyell Canyon
Looking back to the North as we climb above the uppermost Tuolumne River footbridge.

Reaching a break in the terrain and tree cover gives us one of our best views North on our hike up Lyell Canyon to Donohue, so far.

The mass of white rock in the far center distance is Mount Conness.

Now we turn around to hike South into the apron of meadow and forest in the mouth of the first basin in the Lyell Fork's final run up under its namesake peak.

 

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First, Lower Basin below Mount Lyell
&
Donohue Pass

along the
John Muir Trail

In the next two images below we have finished climbing up to the altitude of the First, or Lower Basin, but are passing through some nice meadow and light forest before entering the majestic basin itself.

That point to the ford in the lower basin I measure out to be 11.08 miles South of the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office.

But we are not quite there, yet.

We've a few hundred more yards of meadow and forest to cross until we get into the beauty of the basin.

After that we have a short climb in earnest, up and over to the second basin. towards Donohue Pass and our Southern exit from Yosemite National Park. And we've still got a few more sights to see as we hike up to the top very top-end of Lyell Canyon.

 

Lower Basin
10200
feet of elevation

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

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TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

SOUTH

 

OF

11.08 miles
South of Tuolumne Meadows Post Office-Store-Grill

10.47 miles
South of the Yosemite Wilderness Boundary at TM Car Campground

4.84 miles
South of the Ireland Creek trail junction

 

 

TO

.66 miles
South to Upper Basin
.

1.61 miles
South to Donohue Pass
.

23.17 miles
South to Reds Meadow
JMT ROUTE

 


 

Page Index


South End of the Cathedral Range
Hiking into the first basin below Mount Lyell.

Springtime moving towards the mouth of the lower basin.
The Crest of the South end of the Cathedral Range comes into view as climb up to the mouth of the lower basin, then follow the trail up into its granite walled grandeur.

 

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Meadow at the Mouth of the Lowest Basin
Entering the first basin to Mount Lyell.

Crossing Fall colored meadow as we approach the mouth of the upper basin.

 

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Basin Backdrop
Peak 12356 on the South end of the Cathedral Range.

That's the South End of the Cathedral Range.

Peak 12356 on the South end of the Cathedral Range.

I identify 12356 as the first dark peak on the far left of the crestline, the third peak from the Left.

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Into the Lowest Basin
The first basin below Donohue Pass.

Fording Point
The first basin below Donohue Pass.

We hiked into the basin on the other side of the Lyell Fork, then crossed over to this little campsite area to kick back and have a break while enjoying the view of the South end of the Cathedral Range.

Our Southbound John Muir Trail continues South on the other side of the ford.


 

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The Lowest Basin
Mount Lyell Number Two from the First Basin climbing to Donohue Pass on the John Muir Trail.

Quite Scenic
Mount Lyell Number Two seen on the furthest right of the Cathedral Crestline from the First Basin climbing to Donohue Pass on the John Muir Trail.

Because these potential campsites up here are all illegal, being too close to the banks of this upper section of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, the best camping is below this position, behind us in the meadow leading into the basin.

To our Right we identify the compressed surface indicative of long use as a campsite.

 

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Campsite
Campsite in the first basin under Mount Lyell.

Campsite in the first basin.

 

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South End of the Cathedral Range
South end of the Cathedral Range.

Peak 12356 is the third peak from the left-edge of the crestline.

 

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Lyell Glacier
Mount Lyell Number Two.

The Lyell Glacier remnant just South down the Cathedral Crestline from Mount Lyell Number Two.

 

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Trail
Delightful couple taking break in the lowest basin.

Delightful couple having lunch in the lowest basin.

Is this "Giggles" the PCT hiker and her Dad, enjoying some trail time together?

We hung out and enjoyed the remarkable terrain, but I cannot precisely locate their names in my notes, but the delightful shared experiences caused me to dub them the, "delightful couple having lunch."

 

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Trail South and to Mount Lyell
Climbing through first basin hiking up to Donohue Pass under Mounts Lyell and Maclure on the South end of the Cathedral Range.

