Resupply at Camp 13> Banner for Tahoe to Whitney High Sierra Trail Guide. Mayor of Tuolumne Meadows.
Lower Cathedral Lake Sunset.
Resupply
at Camp 13
Sunset on Lower Cathedral Lake.
Mayor of Tuolumne Meadows.

 

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Trail Segment
Tuolumne Meadows to Lower Cathedral Lake

Trail Section
Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley

BACKPACKING
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

Hiking
The John Muir Trail
backwards to Yosemite Valley

 

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Trail Guide
INDEX

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Yosemite
Valley

Trail Guide
TYT-PCT
NORTH

Glen Aulin
to
Tuolumne Meadows

Trail Guide
JMT

SOUTH
Donohue Pass

Trail Guide
JMT
SOUTHWEST

Cathedral
Lakes

to
Sunrise
High
Sierra
Camp

7.5
Topo MAPS

Tuolumne
Meadows

Yosemite Valley
&
Central Yosemite

30 min
MAP

Tuolumne
Meadows

to
Yosemite
Valley

MILES
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Yosemite Valley

MILES
and
ELEVATIONS
TOPO
MAP INDEX

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Yosemite
Valley

Resupply

North

Tuolumne
Meadows

South
Yosemite
Valley

National
Park
PERMITS

Yosemite Backpacking PERMITS

Sierra
Weather

 

North
Yosemite
Weather


Page Below
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Cathedral Lakes


This
Section
of the
John Muir Trail

Tuolumne Meadows
Post Office
to
John Muir Trailhead
Happy Isles

21.8 miles

Climbing
1245 feet
Descending
5785 feet
This Page

This
Segment
of the
John Muir Trail

Tuolumne Meadows
Post Office
to

Lower
Cathedral Lakes
Trail Junction

4.05 miles

Climbing
855 feet




Map and Miles
Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map
 
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Yosemite Valley

Miles and Elevations

Below:
START HIKING
to
YOSEMITE VALLEY

From the
Tuolumne Meadows
Store, Cafe,
&
Post Office


Trail Options & Resources
JMT
SOUTHWEST
towards
Mount Whitney

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Donohue Pass

Tuolumne Meadows
BACKPACKER RESUPPLY
Facilities

Tuolumne Meadows
PERMITS

JMT
SOUTHWEST
continuing
to

Yosemite Valley

Lower Cathedral Lake
to
Sunrise
High Sierra Camp

This Day
Tuolumne Meadows
to

Cathedral Lakes
on our way to
Yosemite Valley
below

The Golden Triangle
An Addition to our Tahoe to Whitney Hike

Being here on this trail guide page indicates we have decided to add the alternative route of the Golden Triangle Route down to Yosemite Valley from Tuolumne Meadows, and back, to the overall length of our Sierra Crestline backpacking trip from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney.

Sides of the Golden Triangle
We are beginning the first side of this triangle by hiking backwards down the John Muir Trail to Yosemite Valley. The second side takes us from Yosemite Valley to Lake Merced, and the third and finishing length of our Golden Triangle brings us back to the John Muir Trail in Tuolumne Meadows or Lyell Canyon, both reached via Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.

Historical Background
A Brief History
of
John Muir, Yosemite National Park,
and the
John Muir Trail
.
History
of
Tuolumne Meadows

Start Point
The first four miles of this journey bringing us up to Lower Cathedral Lake begins at the Post Office in Tuolumne Meadows. The Post Office is where we've arrived at the end of our hike South down the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from Sonora Pass to pick-up and pack-in the resupply we mailed ourself.
We sent ourselves a resupply sufficient for the brief journey down into Yosemite Valley, and in my case I even carry most of the supplies for the next leg of the trip out of the Valley and South to our next resupply spot in Reds Meadow.

What goes in must come out...
Our hike back out of Yosemite Valley returning to the Sierra Crest will follow a different route out of the Valley than we hiked in. Hiking out of The Valley we will first retrace our steps on the John Muir Trail back through Happy Isles Trailhead and back up the canyon of the Merced River to Little Yosemite Valley. From Little Yosemite we will break off the route of the JMT by continuing upriver to Merced Lake higher up the Merced's fantastic canyon. From the East Shore of Merced Lake we hike over the Cathedral Range via Vogelsang Pass to the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Vogelsang High Sierra Camp puts us into position to either hike East past Evelyn Lake to the John Muir Trail in Lyell Canyon 5.6 miles South of Tuolumne Meadows, or we can hike North through Tuolumne Pass to rejoin the John Muir Trail in Tuolumne Meadows.

That's the Golden Triangle, in a nutshell.

From Vogelsang High Sierra Camp our decision to either return to Tuolumne Meadows, where we began the Goldern Triangle, or to intercept the Southbound John Muir Trail in Lyell Canyon to follow it South out of Yosemite depends on the nature of our trip.

Back to the JMT
Returning to Tuolumne Meadows to continue Southbound on the JMT-PCT from there means we'd be missing not a foot of our trails along the Sierra Crestline between Tahoe and Whitney while adding the Golden Triangle to the overall length of our hike from Tahoe to Whitney.

Two
Tuolumne Meadows Resupply Stops?
Double-Dipping
The other reasons for returning to Tuolumne Meadows would be to resupply again for our continuing hike South along the Sierra Crestline to Reds Meadow, or because our Golden Triangle backpacking trip ends where it began, at Tuolumne Meadows.
I find it unnecessary to resupply twice at TM, having sent and packed enough food resupply to myself during my first visit to TM for the whole hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadow via The Valley, only needing to "top-off" my food supplies as I pass through Yosemite Valley.

Details
I send myself all my repackaged freeze-dried dinners and breakfasts to my Tuolumne Meadows resupply package, then supplement these fundamental supplies with fresher foods and snacks when passing through Yosemite Valley.

Resupply Strategy
I would suggest that most folks would want to lighten their pack-weight as much as possible, which would indicate stopping at every available resupply. Those hikers capable and willing of hiking longer distances with heavier pack-weights can omit potential resupply stops as necessary.

Good for All
All for Good
The Golden Triangle is an ideal stand-alone trip around the Heart of Yosemite, as well as a fine addition to our Tahoe to Whitney hike.

Out of the Fire,
Back into the Pan
Personally, I always turn East from Vogelsang High Sierra Camp to drop into Lyell Canyon on the way out of Yosemite. After hiking through the heart of Yosemite for a bit over a week (not including our days hiking down through the North Yosemite Backcountry) I am ready for a few days of backpacking without seeing as many folks. Yosemite and the Valley have been pretty busy hiking experiences.

I may well make Tuolumne Meadows backpacker camp my first hitch-hiking destination after departing the Whitney Portal at the end of the trip. I find the atmosphere at Tuolumne Meadows and its Backpackers Camp nice places to moderate my transition back into "civilization" after such a long trip in the wilderness. Tuolumne Meadows also offers good hitch-hiking to anywhere.

Side Tripping
After hiking South out of Yosemite I am going to break-off the JMT-PCT route to spend a couple of nights in a remote campsite to the East of a line drawn between Island Pass and Thousand Island Lake.

Re-Relaxing
There is expansive scrambling terrain over there on the Eastern Flank to the South of Donohue Pass where the the Cathedral and Ritter Ranges butt-up against each other. I've been slowly exploring bits and pieces of the East Flank of the Catherdral Range crestline South of Donohue Pass down to Banner Peak. Each trip through I pack a day or two's extra food to push in with the pack, set up camp, and do a nice day of exploring.
After hiking through the busy Heart of Yosemite we are going to camp in an isolated spot for a couple of nights up there to poke around and explore, relax, and do some scrambling up to Lake Catherine and around the backsides of Banner and Ritter Peaks.

Donohue Pass to Reds Meadow Map
USGS 15 minute backpacking MAP

 


Let's Roll
After visiting the beehive of Yosemite activity we will hike into a place where most folks will only see us if we want them to, before finally jumping back onto the John Muir Trail for the hike down to Reds Meadow. That's our well-balanced long distance hiking plan adding in the Golden Triangle to our Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip. Now we just have to do it.
Let's Roll

Golden Triangle
Trail Information

The Golden Triangle
Trail Guide Index
The Golden Triangle
Forums

Length
About fifty extra miles

Depth
Maybe 11, 000 feet of extra ascent and descent.

Central Yosemite
The Golden Triangle
Central & South
Yosemite Hiking Map

30 minute topo hiking map


Why the Golden Triangle?
'Cause it's Beautiful !

The beauty along our lines down to and back out of The Valley are quite remarkable, as is this whole "Golden Triangle" side trip. This section of trail is world renowned for the wide scope of its deep beauty all packed within such a short distance.

That's why we are hiking down into The Valley in the first place, and hiking out on a distinctly different route: our route selection is designed to open up the best views and perspective of the uniquely stunning mountain ranges wrapping around, and feeding the Merced River Watershed flowing through the center of Yosemite National Park in Yosemite Valley. Which segment of trail we use to rejoin the Southbound JMT-PCT, in either Tuolumne Meadows or Lyell Canyon, matters little compared to the scope of our trip hiking down to and back out of the Valley.