Here we can see the route of the John Muir Trail continuing South on the other side of the river. We'll cross over and continue climbing South to Donohue Pass after enjoying this place, this very sweet spot, this fine juxtaposition of light, rock, water, plants, and a few people, for a while.

Our route climbs for the slot at the base of the granite bulge on the upper-right of the image above.

Folks looking to climb Mount Lyell will continue South up the Tuolumne River with the John Muir Trail up into the upper basin. From there I understand those targeting Lyell and Maclure continue up stream where the route of the John Muir Trail finally turns away from the line of the Tuolumne River for Donohue Pass.

 

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Seasons through Years
Hiking South towards Mount Lyell Number Two from the lower basin.

Hiking South towards Mount Lyell Number Two, which I identify as the furthest-right of the double peaks along the Cathedral Crestline, as seen from the lower basin as Fall approaches.

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Backpacking Yosemite
Eric Hansen and Joe Fragassi returning after climbing Moutn Lyell.

Eric Hansen and Joe Fragassi returning after climbing Mount Lyell.


 

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Lower Basin
to the
Upper Basin

along the
John Muir Trail

We've a short .66 of a mile climbing a total of 320 feet of elevation above the lower basin before we descend into the upper basin, down to the ford point across the open end of the upper basin. The upper basin ford is only 280 higher than the ford point in the lower basin.

 

Lower Basin
10200
feet of elevation

 

.66 mile
Lower basin to upper basin.

 

320 climbing feet, 280 total between ford points.

 

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

.66 mile
Lower basin to upper basin.

 


 

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Looking Back
Climbing out of the Lower Basin

Climbing above the first basin.

Turning around to take a look at the lower basin as we climb Southbound towards the upper basin.

 

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Lower Basin
Above the first and lowest  basin under Mount Lyell along the uppermost segment of the Tuolumne River.

Above the first and lowest basin under Mount Lyell along the uppermost segment of the Tuolumne River just below its headwaters under the Southernmost end of the Cathedral Range.

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View Northeast
Koip Crest and Donohue Peak

Koip Crest beyond Donohue Peak.

To our Northeast
Koip Crest beyond Donohue Peak.

On the distant Left we can see the line of the Koip Crest, before it's obscured by much closer East wall of the lower basin.

On the furthest top-Right of the image we can see the rising mound of granite we've observed since entering Lyell Canyon. The line of our combined John Muir-Pacific Crest Trail crosses Donohue Pass when passing around the Right flank of that low granite mound.

 

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Uppermost Branch of the Tuolumne
Uppermost tributary of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

Climbing above the lower basin we cross this, the highest and last tributary of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. This uppermost tributary reaches higher up the Cathedral Flank than the main line of the river in the main canyon.

 

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Southbound JMT
To the Upper Basin

Crossing the uppermost tributary of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River as we climb between the lower and upper basins.

Crossing the uppermost tributary of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River as we climb between the lower and upper basins.

 

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View Northeast
Donohue Peak

Donohue Peak rising in twilight.

To our Northeast
Donohue Peak rising in twilight.

 

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Trail South
John Muir Trail to Donohue Pass.

Climbing through the slot approaching the upper basin under the South end of the Cathedral Range along the course of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

 

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Approaching Highest Point
along
Lyell Fork of Tuolumne River

Reaching the highest point between the two basins.

Hiking South to the highest point between the two basins.

 

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Granite Plate Paved Trail
Making our way to the top of our hike along the Tuolumne River.

Making our way to the top of our hike along the Tuolumne River.

 

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Approaching Highest Point
of the
John Muir & Pacific Crest Trails
along
Lyell Fork of Tuolumne River

View North of Kuna Krest Konnecting to Koip Krest.

As we are climbing to the highest point between the two basins, these two uppermost fording points across the Tuolumne River, we hit a sweet spot along the trail where we climb out from behind the obscuring wall of the canyon to our North into a position with a view across the very top of Lyell Canyon at the point where the South end of the Kuna Crest of the Sierra Crest magically transforms from massive rolling granite waves into the remarkably slashed sheer granite cliffs of the Koip Crest.

Who says granite is not "flexible," or "malleable?"

Not me!

So far we've seen granite formed up and shaped into about every configuration possible since hiking South from Lake Tahoe, and we are only just now entering the South Sierra, which is a frigging granite wonderland. Our range of granite experiences are going to get much bigger, higher, and steeper with each step South towards Mount Whitney, the great granite block in the sky.

 

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VIEW NORTH
But, note that
Our Southbound Trail Trail turns Northeast,
Down to the Upper Basin

Highest point of the John Muir Trail along the Tuolumne River.

Highest Point along the Tuolumne River
This is pretty close to the highest point of the combined John Muir & Pacific Crest Trails along their entire run with the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Hiking South of the upper basin means that we are finally climbing out of, and away from the line of the Tuolumne River, which we've been following since arriving at Glen Aulin. Our route has followed the route of the Tuolumne River since we arrived at Glen Aulin, but we first entered the vast watershed of the Lyell Fork when we hiked into the top of Jack Main Canyon (map) in the Northwestern-most corner of the North Yosemite Backcountry. Falls Creek in Jack Main Canyon runs down into Hetch Hetchy along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

Our whole hike through Yosemite along the Sierra Crestline has been within the watershed of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Unless we diverted off the Sierra Crest to take the Golden Triangle (forum) route down into Yosemite Valley and back again to the Crest. In that case we inspected a roughly fifty mile triangular slice of the Merced Watershed centered in Yosemite Valley reaching North to Tuolumne Meadows through Cathedral Pass and South down to our return to the Sierra Crestline Trails through Tuolumne Pass, more or less.

Now, on our way out the South end of Yosemite National Park we're climbing up into and through these two stunningly-beautiful upper headwaters bowls, which has given us the opportunity to observe and inspect the mother flanks and peaks of this great river where they touch, and pull the river's water right out of the sky.

Commonplace "Magic?"

But there's something else interesting in this image above. At our feet we can see the Southbound JMT has turned Northeast, indicating we are just about to begin descending into the upper basin, once we get over the top of the low rise to our Right.

 

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The Upper Basin
of the
Tuolumne River

along the
John Muir Trail

The point measuring the location of the Upper Basin is at the ford point.

 

Upper Basin
10480 feet of elevation

 

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

 

SOUTH

(numbers not done)

OF

11.74 miles
South of Tuolumne Meadows Post Office-Store-Grill

2.62 miles
South of the end of Lyell Canyon

.66 miles
South of the Lower Basin

 

 

TO

.66 miles
South to Upper Basin
.

.95 miles
South to Donohue Pass
.

22.51 miles
South to Reds Meadow,
JMT ROUTE

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Tuolumne River
in the
Upper Basin

Dropping down to the last and highest ford of the JMT over the Tuolumne River.

Dropping down to the last and highest ford of the JMT over the Tuolumne River.

 

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South to the Ford
Kuna Peak and the Koip Crest to our Northeast.

In the distance to our Northeast in the upper Left corner of the image we can see Kuna Peak at the South end of the Kuna Crest.

To the South of Kuna Peak, its Right, we can see the North end of the Koip Crest.

We can see the trail at our feet running down to the great pile of rocks comprising the ford.

 

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Upper Basin Ford
John Muir Trail's uppermost ford of the Tuolumne River in South Yosemite.

The ford is on the far Left of the image, and we can see the Southbound John Muir Trail doubling back upstream, on the other bank, before it begins its climb out of the basin for Donohue Pass.

 

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Upriver
View up the Upper Basin

Under the South end of the Cathedral Crest.

Looking up mountain from the ford.
View South-Southwest up to Cathedral Peak on the Cathedral Crestline. Cathedral Peak is the peak on the furthest Right.

We're under the South end of the Cathedral Crest.