Into the Rabbit Hole
The main elements of the Golden Triangle are the grand descent down the Westen Flank of the Sierra into Yosemite Valley followed by the huge climb back up and over the Cathedral Crestline via the Merced. So far we've already done two grand descents down the Western Flank if we've hiked the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail down to Tuolumne Meadows.
We hit a 5280 foot isolated low-point at Camp Irene crossing unmaintained trails across the Mokelumne Wilderness, and then a 6400 foot low-point through the amenities of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station located on the edge of Emigrant Wilderness. Both of these positions are located on the Western Flank of the Sierra along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. This third Golden Triangle "sweep" down the Western Flank sets a 4035 foot low-point record for our Tahoe to Whitney trip when we step onto the beauty and insanity in The Valley Floor.

One thing is for sure: hiking down to the Valley Floor will be a very different experience from our last two grand sweeps down the Western Flank along the route of the TYT.

Though both our previous low points of elevation brought us through beautifu terrain, neither of them ended in anything resembling the Natural and human spectacles composing the scene in and around the floor of Yosemite Valley itself, let alone hiking down and back through the majestic terrain of the Cathedral Range with grand views of the Clarks Range rising above the Southern Shores of the Merced River above Yosemite Valley.

This is one interesting rabbit hole.

Viva La Difference
Our first two descents down the West Flank and our subsequent climbs back up to the Sierra Crestline did not bring us nearly down as low into low-elevation heat, bushy terrain, and large concentrations of people as will our descent into Yosemite Valley. The elevation, population, and heat are big differences, but not the main differences.

Most interesting to me is the terrain. The biggest difference between our hike down to Yosemite Valley and our other low points along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is the unique run of granite terrain from the Cathedral Crestline down to the 4000 foot Valley Floor, and back up to the crest again.

The great granites of Central Yosemite descend further down in elevation than any other part of the Sierra, and this vast swath of high to low elevation granite terrain stretches across the whole width of the Golden Triangle and its Merced River Watershed down to Yosemite Valley.

That is interesting. Very interesting, and worth the extended efforts of adding the Golden Triangle to the length of our Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip to investigate.

Top of Page

 

The Third
and
Deepest
of our
Great Descents

Each of our previous grand descents along the TYT brought us down through zones of life as we lost elevation, as does our descent into Yosemite Valley. Our previous descents also brought also brought us further down-mountain from the concentrations of exposed granite typical of the Sierra Crest.
The difference here in Yosemite is our descent into Yosemite Valley brings us into increasing, rather than diminishing granite terrain. That's the opposite of about every other place I can think of in and out of the Sierra.
Hiking the Golden Triangle down to Yosemite Valley as the deep center point connecting our "long-way" hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Lyell Canyon is the best way I can think of to get the biggest view and best context of just how vast the extent these unique granite geological features in Central Yosemite are, and to get a real feel for the extended scope and remarkable depth of the granite plutons and other forces of Nature that created the Yosemite Reality and the Sierra Range surrounding it.

High Sierra
Geological History
References

In Comparison
Emigrant Wilderness to our North offers almost as expansive a sweep of granite terrain as Yosemite, but it's fantastic granite terrain does not have valleys cut to the depth of those in the Central Yosemite Wilderness, nor does the sweep of its expansive granite terrain descend to 4000 feet of elevation. The bottom edge of Emigrant's also-vast "granite zone" ends at about 7000 feet of elevation.

We are still surrounded by an ocean of granite when we descend below 7000 feet on the John Muir Trail hiking down to Yosemite Valley. Though it is an ocean of granite now covered and collared by dense middle-elevation forests and lower-down by thickets of low-elevation manzanita and generous runs of aspen as we descend even further, Central Yosemite is fundamntally a vast ocean of granite terrain running from the 11000 foot crestline of the Cathedral Range down the West Flank of the Sierra to the 4000 foot floor of Yosemite Valley.

I find it strange to see such magnificent expansive granite at such low elevations. Awe inspiring...

Dropping Elevation and Maintaining Standards?!
Though Yosemite Valley is a bit off the line of an exclusively Sierra-Crestline hike, following these amazing glacial-cut valleys down to and back out of their confluence point in Yosemite Valley maintains the standards of beauty and challenging terrain that typify High Sierra Backpacking. We are actually adding a couple of extra dimensions to our High Sierra experience by swinging way-down in elevation to hike through Yosemite Valley on our way South.

Social Elements
The beauty, density of hikers on the trails, tourist population of The Valley, and unique personalities drawn to Yosemite from around our Nation and the world all work to endow Yosemite with a unique range of potential social experiences far beyond those found in more remote, conventional wilderness areas. We must be ready for the many dimensions of experience Yosemite can throw at us, both human and Natural.

Balance of Contradictions
Expansion of one aspect of experience, such as the human component, limits other aspects of the experience, such as Natural experience.
This is the balance of contradictions Yosemite Valley exists within.
How you feel about them depends on your values, expectations, and experiences.

Many less experienced backpackers gain comfort from the proximity of many other hikers.
Yosemite delivers that level of extra-security.

Others find the "social" aspects of highly regulated, high-density backpacking somewhat uncomfortable.

There and Back Again
The Golden Triangle is a nice trip on its own and especially as an amazing "extra" section along our Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trips. Though the two trails we use to drop off and reacquire the Sierra Crest are only about five miles from each other, our fifty mile trip down to The Valley and back again replaces this five-mile gap along the Sierra Crestline with some of the most remarkable Central Sierra backpacking in terms of splendor and beauty, as well as experiencing the max density of visitors the Yosemite Wilderness Managers figure it can withstand.

Yosemite is the "maximum experience," in terms social and physical, in terms that can be
both good and bad.

The Full Monty
All things good and bad considered, The Golden Triangle is still a must-do bit of trail for all of the realities it reveals, both social and natural, and the uneasy relationship between the two being played out on this, one of the greatest natural stages on our dear Earth.

I normally don't say this, as life is not a game and I despise "players," (bug, meet heel...) but this is a natural stage you want to be "playing" on. I say jump on this grand stage and start dancing!

Well, at least start training and collecting gear and experience so you can hike into its heart,
eventually, if not now.


Local Scene
To Cathedral Lakes

Our first steps Southwest out of Tuolumne Meadows entails hiking four miles up almost a thousand feet of elevation to the two small associated basins nested-in under Cathedral and Tresidder Peaks, each holding one of the Cathedral Lakes.
We'll climb just a bit above and beyond them up to the low gap composing Cathedral Pass taking our final steps hiking South out of the drainage of the Tuolumne River into the Northernmost reaches of the Merced River Watershed.
Our first steps into the Tuolumne Watershed were way back when we entered the Emigrant Basin through Brown Bear Pass in the Emigrant Wilderness! The Cherry Creeks we saw before us up there all ran into the Tuolumne River, eventually.

Crossing Cathedral Pass begins our plunge down to Yosemite Valley. Well, we actually don't hit the high point of the trail until we pass under Colombia Finger, which location is a bit higher than Cathedral Pass. We will follow tributaries of the Merced Watershed down to the edge of the Canyon of the Merced River, then down onto the floor of the canyon itself to reach the main flow of the Merced to follow it down into the heart of Yosemite National Park pulsing with all sorts of activity in Yosemite Valley.


INTRODUCTION
Into

Central Yosemite Wilderness

Nature of the Golden Triangle Section
This short climb to Cathedral Pass is the only semi-substantial climb of this whole 21.8 mile section of trail from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley. Once we get over Cathedral Pass and around Colombia Finger we will drop like a bomb down into the heart of Yosemite Valley.
Our descent will only be moderated by the small climb below Sunrise High Sierra Camp, some high meadows, and a few nice bits of moderate, almost-flat terrain, such as Little Yosemite Valley, that we encounter along our way. The remainder of the trail descends steeply.

Up & Down
It should always be remembered that every descent has little bits of climbing tucked-in to it, and every ascent will find small descents along its course. This is true along our plunge to Yosemite Valley. We find small bits of ascending trail West of the uppermost Mist Trail junction with the JMT, when we hike West past Nevada Falls, and even a small last climb between the Merced River Bridge and Happy Isles Trailhead at the very bottom of the John Muir Trail.

To and Into
The Merced River Canyon
After crossing Cathedral Pass we begin to get sweeping views of the Central Yosemite Wilderness. Our first destination will be to hike down to, then along the North rim of the great granite gorge of the Merced River Canyon below Sunrise HSC. Our position dropping down to the Merced below Sunrise High Sierra Camp opens up fantastic views taking in the Sea of Peaks along the Cathedral and Clarks Ranges wrapping around and feeding the Merced's vast canyon.
These are the ranges making up Central & South Yosemite mountains. The shoulders and ridges of the range reach up to, but never quite compose the Sierra Crestline. It's kind-of like there are two Sierra Crestlines here, the "false" crestline presented by the crest of the Cathedral Range topping the Central Yosemite Wilderness rising above Yosemite Valley. We find the Sierra Crestline looking East across the width of Lyell Canyon from the Crest of the Cathedral Range.

The Sierra Crestline
The next ridge East of the Crest of the Cathedral Range is the Kuna Crest capping the East wall of Lyell Canyon. It's the Kuna Crest composing the Sierra Crest running South of Tioga Pass down to Donohue Peak and Pass, not the Cathedral Range. Donohue Pass is roughly where the South end of the Sierra Crestline's Kuna Crest pinches West to touch the North end of the Ritter Range and the South end of the Cathedral Range, located at the very point where the line of the Sierra Crest turns East to bend South across Mammoth Mountain and Crest, and our trail crosses Donohue Pass.