We can see the granite ramp ahead running up to yet another annex of this basin, what I call the, "upper-upper" basin, holding another flat with a couple of nice lakes up there, up closer yet to Mount Lyell for those who may have the top of either Mount Lyell or Maclure as their destination. But that would not be us. We're turning Left, Southwest by our compass to begin our final climb to Donohue Pass.

Triple Departure Point
At this point we follow the John Muir Trail turning up-mountain to hike out of this basin, the watershed of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, and the South end of Yosemite National Park through Donohue Pass.

But first, we are going to check out the view North from here.

 

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Unique Overlook
The Lower Basin and the Kuna Crest

Lower basin and the Kuna Crest from our upper basin overlook.

Observing carefully while crossing the tiny Tuolumne River up here in the upper basin, we take note of a faint use trail continuing downriver below the South bank of the ford.

Curious, we follow it North to the mouth of the upper basin. As we approach the end of the line we first get fine views North of Mount Conness beyond Lyell Canyon, then we note that we are overlooking the lower basin, getting fine views down of the lower basin and our route through it up to here.

 

Image
Lower basin and the Kuna Crest from our upper basin overlook. The light mountain flank in the furthest distant North is the Sierra Crest leading North to Mount Conness. We get an even clearer view of Mount Conness once we hike about halfway up from the upper basin to Donohue.

Now, we'll turn around and hike back up to the JMT, after soaking in this fine view for a while.

 

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Back to the Uppermost Ford
in
The Upper Basin

Mount Lyell obscured by cloud.

Mount Lyell obscured by cloud from almost the same position as the image above, except taken from below the ford, rather than above it.

We've noticed that there is not much in the way of campsites here, with a few scattered along both banks of the Tuolumne running South up to the granite ramp. This is not the best place to depend on finding a campsite, unless you want to scramble a little.

Ten Years earlier, on a clear day:

Looking into the upper-upper basin along the Tuolumne River under Mount Lyell.
Looking into the upper-upper basin along the Tuolumne River under Mount Lyell.

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The High Point
Mount Lyell and Lyell Number Two.

Unobscured.

Mount Lyell and Lyell Number Two.

Mount Lyell Climber's Access

Here we can see the ramp of granite ahead, at the top of which we will find an extensive "upper-upper" basin with many more campsite locations than down here, here in the narrow cuts of these two lower and upper basins along the John Muir Trail.

A few of the times I've hiked up here there were too many folks here to camp here. My solution is typically to push over Donohue and attempt to get to the hidden lake off to the South of the Pass before it gets too dark to hike.

Our other solution is to push out of this upper basin along the John Muir Trail by hiking/scrambling up that ramp we see upriver, to enter the "upper-upper" basin at the top of the granite ramp.

Once we start climbing to our South on the JMT, out of this upper basin towards Donohue Pass, we are going to get some views into that "upper-upper" basin, and be able to see if there are any backpackers camping up there, almost directly under the surrounding shoulders of the South end of the Cathedral Range.

My point for providing this information is to urge those of you planning on camping up here to give yourselves enough time to make the scramble up to the "upper-upper" basin if the upper and lower basins along the John Muir Trail are full of backpackers.

Then we camp in the "upper-upper" basin.

Options are good to have.

 

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Mount Lyell Number Two
Mount Lyell Number Two.

The USGS Mount Lyell Topographic Map of the South end of the Cathedral Range labels the peak on the Left, the South side of the image, as Mount Lyell Number Two.

These are the two saw tooth Peaks immediately West of the main mass of Mount Lyell along the Cathedral Range we see in the next image above.

 

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Climbing South
out of the
Upper Basin
to
Donohue Pass

along the
John Muir Trail


Upper Basin
10480
feet of elevation

 

.95 mile
Upper basin to Donohue Pass.

560 climbing feet.

 

Donohue Pass
11040
feet of elevation

 

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

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Trail
Trail to Donohue Pass.

Armored trail along the soft South bank of the Tuolumne.

 

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Trail
Stairs on soft soils climbing away from Tuolumne River to Donohue Pass.

Armored stairway beginning to move up and away from the soft South bank of the Tuolumne.

 

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Trail
Trail to Donohue Pass pointed almost directly at Donohue Peak.

Climbing almost directly Southeast while pointed almost directly at Donohue Peak.

 

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Downriver
View North
Mount Conness beyond Lyell Canyon

Lyell Canyon and Mount Conness from the John Muir Trail under Mount Lyell.

Climbing Northeast out of the upper basin brings us out onto an exposed traverse, where we begin to get views opening up to the North-Northeast.

Great views open up once we climb out to the furthest Northeastern reach of the trail, to where it turns just a bit East of South for our final climb to Donohue Pass.

 

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Trail
Switchbacks climbing to Mount Lyell below Donohue Pass.

Turning around to look almost directly West across the gorge holding the Tuolumne River reveals the switchbacks along the John Muir Trail climbing from the lower basin up to the upper basin.

 

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Whitebark Pines below Donohue Pass
Whitebark Pines under the North Flank of Donohue Pass.

Trail South running us up to a stand of Whitebarks below the North Flank of Donohue Pass.

 

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Looking into
the
"Upper-Upper"
Basin

Backpackers in the upper-upper basin above the John Muir Trail and below Mount Lyell.

Climbing high enough South out of the upper basin allows us to get a view into the "upper-upper" basin, where we can see a party of camping backpackers

 

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Through the Whitebarks
into the
Talus

White bark pines and granite trail below North Flank of Donohue Pass.

The shade this line of Whitebarks provides is so nice because it is so rare and so short.

We can see an ocean of granite ahead. This "drops" composing the surface of this granite ocean consist of every type, shape, and size of shattered granite. Sheets, plates, flakes, boulders, everything.

The remarkable thing is how easy it is to hike through this near perfectly maintained trail across this massive ocean of talus, how much energy the trail is saving each of us.

This terrain is much more foreboding than many hikers realize, hiking on the trail. This type of talus surface/terrain is very hard to cross in its natural state, without a trail broken through.

 

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Ocean of Talus
Ocean of talus below North Flank of Donohue Pass.

Wow. An ocean of broken rock.

While there's an ocean of talus below North Flank of Donohue Pass, below the South Flank we find solid granite excellent for a high speed descent.

This talus on the North Flank slows both ascent and descent, despite the excellent level and quality of trail work.

Yosemite Trail Crews are Excellent.

 

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Northeast
Shadow & Light on Donohue Peak

Donohue Peak from just below North Flank of Donohue Pass, in light and shadow.

Donohue Peak from just below North Flank of Donohue Pass, in light and shadow.

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More Light than Shadow
on
Donohue Peak

Donohue Peak from the John Muir Trail.

Donohue Peak from just below North Flank of Donohue Pass, in more light than shadow.

 

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South-Southwest
View Southwest approaching Donohue Pass.

View Southwest approaching Donohue Pass.

Looking across Donohue Pass and the Sierra Crestline, over at the end of the spur branch of the Cathedral Range reaching East out to the Sierra Crest across Donohue Pass.

 

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View Further West of South
View Southwest into highest, upper-upper basin of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

View Southwest into the highest, upper-upper basin of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. This would be where we end up if we climb up the ramp at the top of the upper basin, getting up into this "upper-upper" basin.

We only get this view above to our Southwest into this, "upper-upper" basin as our hike out of the upper basin reaches its most Northeastern extent, before turning South for the final climb up to Donohue Pass.

Then, seeing this custom area for camping, we realise that we are getting a look into the "upper-upper" basin, only accessible by following the course of the Tuolumne River upriver, up the granite ramp from the upper basin.

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Approaching Donohue Pass

Final steps up to Donohue Pass on a fine clear High Sierra morning, making the first day's hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Island Pass.
Final steps up to Donohue Pass on a fine clear High Sierra morning, making the first day's hike out of Tuolumne Meadows to Island Pass.