Terrain Complexity
The drainage of the Sierra Crestline is convoluted and complex here, where the John Muir Trail climbs South through Donohue Pass out of Yosemite into the Ansel Adams Wilderness. The Tuolumne River to the North and the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River to the South of Donohue Pass both drain the Eastern flanks of the Cathedral and Ritter Ranges to the West, respectively, with the exception of the narrow slot along Rush Creek.

Rush Creek drains the basin under the location where the South ends of the Cathedral Range and Kuna Crest butt-up against the the North end of the Ritter Range. Rush Creek drains the great basin under these flanks East into June Lake, eventually.

These two maps below lay out the interface between the Central and Southern Yosemite Wilderness topped by the Cathedral and Clarks Ranges, the actual Sierra Crestline composed of the Kuna Crest, the Ritter Range to the South of Donohue Pass and the Southern Yosemite boundary. This delightfully complex terrain can absorb as much exploration as we can invest.

It can eat six of me, and demand desert.


Central & South Yosemite Hiking Map
30 minute topo hiking map
Donohue Pass to Fish Valley
30 minute topo hiking map

Top of Page

I really enjoy the Western Flank views of all this while hiking along the rim of Merced Canyon below
Sunrise High Sierra Camp.

To the Edge and Floor of the Merced River Canyon

Getting down to Sunrise High Sierra Camp marks where we begin traversing off the flank of Sunrise Mountain and out of the subordinate canyon of the Cathedral Fork of Echo Creek to line ourselves up with the position where the fold in the mountain that Sunrise Creek will begin flowing down to the Merced River.
Our drop into the very top of this gash in the mountain marks the beginning of our steep descent down to the point Sunrise Creek starts flowing, which depends on the time and character of the year we're hiking.
Our JMT route roughly follows Sunrise Creek all the way down to the edge of the Merced Canyon, and finally along the same run of terrain down onto the floor of the canyon at Little Yosemite Valley.

Famous Places
At Sunrise High Sierra Camp we note the trail Northwest to Sunrise Lakes and Tenaya Lake along Highway 120 beyond. That trail also can put us above Clouds Rest. Once we get above Sunrise Creek's gash in the mountain and begin hiking down it our John Muir Trail route passes a series of trail junctions branching off to world famous Yosemite landmarks as we hike down to the most world famous landmark of all, Yosemite Valley.
We pass by Clouds Rest, Tenaya Lake, and Half Dome trail junctions before landing in Little Yosemite Valley. Little Yosemite Valley is the last of the string of little forested valleys spaced-out down the course of the Merced River's Canyon floor. As we descend to the edge of the canyon we can see tufts of green far below strung out along the river's gray granite course, looking like a string of deep green pearls along the shining granite necklace. The line of the necklace is made up of the undulating line of Merced River Canyon. These unique green pearls of little forested and meadowed valleys are spaced-out every few miles along the floor of the Merced River, which is otherwise running in its narrow course wedged tightly between sheer cliffs of massive porportions. These cliffs are massive in terms of both the height and sheer describes the steepness of the cliff faces themselves, but the bulk of the granite the cliffs are cut into is on a scale of its own.

Word Failure
Supurlatives, and even words themselves, fail to wrap themselves around the magnitude of the Merced River and its Canyon running from Merced Lake to Nevada Falls between the
Cathedral and Clarks Ranges.
You've got to see it to feel how big this scene really is.


Floor of the Merced River Canyon
Little Yosemite Valley

Our route along the John Muir Trail finally drops us into Little Yosemite Valley. Little Yosemite Valley is the last and Westernmost of this series of little mixed forest and meadow valleys sprinkled along the length of the Merced River Canyon.

Little Yosemite Valley is the last of this series of mini-valleys wedged in along the bottom along the length of the Merced River Canyon. It is the Merced's last valley leading up to the edge of the wide cliff where the whole Merced River plunges 600 feet through the air as the whole darn massive river draining the vast Western watersheds of the Cathedral and Clarks Ranges behind us dramatically flies off its notch cut into the edge of this wide and expansive cliff face to execute a most fitting flying entrance into the pantheon of Yosemite Valley's Natural beauties as Nevada Fall.

Wow.

What a way to end our run down the West Flank of the Cathedral Range and begin
our final descent into Yosemite Valley. Little Yosemite Valley launching Nevada Falls off its West End offer us a fine transiton into Big Yosemite Valley.


Little Yosemite Backpackers Camp
Merced River Swimming Hole-Beach

There's even a nice, safe "swimming hole" slow-moving section of the river with a very relaxing sand beach, just beyond the trail junction South of Little Yosemite Valley Backpackers Camp. Here at Little Yosemite Valley the Merced River takes a leisurely moment flowing gently past the Backpackers Camp before picking up whitewater speed for its dramatic plunge off Nevada Falls to make its final grand entrance into The Valley.

I would not enter the water any closer to Nevada Falls.


Final Grand Descent

From the edge of Nevada Falls we will work our way down an arc of trail carved, almost tunneled into the sheer living rock of the dramatic cliff face mentioned above, cliffs reaching straight up to the uppermost rim of Yosemite Valley, up to Nevada Falls from the John Muir Trailhead at Happy Isles.

It is a lot of fun hiking in and out of The Valley. Hard fun, but deep fun.
The Heart of Yosemite is a dramatic place to hike into and out of.

Double Trouble
We'll climb up this bad-boy to Nevada Falls on our way hiking back out of The Valley, but we are descending it in this direction. Unlike most John Muir Trail hikers, we are going to investigate and explore the most amazing trail between Little Yosemite and Big Yosemite Valleys twice. Once on the way down, and then again on the way back out.

Happy-Happy Isles!

Facing the Music
I enjoy the range of looks on up-climbers faces as I down-climb. Everything from total joy to total pain. The whole spectrum of human experience is laid out on the climbers faces.

The grind up the mountain on the way out is a classic climb.
It's an H-1 climb, but of short distance from Happy Isles to Little Yos. No problem. It retains its H-1 rating climbing to Cathedral Pass.

Trail Difficulty & Backpacker
Rating System

Into the Ocean
I don't mean to be romantic, but this place is totally stunning, in both directions, despite its considerable social drawbacks. By social, I mean lots and lots of people. Oceans of people.
I don't think people are inherently good or bad, but that our personal expectations as backpackers must be tuned to the realities of the environment we are entering, and not be mismatched with the populated reality of Central Yosemite.

Us solo backpackers must be girded for lots of contact.


Hinterland to Heartland

We've been hiking across the remotest routes in the North Sierra for a couple of weeks since departing the Tahoe Basin. Things change when we enter Yosemite National Park. The transitions into increasing levels of activity began in earnest entering Yosemite National Park, picked up speed as we approached Tuolumne Meadows, and will reach "full to capacity" density-status once we hike through Tuolumne Meadows along the John Muir Trail down to The Valley.
This section of our hike along this most densely packed segment of the JMT ends as we pass through the Happy Isles Trailhead into the insanity of the massive tourist crowds packed into The Valley Floor. These transitions in trail density and traffic create quite interesting transitions through the degrees of solitude.

We have been experiencing a steady intensification of social contact hiking South. The changes really started when we first entered the North Yosemite Backcountry, where social contacts and social aspects of experience gradually began to grow in density as we approached Tuolumne Meadows, and growing ever-larger until we step through the looking-glass into the Insanity of Yosemite Valley.

I mean step through the Happy Isles Trailhead into Yosemite Valley. Shit gets crazy once we reach the Half Dome trail junction, and the highest density of trail traffic walks with us from there down to The Valley. We can see the change reflected in the physical character of the trails. We can see the change in the people on the trail.

Easy in, Easy out
We are executing a long transition from the Sublime to the Insane as we dropped from the top of Jack Main Canyon on the Sierra Crestline down to the very bottom of Yosemite Valley. It is better if we transition into and out of seclusion gradually. This avoids jarring shocks to the psyche. The roughly seventy miles from the top of Jack Main Canyon where we first entered the Northern corner of Yosemite down to the bottom of Yosemite Valley is a long enough "transition zone" to bring me gradually from isolation to socialization without too much trauma.

Entering Yosemite National Park into Jack Main Canyon we are hiking into intensifying zones of what can only be called increasingly "structured" hiking, increasingly regulated access, eventually hiking into areas of defined "backpacker camps," as we get closer and closer to Yosemite's most populated areas. Each step we take South on the main trails towards Tuolumne Meadows brings more contacts, with all activity increasing in stages of intensity as we pass TM and draw closer to Yosemite Valley and its facilities, until we finally enter that mixed-up heart of Yosemite National Park, and experience the tragic beauty of Yosemite Valley.

We experience a unique and strange mixture of inherent natural tranquility layered with increasing human contacts until we finally step onto the insanity on floor of Yosemite Valley. I know my "adjustment" is going well when I enjoy this long transition. Especially if the herds of day hikers trudging dutifully up the Muir Trail to the Mist Trail junction were paying enough attention to not drive me off-trail as I attempted to descend through them.

Sigh...

Natural Disneyland
Yosemite Valley can honestly be described as a Natural tourist attraction. I judge Yosemite Valley to be the equivalent in size, scale, and density of visitors as "Disneyland," itself, and in fact The Yosemite Valley offers that same type of "canned" tourist experience for the "Nature Tourist," scene that Disneyland rides offers more conventional urban tourists.

You got rides? We got rides! Giddy-up, Dude.

Rich folks can "buy" the ultimate in "natural" luxury experiences in Yosemite Valley and through tours of the High Sierra Camps, as they buy premium experiences in Disneyland.
The herd can bend their necks for a glance as they are trundled through on trails manicured and tamed as much as possible for the safety of inattentive tourists. As in Disneyland...