 

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Through Donohue Pass
Pond at Donohue Pass passing from Yosemite to Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas.

Pond at Donohue Pass passing from Yosemite South into Ansel Adams Wilderness Area.

Main Pond at the Yosemite Boundary.

I get water here, but move on to the smaller pool for my break at the top before descending or moving to set up a campsite.

 

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Southbound into Ansel Adams Wilderness
Donohue Pass

Ansel Adams Boundary atop Donohue Pass.

The sign intact.

 

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Donohue Pass Wilderness Boundary
Donohue Pass with a damaged and repared Ansel Adams Wilderness sign.

Donohue Pass with a damaged and repaired Ansel Adams Wilderness sign.

Some parachute Cord to keep it together.

 

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No Fires
No fires at donohue Pass sign in the pass.

We're over 10, 000 feet here, but most wilderness cut off fires at 9000 feet.

Donohue Pass is situated at 11040 feet.

 

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Tiny Pond Beyond, just South of Boundary
Tiny pond on South side of Donohue Pass.

Continuing South beyond the main pond we come to this second, tiny pond. This pond has been shrunk by the drought of 2012-16. It's size will reflect the nature of recent seasons.

 

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Donohue Pass
along the
John Muir Trail

What we are doing after reaching Donohue Pass depends on when we reach it, and how that fits into our overall plans. I am typically continuing South from Tuolumne Meadows on the John Muir Trail after finishing the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

I've also come over the Cathedral Crest into Lyell Canyon to reconnect the Golden Triangle route with the Southbound JMT-PCT in Lyell Canyon. In either case our objective is typically Donohue Pass. Why Donohue Pass?

Donohue Pass is our first point we can camp approaching 11000 feet. It is about the right distance for my first day out of a resupply stop, and it has beautiful campsites on both its North and South Flanks, if each has complications.

The complication on the North Flank is the camping in the upper and lower basins is limited. At the upper basin we have the option of scrambling a bit upriver, following the Tuolumne off the line of the JMT crossing the upper basin into the "upper-upper" basin. We can always find a nice campsite up there.

There is not much in the way of attractive camping at Donohue Pass itself. Though I've camped nearby, and a short ways down the South Flank below Donohue Pass, by far my favorite place to camp is by the two lakes nestled under the Crestline off the South Flank of Donohue Pass.

A short but challenging little scramble brings us over to the two lakes wedged up under the Sierra Crestline.

 

Donohue Pass
11040

feet of elevation

 

 

Next Guide Page
SOUTH

Donohue Pass to Island Pass

 

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

Donohue Pass

SOUTH

 

OF

12.69 miles
South of Tuolumne Meadows Post Office-Store-Grill

12.08 miles
South of the Yosemite Wilderness Boundary at TM Car Campground

10.62 miles
South of the Rafferty Creek trail junction

6.45 miles
South of Ireland Creek-Vogelsang trail junction

3.57 miles
South of the End of Lyell Canyon

 

 

Donohue Pass

SOUTH
TO

 

3.25 miles
South to Waugh-June Lake trail junction.

4.67 miles
South to Island Pass
.

6.39 miles
South to 1000 Island Lake junction
.

21.56 miles
South to Reds Meadow, JMT ROUTE

 

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Trail

Breaktime

Donohue Pass

Sometimes I push down to the top of the verdant green swath of moss and meadows running up Rush Creek. I figure its less than 1.5 miles down the steepest part of our descent to the top of this lushness, and descending less that 2 miles will put us into the thick of it, with all sorts of custom, awesome campsites to choose from.

I've planned trips to arrive at the lushness at the top of Rush Creek after only a half day of hiking, so that I could camp there and spend the other half of the day walking around on the moss, and sitting next to crystal reflecting pools along Rush Creek watching rippling reflections of the Forces of Life in these magic mountains in complete tranquility.