Yosemite Valley is much like the sad Orcas imprisoned in glass swimming pools for the observation and amusement of fat tourists.

Free Yosemite!?

Stupid Human Tricks
Such are the conditions and limits our own irresponsible growth have imposed on ourselves, on Nature, and even on ourselves in Nature. Since we are here, and this insane overcrowding (and its consequences) are "in our face," we will explore the interface between Nature and Society that Yosemite represents, its status, and how these very physical "social relationships," these social mind-sets and the very presence of vast crowds each conditions the individual hiker's experience, and broadly conditions our ability to engage Nature and each other.

More is not necessarily better.

Do we really want Nature to be a tourist attraction for hundreds of millions of mega-city inhabitants? Is that Nature? Is that the "role" of humans on Earth?

Nature is the factory of accurate observers. Cities manufacture idiots.


So Different

Backpacking through Central Yosemite is going to be a much different experience than hiking the remote trails in the Carson Iceberg and Mokelumne Wilderness Areas in terms of trail traffic and trail culture. One is dominated by man, the other by Nature.

Up there in the North Sierra we tread trails that look and feel like no-one has trod them for a century. Down here we have trails showing the polish and wear of a century of constant use. We are entering a unique physical and social reality when we hike across Yosemite. Man and Nature in such close interaction reveals much about both, if we look closely.

An interesting contrast in our experiences over the time and space of our hike has developed, being a relationship between density of use and the quality of experience. This relationship deepens, or at least becomes more apparent as we get closer to The Valley. The nature of people, and how we perceive and frame nature changes the further we get away from large groups of people. Nature predominates. The predominance of man's influence returns as we move closer to large population centers, even "seasonal" big cities, such as Yosemite Valley.

Chorus of Angels Vs Chorus of Crap
I believe this contradiction is centered in the difference between the subtly of Nature and the loudness of man. The more "noise" people make, the harder it is to hear the "voice" of Nature. It only takes a very few loud humans to overwhelm a whole lot of Nature...and we call that "power."

I call it destruction.

This contradiction becomes starkly apparent in Yosemite Valley. In Yosemite Valley the noise of loud crowds, ceaseless traffic, and cities of car campers with armies of foot-tourists creates a city-like social reality, a din, all surrounded by the silent screaming beauty, the true Power of Nature that drew us all here in the first place.

We are the contradiction that drives off that we seek, unless we are careful.

Let's Explore these, our contradictions, to see how the beauty of Nature affects the behavior of man, and how man affects Nature as a sub-theme of our hike through Yosemite National Park. In fact, I suggest you run this test on yourself, to see how moving through degrees of isolation from deep Nature to deep natural Disneyland affects your being.

Soothes the Savage Beast? Or sets it Free? Shreds the "box" it came in?

We'll see!


Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map
Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Miles and Elevations

Backpacker Resources
and
Hiker Information

Though this Looking Glass

John Muir Trail
Backpacking Information

This
Page Index

Tuolumne Meadows
FACILITIES

 

Tuolumne Meadows
FACILITIES MAP

 

Tuolumne Meadows
TRAIL MAP

 

 

 

VIDEO
TM T-STORM VIDEO

 

Lembert Dome

 

BEAR COUNTRY

 

 

 

VIDEO
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Lower Cathedral Lake

 

West on Main Campground Road

 

Tuolumne Meadows
Hub of Trails

 

West End of the
Campground Road

 

 

 

Unicorn Creek

 

MILES SIGN
Visitor Center
JMT TRAIL JUNCTION

 

MILES SIGN
Visitor Center
TRAILHEAD

 

Wilderness Boundary
Bud Creek

 

Towards Yosemite Valley

 

Approaching
Wilderness Boundary

 

Cathedral Meadow
Restoration

 

MILES SIGN Wilderness Boundary
JMT TRAIL JUNCTION

Miles
&
ZERO POINT
Discussion

Central
Yosemite Wilderness

 

Weather,
Road,
and
Trail 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
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

Sonora Pass reporting station

Leavitt Lake reporting station

Leavitt Meadow reporting station

Horse Meadow Reporting Station

South of 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 South of our position backpacking across the North Yosemite backcountry.

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

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

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

Hikers and Views

 

Sandy Trail Conditions

 

Back of
Fairview Dome

 

Mount Conness
to our Northeast

 

Crest
of Cathedral Peak

 

 

 

MILES SIGN
Lower
Cathedral Lake
Trail Junction

Continuing
Southwest
JMT
to
Yosemite Valley

Next Page:

Lower Cathedral Lake junction
to
Sunrise HSC

Miles
to
Yosemite Valley

 

 

A
Half-Mile
SPUR TRAIL
to
Lower Cathedral Lake:

Down along
Creek to Meadow

 

Into the Meadow

 

Cathedral Peak
above Meadow

 

Cathedral Peak
Detail

 

Rock Berm wrapping East Shore of
Lower Cathedral Lake

 

Lower Cathedral Lake
Sunset

 

Cathedral and Echo Peaks Sunset

 

Morning Views

 

 

 

Next Page
Southwest
JMT:

MILES SIGN
Lower Cathedral Lake junction
to
Sunrise HSC

> Forum<

North and South
Sierra Nevada
The Yosemite Sections of our Tahoe to Whitney hike along the Sierra Crest are conventionally divided into "North" and "South" sections, split upon Tuolumne Meadows. Long distance backpackers typically enter Yosemite along the Sierra Crestline and depart along the Sierra Crestline without a glance down towards Yosemite Valley.

Except maybe with some disdain.
Air and people are too thick down there in Yosemite Valley.

Our transition from North to South Sierra was simply marked by passing through Tuolumne Meadows from the North to South Sierra Crest. This simple transition always seemed to me to be too quickly dismissive of the deep run of granite down to and back from Yosemite Valley. It is this run of granite that the whole world pictures when they hear the words, "Sierra Nevada."

The page below begins our deflection off of our typically exclusive high altitude routes along the High Sierra Crestline to dip down along the John Muir Trail into Yosemite Valley to sample its treats, treasures, and tourist traps.

Everything is thick down there, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beauty.

After our Valley Visit we'll hike out along a different route through the Central Yosemite Wilderness back to the Sierra Crest.

We'll execute the return leg of our route by deflecting off the JMT to hike up the Merced River to Merced Lake above Little Yosemite Valley.

We will eventually intercept the JMT just a bit over five miles South of where we first turned off the Crestline for our hike down to The Valley from Tuolumne Meadows.


We will reacquire the JMT where we enter Lyell Canyon five miles South of Tuolumne Meadows after hiking over Vogelsang Pass and past Evelyn Lake.

Comments Top of Page


Hiking Southbound
on the
TYT-PCT
into
Tuolumne Meadows Main Backpacker Facilities
Layout and Location
Also See
Tuolumne Meadows Resupply Page
&
Tuolumne Meadow Permits
Hiking South into the Tuolumne Meadows Store, Grill, Post Office and resupply point. The question is, which way are we going to hike on the JMT?

On the far side of the white canvas Store is the main road of the Tuolumne Meadows Campground.

Highway 120 runs East and West past the front, this side, of the Tuolumne Meadows Store.

Both roads track East and West beyond the Left and Right edges of the image of Tuolumne Meadows Store above.

Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

Southbound
John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails
We will cut Left onto the Campground Road to the East, to the Left around the store to hike towards the Backpackers Camp if we are to spend the Night here in TM. Or we will hike further East and Southeast. We will bend to our Left behind the store to turn Right down the length of the Eastern-most Campground Road to the mouth of Lyell Canyon to find the Southbound unified routes of the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails running South into Lyell Canyon.

Remember, camping is prohibited within four miles of Yosemite Trailheads. This means picking up our resupply, getting it packed, and having some food and fun while leaving enough time to get at least four miles from our trailhead before dark. I always stay a night or two in rest and resupply mode at Tuolumne Meadows.

JMT to The Valley
Maybe we will not continue Southeast along the combined JMT-PCT. We can also hike the JMT Southwest, down into Yosemite Valley, as we begin doing by hiking to Cathedral Lakes as detailed on the page below.

The Tuolumne Meadows to Donohue Pass guide page is for Southbound hikers remaining on the Sierra Crest.

We can cut to the Right passing around to the back of the store to follow the Campground Road West to where we first encounter the trail to Lake Elizabeth, and hiking past that we next encounter the John Muir Trail to Cathedral Lakes behind the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. That puts us on our way to follow the classic JMT route down to the famous Happy Isles Trailhead in the world-renowned Yosemite Valley.

By "famous," I mean really-really busy.

A "you can't believe how busy," world-renowned level of busy.

The beauty of Yosemite Valley and its surroundings either equals, exceeds, suites, or falls short of the expectations of each backpacker confronting a place as busy and as regulated as are the Central Yosemite Wilderness and The Valley.
I find it strange, entertaining, stunningly beautiful, and disturbing simultaneously.

Only you can decide which judgment/experience applies to you. And when it applies. The Central Yosemite Wilderness and Yosemite Valley which are so busy during the height of Summer can be quite peaceful and quiet early and late in the hiking season. The timing of our Yosemite trips is going to affect their nature. The timing of our trips determines the level of activity we will encounter, even down to the day of the week and time of day we hike a particular segment of trail, especially the famous trails to famous places.