So, I'm going to take a break at the top, even if I am only proceeding a couple of miles South from here to camp. Donohue Pass is a significant high point, so I am going to kick back and enjoy it for a while.

Plus, I almost always meet some critters up here, mostly birds screwing around in the rocks.

Couple of "mountain chickens," grouse at the small pond on Donohue Pass.

 

Grouse chilling out and hanging with Al on Donohue Pass.

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Considering
A Campsite

At, or Just
South
of
Donohue Pass

South Flank of Donohue Pass
to the
Two Lakes
under
The Sierra Crestline

just a bit off the
John Muir Trail

Before continuing South some of us are going to spend the night up here. I figure I'm going to find my way off the John Muir Trail almost directly South of Donohue Pass to the two little lakes wedged in under the crestline.
The thing is, it's pretty rough terrain pushing South from the Crestline at Donohue Pass, or from just below it on the South Flank. So I figure I'm going to descend South down the John Muir Trail, just a short ways, observing carefully for the best "channel" or "channels" in the rock moving South, to our Southbound Right, before just plunging off the trail to go find the lakes. A little foresight and good observation makes our route over to these lakes a lot easier.

I have it in my mind that it's best to descend just a little down the South Flank below Donohue Pass before cutting South off the trail. It's harder to get over from the top. But, don't descend too far. We want to traverse over to the lakes, not climb!

 

Maps & Miles

Map South
Merced Lake
to
Lyell Canyon to Island Pass
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Reds Meadow
Miles and Elevations

 

 

Map North
Tuolumne Meadows Trail Map
15 Minute topo hiking map

 

 

30 min Maps

30 min Map
TRAIL GUIDE PAGE LINKS


Central Yosemite

30 min Map
DETAILED MAP LINKS

Central & South Yosemite

 

 

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OFF THE TRAIL
to the
Two Lakes

View South-Southwest
Scrambling Off Trail
South by the Compass
across
South Flank below Donohue Pass

Cathedral-Sierra Crestline.

After beginning to descend off the South Flank of Donohue Pass, we turned South off the John Muir Trail for some scrambling to find the two lakes under the Sierra Crestline located over there.

This is the same wall we observed from the North Flank while climbing into Donohue Pass. Note we are now observing it from the other flank.

Note the terrain. This is challenging terrain. There is no certain footing. A short distance crossing this trailess terrain shows us just how much energy and work well-maintained trails save backpackers.

 

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View Northeast
Donohue Pass, Kuna Peak, and the Koip Crest.

Up against the Wall;

Below us is Donohue Pass, Mount Dana is the great dark pyramid in the distant Left, and the Koip Crest runs South across most of the top of the image.

 

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View Northeast
Hidden lakes to the South of Donohue Pass.

Donohue Pass is located at the peak of the shadow wrapping around the lakes. That peak of shadow is on the South Flank of the low granite mound we've been observing since the middle of Lyell Canyon. That's it, now from above it.

Mount Dana is the most distant dark mountain on the Left, while a notch on the Koip Crest is the most distinctive feature on the far Right.

Note the location of the two lakes. I hiked over, dropped pack, set up camp and then scrambled up to get this overview of Donohue Pass and its two hidden lakes.

 

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View Northeast
View of my campsite near Donohue Pass.

View of my campsite near Donohue Pass.

Kuna Peak is just to the Left of the pointy peak in the middle of the image. The pointy peak is actually part of Kuna Peak, being the ridge running North off of Kuna Peak. The dark notch to its Right is along the Koip Crest, while the dark triangle we see on the far Right of the image is Blacktop Peak rising above the line of the Koip Crest.

Southeast Yosemite mountains from Donohue Pass, labelled.

All right. Back to camp by the lake, then tomorrow morning we'll go down and explore the lushness along the top of Rush Creek before making the easy low climb over Island Pass into the wonderland-for-camping-and-scrambling area wrapping around to the North and West of Thousand Island Lake, creating what is essentially an elevated shelf below the crest and above Thousand Island Lake all the way from Island Pass up around the backside, the West Shore of Thousand Island Lake to give access to the backsides of Banner and Ritter.