The Golden Triangle is best executed during the week and as far away from major Summer vacation period holidays as practically possible. This will keep us off crowded trails during peak periods of use.

 

Planning
Long Distance
High Sierra Backpacking Trips

Planning The
Tahoe to Whitney
Backpacking Trip
Planning The
Tahoe to Yosemite
Backpacking Trip
Planning Forum


 

Our
TAHOE to WHITNEY
Route Options
Northbound
Standard Route

North
TYT-PCT

Glen Aulin
to
Tuolumne Meadows
Southbound
Unique
JMT Route
Starting
The Golden Triangle
to
Yosemite Valley

Page Below
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Cathedral Lakes
Southbound
Standard Route

South
JMT-PCT

Tuolumne Meadows
to
Donohue Pass


What You Gonna Do?
We will either continue Southbound along the Sierra Crest through Tuolumne Meadows onto the combined routes of the JMT & PCT, or we will turn Southwest to "Thread the Eye of the Needle," by adding the hike down to and back from Yosemite Valley onto our backpacking trip from
Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney.

I think of this as adding or skipping the Golden Triangle Alternative Route on our hike from Tahoe to Whitney.

Questions, Comments, and Your Experiences making this decision Welcome:

Golden Triangle
comments Forum
Top of Page

TUOLUMNE MEADOWS
Federal Facilities Maps

Map showing relationship of our position to the North and Southbound route of the John Muir Trail.

Map showing relationship of our position to the North and Southbound routes of the PCT and John Muir Trail.

SUPERSIZE IT!

If we are Southbound onto the John Muir Trail we have a couple of ways to get to the John Muir Trail, depending on if we are staying a couple of nights in the backpacker camp or hiking directly to the JMT. I am kicking it here for two nights, so I am going to rest and feed up before dropping into The Valley.

Here's a better map, but upside-down from my North to South way of looking at things.

Detailed map of Tuolumne Meadows Federal Facilities.
Map credit to NPS for both Maps above

Hiking Maps
Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map
Central Yosemite Hiking Map
30 minute topo hiking map

Miles and Elevations

Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Miles and Elevations

About Miles Figures
Buyer Beware!


RESUPPLY & PERMITS
We've got guide pages on Tuolumne Meadows Resupply and Permits
Tuolumne Meadows
Resupply
INFORMATION
Tuolumne Meadows
Permits
INFORMATION

Comments and/or Questions?
Tuolumne Meadows
Resupply & permits current information and questions requested.
Tuolumne Meadows
Resupply
Forum

Comments & Questions
Tuolumne Meadows
Permits
Forum
Comments & Questions

All
Golden Triangle Forums

 

comments Forum

Page Index Top of Page

Ready for Winter

Tuolumne Meadows store after being made ready for Winter Closure.

Tuolumne Meadows store after being made ready for Winter Closure.

Tuolumne Meadows Resupply Page

Local Conditions
Summer Storm Video

Tropical Thunderstorms in the Sierra

High Sierra Backpackers Camp, Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

comments Forum

Page Index Top of Page

Tuolumne Meadows Landmark
Lembert Dome

Gazing across the Face of Lembert Dome from Tuolumne Meadows while transitioning from the TYT to the JMT.

Lembert Dome is the predominate landmark within Tuolumne Meadows, besides the meadow itself.

Above we are gazing across the Face of Lembert Dome from Tuolumne Meadows while transitioning from the TYT to the JMT, and afternoon into evening.

A Morning View of Lembert Dome.

Page Index


Sign in the
Tuolumne Meadows Car Campground
Bears plague the luxury of the Car Campers, even when they obey all the rules.

Federal Law, common-sense, and basic practical safety all require we carefully control our food. This is a road sign in the Tuolumne Meadows Car Campground.

Bears plague the luxury of the Car Campers, even when they obey all the rules.

I find it impressive to know that bears have ripped car doors off. I have not yet seen it personally, but just the knowledge of the ability makes me feel good, for some strange reason. I guess it's that security does not come with walls and doors, but only with good practices.

Everything else is voodoo, guesswork, and avoidance of responsibility.

I figure that the logic behind bear behavior provides an informative context for understanding the stark differences between how Nature works in direct contact with typical human behavior and assumptions.

That's why they have "Bear Rangers" patrolling human encampments in Yosemite.

Nature will eventually eliminate all bad practices, but I like to be ahead of that curve.

Bear Tech for Backpackers

Camp and Trail Skills Page

Astronomy for Backpackers


comments Forum

Page Index

Video
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Cathedral Lake

John Muir Trail

Crossing
The Heart of Yosemite

The first section of our Golden Triangle Alternative Route through Yosemite Valley as we hike the length of the High Sierra from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney.

I avoided these sections for years due to fears of overcrowding, but my curiosity overcame my trepidations, and the results confirmed my original conclusions.

Central Yosemite Wilderness centered on Yosemite Valley is one of the natural wonders of the world, while simultaneously providing a most dramatic showcase for both the folly and sensitivity of man.

Video Title Image
Mileage Sign at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center

top of page


 

Hiking around to the backside of the Tuolumne Meadows Store, Grill, and Post Office we find the Campground Road running East-West roughly parallel with Highway 120.

We're going to break-off our normal transition from the PCT-TYT hiking South down the Northern Sierra onto the JMT-PCT hiking South down the South Sierra at Tuolumne Meadows. Instead of staying up on the Sierra Crest passing through Tuolumne Meadows, we're going to detour down to Yosemite Valley as part of our hiking trip from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney.

We might as well try to see it all.

On the video above we are going to turn Right on the Road behind the Tuolumne Meadows Store, Grill, and Post Office towards the West, following it to the very Westernmost reach of the road, where we find the trail connecting us to both the John Muir Trail tracking Southwest towards Cathedral Lakes and Pass, and the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center off to our North, our Right.

We will check out the spur trail a short ways North down to the Visitor Center on Highway 120 to look across Tuolumne Meadows, before turning back around to the Southwest to hike the John Muir Trail up to Lower Cathedral Lake on our way over Cathedral Pass and past Sunrise High Sierra Camp into the monster descent down to Yosemite Valley.

Enchilada, Whole.
Below find images, miles, elevations, videos, and written descriptions of the hike from
Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley.

Summer Thunderstorms in the Sierra Nevada

Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

comments Forum

Page Index Top of Page

JMT "Route" to Visitor Center
from
Tuolumne Meadows Post Office

West on the Main Campground Road
to the
JMT to Yosemite Valley
Tuolumne Meadows Campground Road South to Elizabeth Lake Trailhead.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground Road South to Elizabeth Lake Trailhead.

We are facing West hiking West along the Northern Ring Road in the Tuolumne Meadows Campground.

The arrow is pointing South, to our Left down a paved campground road to where the Elizabeth Lake Trailhead is situated, before the road loops around the Horse Camp on the loop at the end of the road.

We're going to continue hiking West, straight through this intersection.

Top of Page


Transitions

Crossing
Tuolumne Meadows
INTO and OUT
of
The High Elevation Heart of Yosemite

Where We At
I consider Tuolumne Meadows to be the Heart of the Sierra, in the sense that TM is the rough physical and certainly the Cultural Center of the High Altitude Range, by my reckoning.

The deal here at TM is we have a web of trails and a road coming messily together. Specifically, the routes that concern us are the end of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail continuing North & South through Tuolumne Meadows, and the John Muir Trail bending around the perimeter of TM. The John Muir Trail makes its great Southbound turn into the South Sierra after its Northbound climb out of Yosemite Valley, bending to the South along the South edge of Tuolumne Meadows.

Thus the John Muir Trail offers us Southbound backpackers along the Sierra Crest a classic trail "Y" junction at Tuolumne Meadows: One arm of the Y branches off to the Southwest, down the JMT to The Valley. The other arm of the Y points us Southeast down the JMT towards Mount Whitney.

I believe both arms of this Y point us to Whitney. One is just the long way.

Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

Why We Here
Long distance backpackers putting together trips stitching together any combination of these classic trails all have the same goal arriving at Tuolumne Meadows; rest and resupply as necessary and required. We have finished our last section of trail and supply for our next.

Southbound
TYT-PCT Hikers
Southbound hikers on the combined routes of the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trail have no direct trail linking them to the JMT-PCT continuing South, nor a direct trail over to the JMT for the hike Southwest down to Yosemite Valley.
Well, the end of the TYT does connect directly to the JMT, but not with any consideration for getting to and from the rest and resupply facilities that 99.99% of long distance backpackers must access while passing through Tuolumne Meadows.

These facilities are the Post Office and Store for resupply, the Grill for hot and cold food, and the Backpackers Camp for rest. About every long distance backpacker draws on at least one of these resources, if not all of them, repeatedly.

The Hub
Tuolumne Meadows is a hub of classic High Sierra Trails.
All the trails entering the Federal facilities at Tuolumne Meadows terminate at trailheads on roads, except the John Muir Trail. The JMT wraps around the Southern perimeter of the Federal facilities. The John Muir Trail around the perimeter of Tuolumne Meadows is set-back and not directly connected to any of Tuolumne Meadow's roads...

Bent Spokes
This means that hikers on the JMT have to find their way from the trail to the facilities and back onto the trail again, which can be a bit confusing. The same applies to all long distance hikers approaching Tuolumne Meadows.

It is not clear how to get to the facilities from the various trailheads we emerge through.

Clarity
The confusion is not centered in finding and making the transition from our entrance trailhead to our exit trailhead through Tuolumne Meadows. That's fairly easy, if a bit indirect.

Here we are looking to find the best and most direct routes to weave in our necessary stops at the Post Office to pick up our resupply, and the backpackers Camp to finally drop pack and and get started with the "rest" part of our "rest and resupply" stop.

If you are anything like me, you will be very ready to live without a pack on your back as quickly as possible every time we hit our rest and resupply stops. I love my pack, but sometimes we just need a little time away from each other.

It's good for our relationship...

Context & Goals
Rest and Resupply
We are looking for the context necessary to get our tired asses de-packed and soaking up calories as efficiently and quickly as possible. We want to shift from expending to absorbing energy with as few unnecessary deflections from this goal as possible. This may seem trivial now, reading this from the comforts of home, but its importance will become crystal clear as you approach resupply.

You will feel it too.

Imperative
Serving the Need
There are imperatives that grow with time on the trail. These are generally expressed as abiding desires that grow stronger the longer we entertain them, then grow exponentially in power as we draw closer to our resupply spots.
We may seek conversation after an extended period of isolation, heat after long cold, a cold beer after enduring heat. Many times I feel the pressing need for salad and bananas. I have had the desire for burgers so many times...

I have seen imperative make tired groups look rested as they pick up speed approaching rest and resupply spots. Personally, I've started trotting down the trail as I get closer to resupply.

Order of Operations
Entering Tuolumne Meadows
Federal Facilities

Southbound
TYT-PCT
Hiking South into Tuolumne Meadows our first goal will logically be the center of Tuolumne Meadows: We will visit the Post Office, Grill, and Store before hiking over to the Backpackers Camp.
Therefore Southbound hikers should break off the route of the PCT-TYT at Soda Springs, and cut directly over to the Grill and Post Office Services, rather than following the trail Southeast down to the Lembert Dome Parking Lot, or South to the Visitor Center.

Northbound
on the
JMT-PCT
Hiking North on the JMT-PCT out of Lyell Canyon our first goal is to drop pack in the Backpackers Camp, then walk to the Grill and Store beyond for refreshments, and to check on the status of our resupply package at the Post Office.

Many Northbound Pacific Crest and those fairly rare Northbound John Muir Trail Hikers hiking out of Lyell Canyon are deflected onto the portion of the JMT wrapping around the South end of Tuolumne Meadow's Federal Facilities. This trail essentially bypasses the Tuolumne Meadows facilities.

That trail is only rarely used by those rare JMT hikers who are bypassing Tuolumne Meadows Facilities. There are very few of those in either direction, or among long distance backpackers on any trail, who are bypassing Tuolumne Meadows. Almost everyone stops at Tuolumne Meadows facilities for rest, recharge, and resupply.
Hell, at least stop to observe the unique interface between man and Nature that Tuolumne Meadows represents, if not to serve our more practical needs, such as resupply, and burgers and beer.

The direct line of the JMT around the perimeter of Tuolumne Meadows completely bypasses our rest and resupply facilities at the TM Store, Grill and Post Office! That's why it is almost unused by JMT hikers. The JMT bypassing Tuolumne Meadows tends to confuse them, if anything.

Once they finally realize there is no direct link from the route of the JMT to the Store and Grill...

The question most JMT hikers have is, "how do I get most directly to the Post Office to pick up my resupply package?" Answering that question is one of our goals here.

Not to mention that the route of the JMT around Tuolumne Meadows under forest cover misses taking in expansive views of Tuolumne Meadows, let alone bypassing our rest and resupply opportunities! Not Good.

Therefore Northbound JMT & PCT hikers arriving at the road/trailhead interface of the Tuolumne Meadows Campground in the mouth of Lyell Canyon should get on the road they see just North of the trailhead, find the Backpacker's Camp on the hill to your Left (West), just a short distance down the road to drop gear, stash your food, and then hike over to the Tuolumne Meadows Store and Grill for a burger and a beer.

If it looks confusing, ask a car camper along the road. You will hike up a low hill to your Left, behind the car camping sites to your West, after walking just a bit South of the loop of car campsites leading to the Lyell Canyon Trailhead. See the maps above.

That's the most direct way for Northbound hikers on the JMT-PCT to access Tuolumne Meadow's backpacker camping resources (and drop pack) before continuing on through the car campground to tap the Grill and Store for some serious calorie consumption.

Oh yes, we are going to eat.

North to Southbound
JMT
(Out of Yosemite Valley)
Hiking into Tuolumne Meadows on the John Muir Trail out of Yosemite Valley our first goal is the Post Office, Grill, and Store. We will go drop pack in the Backpackers Camp after enjoying the hospitality and sociability of the Store, PO, & Grill.

Southbound JMT hikers out of Yosemite Valley are best served by breaking off the JMT at the second trail junction, the "Visitors Center" junction after passing the first "Wilderness Boundary" junction where we hiked out of the Yosemite Wilderness.

At the second trail junction leading North to the Visitor Center we will instead follow the middle trail leading a bit North of East to cross Unicorn Creek (marked on one map above as Elizabeth Creek, or Unicorn Creek on the other map.) following a well-marked trail onto the campground road on the Western end of the Tuolumne Meadows Car Campground. I marked the route on both the campground maps above.

I like this route better than walking down Tioga Road, though that's an option too. I'm an observer, and on this bit of my hike I want to take a look at what this year's crop of car campers at Tuolumne Meadows are looking like.

I'm meet some real cool car campers, and some real jerks too!
It's a freeking crap shoot.

The Middle Route to Resources
We'll follow this main campground road to our Left, then as it turns East through the campground to the resources in the Store, Post Office, and Grill. This is far preferable to following the JMT the very long way around the South flank of the facilities, or to walking along Highway 120 from the Visitor Center to the resupply facilities

WHY
an
"Order of Operations?"
The reason for the changes in the Order of Operations, with either the Store or Backpackers Camp being our first stop depends on which is first & closest along our line of travel from each of our potential trailheads entering the Federal Facilities in Tuolumne Meadows.

For hikers on two of the trails into Tuolumne Meadows the Grill is our first stop, for the other trail it is Backpackers Camp. Unless you have a different order of operations in mind. I am fine with that, just as long as we don't end up "exploring unknown terrain" (getting lost) wandering around the car campground or adjacent Federal facilities.

I am providing advice and directions for navigating the Tuolumne Meadows Federal facilities because I've observed lots of backpackers entering Tuolumne Meadows and wandering around needlessly burning time and calories until they figure out where all the resources are located.
I figure that knowing where everything is before going allows us to make
the best use of our time and calories.

"A little context can save a lot of calories."
The Calorie King

North and Southbound
PCT Hikers
RESUPPLY

PCT hikers in either direction uniformly resupply at Tuolumne Meadows, with some spending a day or two eating, drinking, resting, and recharging. JMT hikers spend less time at Tuolumne Meadows.
Some JMT hikers spend a night to go along with picking up their resupply, but more than a few push on to the South the same day. JMT hikers are just starting out. Some have need for more rest after the fierce climb out of Yosemite Valley than others.

In any case, JMT hikers have an obligation to be nice to the locals, the staff, and represent the best character elements of High Sierra Backpacking Culture while hiking through Tuolumne Meadows.

OK?

Nature
of the
Rest and Resupply
Game

I believe Tuolumne Meadows is to be enjoyed, and that takes a little time and exploration, just like all the other places we visit along the trail. Oh, wait! All of our resupply spots are actually a really fun part of our long distance backpacking trips. At least that's how I look at them.
Enjoying the hell out of Rest and Resupply Stops is an integral part of all my long and short backpacking trips. After saving my pennies to pay for the basic trip I begin to save for better rest and resupply stops. More burgers and beer for me!

Every and Any
Direction

Nonetheless, the best routes to access Tuolumne Meadows Federal Facilities from any direction are to take our first opportunity to jump onto the Tuolumne Meadows Campground roads. They lead us directly to our various rest and resupply destinations along flat-surface roads, as well as linking us most directly with the optimal trailheads to continue our trip through and beyond Tuolumne Meadows.

Trails wrap around Tuolumne Meadows, roads connect us to its human facilities within.

JMT Route in TM
Not the Quickest Route to Facilities

The JMT around the Southern perimeter of Tuolumne Meadows Federal Facilities does not lead us to the resupply facilities. The John Muir Trail is the quickest way around Tuolumne Meadows only if we are bypassing Tuolumne Meadow, which I do not recommend.

The TM Campground roads give both North and Southbound JMT backpackers the most direct routes to access our food, resupply, and backpacker camping facilities at Tuolumne Meadows than the JMT route, and once we get to the camping and resupply facilities the roads give us easy access the various trailheads required to continue our trip in any direction after our very refreshing rest and resupply stop at Tuolumne Meadows.

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Hiking the JMT
to
The Valley
West along the Northern Tuolumne Meadows Campground Ring Road
Tuolumne Meadows Campground road to Conness Campfire Ring.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground road to Conness Campfire Circle.

We are hiking West towards the Visitor Center through the car campground on the way to the John Muir Trail. Highway 120 is running East & West off to our Right, parallel with our Westbound walk along the campground road.

This sign is indicating the second road branching off to our Left that we are walking straight past. Well, not quite "straight," as the road is undulating to the South, to our Left.

Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

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Same Road, Further West
Following the Tuolumne Meadows Campground Road to the John Muir Trail.

Following the Tuolumne Meadows Campground Road to the John Muir Trail into The Valley.