For me, this means that we are going to spend tomorrow night at one of the unnamed lakes just a bit South of Island Pass, so that we can take the next full day off the trail to scramble around the backside of Thousand Island Lake up the backside of Banner Peak.

 

DETAILED HIKING MAP

 

END OF PAGE

 

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Next

Crossing
Ansel Adams Wilderness

Down!

The John Muir Trail

North
Back to the Lyell Canyon Trail Junction
to
Vogelsang High Sierra Camp
UP THIS PAGE

Previous Page North
Lakes to High Sierra Camp

Next Page South:
From the XX Trail Junction

South

Donohue Pass
to
Island Pass

 

WE cross into the hard rock wonderland on the South Flank below Donohue Pass until we descend far enough that we can make out the top of a finger of mossy green verdant life pushing its way up Rush Creek to meet us.

Upon closer inspection we find exactly what I described above: A zone of dense moss and "spongy" meadow punctuated with sculpted stands of Whitebark Pines, all cracking through and covering up the vast surrounding sheet of granite, excepting the mounds and stands of shattered granite, looking like monuments to a long lost civilization.

Needless to say, this juxtaposition of life forces here creates a whole different, other-worldly, and quite a deep, peaceful serene wonderland zone.

The range and depth, the span of the physical and biological wonders we experience (to put it crudely) hiking along the Sierra Crestline for so long gives us vivid demonstrations of the range and complexity of each and every aspect of the spirit of life around us, especially when we understand that all of this we see around us, everything, started as simple Hydrogen.

All of this came out of one thing.

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North:                                                                                                                     South:

Backpacking
Out the South End of Yosemite National Park

Over Donohue Pass

Yosemite is a large National Park that I break down into North, Central, and South regions for the convenience of the Long Distance Backpacker.

We hike into the most Northwestern region of Yosemite through Bond or Dorothy Lake Passes on the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails, respectively. To our East-Northeast are the Hoover Wilderness Trailheads, to our South-Southwest lays the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.

We hiked South on the Sierra Crestline to Tuolumne Meadows.

We arrive at roughly the center of the Sierra Nevada when we arrive at Tuolumne Meadows. Here the end of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is supplanted by the John Muir Trail heading South along the Sierra Crest from Tuolumne Meadows.

Donohue Pass Permit Quotas
Where the problems begin are in exiting the South end of Yosemite National Park over Donohue Pass. As of 2015 Hoover Wilderness stopped writing permits that travel South through Donohue Pass, while Yosemite National Park instituted Donohue Pass daily quotas, limiting the number of backpackers allowed over the pass independent of what Yosemite Trailhead they began their trips.

The Hoover and Yosemite restrictions have prevented backpackers who were trying to skirt the John Muir Trail permit lottery from gaming the system, which is a good thing. But it appears that the Yosemite Park Managers are going beyond restricting the issuance of permits in their own park.

As of 2017 the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit was refusing to issue permits that passed out of their own unit, let alone issue a permit from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney, unless it stayed on the Pacific Crest Trail route. This breaks a long tradition of National Forests issuing permits for the length of the trip, independent of how far out of its Forest the trip ends, and how far off the beaten path it wanders.

A long distance backpacker will have to draw permits from every National Forest their unique route crosses, If this crazy "PCT only" policy is sustained, and copied by other Forests.

It eliminates the possibility of hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail on one permit.

 

 

THIS PAGE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION: STAY TUNED FOR MUCH MORE!

COME ON BACK NOW, 'YA HEAR?

 

7.5 Map:
Donohue Pass to Reds Meadow

 

30 min Map
Donohue Pass to Reds Meadow

 

 

Miles and Elevations

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Backpacking Trail Guide

PCT-TYT North

Glen Aulin
to
Tuolumne Meadows

Compass and map directions are the best.

Backpacking Trail Guide

JMT South

Donohue Pass
to
Island Pass

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