We are now tracing out the Westernmost reach of the road, and beginning to see its bend to the South ahead. That's where we'll keep walking West off the road and out of the campground.

I guess my fat pack qualifies me as an "oversize vehicle."

It sure feels true.


End of the Line
Coming to the end of our hike along the main road running around the Tuolumne Meadows Campground.

We're coming to the Western end of the campground road for us hiking the John Muir Trail to Cathedral Lakes on our way to Yosemite Valley.

But not for the road itself, which loops back around onto itself, past where we find our trail breaking Right off the road, continuing West to link up with the John Muir Trail at the trail junction behind the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center.

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West End Tuolumne Meadows Campground
Trail to the JMT
West end of Tuolumne Meadows Campground to Visitor Center and John Muir Trail.

West end of Tuolumne Meadows Campground,
Sign pointing us West to Visitor Center and John Muir Trail.

Coming to the furthest Western end of the campground road we find the road beginning to bend to the South, our Left, away from Highway 120. We're going to follow the bend around to where we'll find a little trail leading us West, to our Right, to the bridge over Unicorn Creek, and beyond the bridge to the junction with the John Muir Trail.

Not far now...

Hiking West across the bridge brings us to T-out with the very short trail running North-South linking the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center on Highway 120 to the John Muir Trail running around the back of the VC. Highway 120 is just a few dozen yards to our Right, the North. The JMT is a few dozen feet off to our Left, our South.

We continue West towards this little segment of trail linking 120 to the JMT past the Visitor Center.


Unicorn Creek
South to Unicorn Creek from Tuolumne Meadows Backpacker Camp.

South to Unicorn Creek from Tuolumne Meadows Backpacker Camp.

Look! The sign boss, the sign!

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Unicorn Creek Bridge
Approaching trail connecting Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center to the John Muir Trail.
Approaching trail connecting Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center to the John Muir Trail.

Visitor Center Trail Junction
with the
John Muir Trail

Map
Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Visitor Center Trail Junction
Miles and Elevations

Page Index


Hiking to The
Visitor Center junction along the John Muir Trail
Trail to Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center from John Muir Trail.
Easy-Peasy
Hiking West from Tuolumne Meadows Campground we encounter this sign warning us of the upcoming short length of trail connecting the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center to the John Muir Trail.
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Northbound
Hiking North
Beyond the Visitor Center
Soda Springs, Parsons Lodge, and Glen Aulin to the North beyond the Visitor Center.

Soda Springs, Parsons Lodge, and Glen Aulin to the North of Tuolumne Meadows beyond the Visitor Center.

An old service road runs from the Visitors Center across Tuolumne Meadows to the bridge below Parsons Lodge, where hikers can connect with the PCT-TYT North to Glen Aulin, and eventually our next resupply 75 miles to our North at
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station and Resort.

Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

 


Southwest on the John Muir Trail
Visitor Center junction
along the John Muir Trail
To Yosemite Valley!
Miles on the John Muir Trail to Cathedral Lakes and Sunrise High Sierra Camp.

Miles on the John Muir Trail cited on the sign above at the junction behind the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center hiking Southwest. We are hiking "backwards" on the JMT, to Cathedral Lakes and Sunrise High Sierra Camp beyond.

It is a tenth of a mile North to the sign on Highway 120 at the Visitor Center according to the differences between that sign and the one above.

This sign above puts Sunrise High Sierra Camp at 8.6 miles from our position on the JMT at this junction behind the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center.

This guide measures that same distance at 7.5 miles. To make miles even murkier, the next trail junction at the wilderness boundary .52 of a mile to our West measures the distance to Sunrise HSC from there at 7.5 miles.

We have three figures for the miles to Sunrise HSC from here:

8.6 miles as cited on the sign pictured above.
7.5 miles as cited on this trail guide.
6.98 miles, extrapolated from the 7.7 cited at the wilderness boundary sign, minus .52 mile.

Steel Sign Totals
The Trail Mileage Sign at Sunrise measures the mileage from Sunrise to Yosemite Valley at 13.2 miles.

That makes our total from here at the Visitor Center trail junction to Happy Isles 21.8 miles. According to the Steel Yosemite Trail Signs themselves. But we've got to take all posted trail miles with a degree of skepticism. Yosemite's signs do not necessarily agree with each other, as we see arriving at the next Yosemite Trail Miles Sign, at the wilderness boundary below.

More on Miles Below

I measure it at .94 of a mile from here at the Visitor Center Junction to the Post Office in Tuolumne Meadows, making the total from the Post Office to Happy Isles 22.74 miles, based on the miles cited by the Steel Yosemite Trail Miles Signs.

This trail guide cites 20.86 miles measuring this same segment of trail to Happy Isles Trailhead from this trail junction, and a grand total of 21.8 miles from the Post Office in Tuolumne Meadows.

I'm sure that each of us has experienced trails where we've said,
"That trail was a hell of a lot (longer-shorter) than I expected it to be."

Now we know why.

Miles and Elevations
Tuolumne Meadows
to
Yosemite Valley

Tuolumne Meadows to Lower Cathedral Lake
MILES and ELEVATIONS
  A "Must" Read
About
Miles and Elevations
in the
High Sierra

Maps
Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map
Central Yosemite Hiking Map
30 minute topo hiking map

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NORTH
Sign At the Visitor Center
on
Highway 120
 Trail sign on West end of Tuolumne Meadows Campground Road.

Trail sign at the Visitor Center and Highway 120.

If we turn North and hike the short length of trail to Highway 120 we'll find our little trail up to the John Muir Trail marked on Highway 120 by the the sign above, which leads us to the bridge over Bubs Creek, and the JMT to Cathedral Lakes.

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JMT Southwest
Towards Cathedral Lakes
Towards Cathedral Lakes from Tuolumne Meadows.

Continuing hiking West towards Cathedral Lakes along the John Muir Trail from the junction behind the Visitor Center in Tuolumne Meadows.

A rocky and sandy track.


More Sand than Rock
Indications of sandy condions.
Sandy conditions from broken-down fragile topsoil.
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View Southeast
Rising Above the Forest
Southeast we see cockscomb on the Cathedral Range Crestline.

Southeast, looking back over our Left shoulder, we see the Cockscomb on the Cathedral Range Crestline rising above the forest.

Take a look at the Cathedral Range rising above the South perimeter of Tuolumne Meadows from
Cold Canyon.


Looking to our West-Northwest
-Southbound Hiker's Right-
Fairview Dome from the John Muir Trail.
To the Northwest we can see the top of part of the the tail-end of the the Fairview Dome formation rising above the forest.
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Budd Creek Bridge
Yosemite Wilderness Boundary
Bud Creek Bridge approaching the Yosemite Wilderness Boundary.

Budd Creek Bridge approaching the Yosemite Wilderness Boundary. We can see the boundary post in the distance beyond the bridge.

A trail to the Right leads down to a little parking area along Highway 120 entering the West Side of Tuolumne Meadows.

Our route along the JMT now veers Left, to our Southwest, to begin the climb up to Cathedral Lakes and Pass.


Wilderness Boundary Trail Junction
with the
John Muir Trail

Map
Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Wilderness Boundary Trail Junction
Miles and Elevations

Page Index

YOSEMITE WILDERNESS BOUNDARY
Wilderness boundary marker at Budds Creek in Tuolumne Meadows.
Wilderness boundary marker at Budd Creek in Tuolumne Meadows.
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The official welcome to the Yosemite Wilderness.
Entering Yosemite Wilderness

Towards Yosemite Valley

Our goal is a bit unusual, when measured against the typical traffic here.

We can see two significant backpacking groups at play here. First, we have the John Muir Trail running at full capacity out of the Valley. I must say that Yosemite does a good job keeping things somewhat quiet.

This Southbound herd of John Muir Trailers is balanced against many local backpackers out of Tuolumne Meadows (and associated trailheads) who's destination, or one destination, is Cathedral Lakes.

Hiking South from Emigrant Wilderness into Yosemite we have noted the increasing trail traffic and wear entering Yosemite, then its increase as we hiked closer to its high heart beating with activity in Tuolumne Meadows. Approaching Tuolumne we experienced greater human impact.

Now, passing Tuolumne Meadows approaching The Valley we will see both increasing human impact and restrictions on human use.

We are in what I call, "The Hot Zone," where the intense beauty of Nature has drawn the intense attention of mass culture, and intense mass culture and incredible beauties of Nature literally sit side by side.

It's the crazy and sane, it's fire and ice, it's Man and Nature.
It's Yosemite!
There's no better "Frame" to view Man's crazy and sane behavior through than Yosemite. We are really passing through the looking-Glass now, my fellow Rabbits!

There's some crazy shit below, once we finish this upcoming hike through Cathedral Pass, my friends! I mean in both cultural and natural terms.

Wear Factor MAX
We are going to notice subtle physical "wear" factors from here on down to The Valley, and climbing back out again along our exit route up the Merced River and over Vogelsang to Lyell Canyon.

The feet of so many people have literally worn-in, imparted a look of heavy use on virtually every soft-trail surface (and the notorious Yosemite "triple- trail"), and have polished-up most of the hard rock trails too, even in the most pristine areas.

Any good Forest Manager knows that there is no such thing as, "Leave No Trace." We all leave traces. "Leave No Trace" is a philosophy, an ideal approach to wilderness travel and Nature.

The best we can hope for is controlling our actions that the traces we inevitably leave behind are not too destructive, if not fatal.

Trail Culture Max
On the other side of this equation, we are going to meet some of the nicest people from each aspect of trail culture in the whole world here in the Heart of Yosemite,


Cathedral Meadow Restoration Project Notice at Trailhead.

Cathedral Meadow Restoration Notice.

Note the medical tape holding the sign together.

Medical Tape is always part of my First Aid kit, though I did not use mine to repair the sign. I assume trail crew came upon the sign problem, and used what they had on hand to fix it.

It's a good practice to carry med tape... I prefer it over duct tape. Med tape does not leave adhesive on the skin after removal, as does duct tape.

Gear List

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Safe Wilderness Travel in Yosemite National Park.

Have a Safe Trip in the Yosemite Wilderness.

I address safety and fitness issues in the introductions to hiking the TW and TYT to this guide.

This is also a good mountain safety reference:
Friends of YOSAR

Mountain Safety Forum


Miles to the Beginning of the John Muir Trail
Miles from Tuolumne Meadows West Trailhead to Cathedral Lakes and Yosemite Valley.

MILES
Above we have the mileage to the John Muir Trailhead in Yosemite Valley measured out at 20.9 miles from this wilderness boundary.

Adding 1.46 miles from here to the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office put the total miles at
22.26 miles. That is pretty close to the 22.74 miles we sussed out from the figures given by the visitor center miles sign, above.

The sign at Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley measures the distance to Tuolumne Meadows at 27.3 miles, and cites the whole length of the John Muir Trail at 211 miles to Mount Whitney.

The Happy Isles sign may well be referring to the route through Merced Lake over Tuolumne Pass to Tuolumne Meadows, or the route past Evelyn Lake into Lyell Canyon, as indicated by the trail sign entering Lyell Canyon.

In either case the one thing we know for sure is that the end point of our hike is at Happy Isles Trailhead in The Valley. The question is then, "where are the Yosemite Trail Signs placing the start point of our section in Tuolumne Meadows?"

Put another way, we know one reference point is at Happy Isles Trailhead. Where then does Yosemite National Park measure the end point of this section in Tuolumne Meadows?

ZERO POINTS
About the Guide vs. the Upcoming Signs


ZERO POINT
on this
GUIDE
The start point, the "Zero Point," of the miles measured On This Guide between Tuolumne Meadows and Happy Isles
is the
Tuolumne Meadows Post Office.

The Post Office
is

The center of Tuolumne Meadows for long distance backpackers.

Why?
Because it is where we pick up our resupply packages, while the store on one side is valuable for fresh and cold foods, the cafe on the other side covers hot food.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
ZERO POINT

The Yosemite Trail Mileage Signs we are going to encounter hiking down to Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley measure the start point in Tuolumne Meadows from the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, AKA The Tuolumne Meadows High Sierra Camp.

This figure will have to be adjusted by most hikers. The vast majority of hikers neither started from, nor are hiking to, or will even visit the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.

Virtually every long distance backpacker stops at the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office before continuing their trip.

The Tuolumne Meadows Lodge & HSC are located 1.46 miles East of the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office. This means that all the Yosemite Miles Signs we encounter measuring the distance to and from Tuolumne Meadows are adding 1.46 extra miles to those we will hike to arrive at the Post Office (and store-cafe), and our nearby Backpackers Camp.

In any case it is good to know the exact zero point of any set of mileage figures. We have a series of issues affecting the accuracy of Yosemite Trail Mileage Signs we discuss as we encounter them, as above. We discuss typical High Sierra mileage & accuracy issues here:

Mileage Issues for Backpackers

MILES
Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Miles and Elevations

Accuracy
About the Guide vs. the Upcoming Signs

We cite 21.8 miles as the distance along the John Muir Trail route from the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office to its Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley.

This compares favorably with the 20.9 miles cited on the Yosemite Miles Sign at the Wilderness Boundary the JMT crosses on the perimeter of Tuolumne Meadows, the sign above, when adjusted to measure the same length of trail.

We do that by subtracting the 1.46 miles distance from this boundary to the Post Office from our miles figure to Happy Isles.

21.8 - 1.46 = 20.34 miles

The total miles figure cited on this guide between Happy Isles and the Yosemite Miles Post above, the wilderness boundary, differ by .54 of a mile.

Enduring Anomalies
Note that the 7.7 miles cited to Sunrise High Sierra Camp on the wilderness boundary sign above is .9 of a mile less than the 8.6 miles cited on the Steel Yosemite Miles Sign .52 of a mile behind us at the Visitor Center Junction, above.

That indicates trail distances have changed dramatically over the decades
between the installation of the two signs.

I discuss these issues in
Mileage Issues for Backpackers.

Range of Citations

I measure the distance from here to Sunrise HSC at 6.98 miles.

The Red Yosemite Trail Miles Sign above measures it at 7.7.

The Steel Yosemite Trail Miles Sign at the Vis Center indicates
8.8 miles from here at the wilderness boundary to Sunrise HSC.

The range of the three mileage citations we use for the distance from the wilderness boundary to Sunrise High Sierra Camp vary over a span of 1.82 miles! That is a huge disparity across such a short distance.

The difference between our Tahoe to Whitney figures and the Red Yosemite Signs is a more tolerable .72 of a mile, but that is still a big difference.

Caution Required
These disparities indicate that the figures given on all the Steel Yosemite Miles Signs should be treated with caution, not relied on, and be double, and cross checked when at all possible.

As should all mileage figures.

This is why we always have some. "extra gas in the tank."

Again,
Mileage Issues for Backpackers.

MAPS
Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map
Central Yosemite Hiking Map
30 minute topo hiking map

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OH-MY-MILES !
Divergent Miles Figures from Yosemite Trail Miles Signs, Above.

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WEST
Miles West Along Highway 120
to
Tenaya Lake and May Lake
Miles to Tenaya and May Lakes from West end of Tuolumne Meadows.

Miles to Tenaya and May Lakes from West end of Tuolumne Meadows at the Wilderness Boundary.

This trail breaks off from the John Muir Trail running West to parallel Highway 120, following it West and then Southwest to Tenaya Lake. I'm pretty sure the trail to May Lake branches off before reaching Mendlicott Dome. Well, not exactly a trail.

I will bet dollars to dimes that there are unmarked cross country routes from near where Cathedral Creek crosses Highway 120 both South to May Lake and North to Glen Aulin.

 



Miles on the JMT
East
Towards Tuolumne Meadows
Federal Facilities
John Muir Trail East from West end of Tuolumne Meadows.

Eastbound John Muir Trail from our position on the West end of Tuolumne Meadows.

East, Back the way we came, towards the Visitor Center, where one could turn North towards Glen Aulin, as indicated by the sign above.

The 3.8 mile distance is to Tuolumne Lodge on the far East Side of Tuolumne Meadow's Federal Facilities.

I have this distance at 2.92 miles from here to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge by hiking through the campground and past the Post Office, rather than following the John Muir Trail route around the South perimeter of the Federal facilities.

My route is shorter by being more direct, so I imagine the 3.8 mile figure cited above reflects the distance following the JMT around the perimeter of the Federal facilities before hiking up to the bridge across the Tuolumne River on Highway 120. The route cited on this guide (the miles page) is the most direct route from this Wilderness Boundary to the Post Office and on to the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge beyond.

Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

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Hiking
to
Yosemite Valley

Our Position

Elevation
8590

Mileage
1.46 miles from
Tuolumne Meadows Post Office

To
Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Sign Facts, Above

TM to Valley
Miles and Elevations


Sandbox
Sandy trail to Cathedral Lakes.

Sandy trail to Cathedral Lakes.

Our nice trail working its way through dense forest is occasionally offset by long views over forest cover at the surrounding granite wonders.

Well, we are getting longer views when we find breaks in the forest cover as we climb higher.


Quiet Moments
Deer above Tuolumne Meadows.

Wildlife.

The deer saw me, was unconcerned, but began to walk away, as deer seem to do even from things they are unafraid of, if unfamiliar. Their common behavior is to walk away from non-or-minor threatening unknowns, in my experience.

This "walk away" behavior is a more relaxed expression of Deer's very cautious character. Deer instantly run when they are at all seriously concerned with an impending threat, if the "freeze" is not called for.

Deer do the "freeze or flee" decision dichotomy under serious threats.

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Sheer and Sweet
Unicorn Peak from John Muir Trail climbing to Cathedral Lake.

Above the Forest
Unique perspective on Unicorn Peak from John Muir Trail as we are climbing to Cathedral Lakes.

Keeping our eyes open behind us as we proceed gives us some interesting views of the decorative crown of the Cathedral Range rising above Tuolumne Meadows over our Left shoulder.

We are rewarded with a whole series of unique views of the magnificent surrounding peaks and domes peeking through breaks in forest cover, if we keep our eyes open and up.

We see great granite formations rising above the top of the forest cover, through breaks and cracks
in the forest cover, which is nothing short of delightful.


Miles of Smiles
Nicest folks day-hiking to Cathedral Lake out of Tuolumne Meadows.

Under the Forest
The Nicest folks are day-hiking to Cathedral Lake out of Tuolumne Meadows.

We meet the nicest folks out here.

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Massive
North End of the Cathedral Massif
The vast granite feature making up the very Northern end of the Cathedral Peak Massif.

The vast granite feature making up the very Northern end of the Cathedral Peak Massif. We are moving around it's Northern base to Cathedral Lakes laying under its Western Flank, off to the Right in the image above.


In Pursuit
Day Hikers Ahead
Catching up with family of day hikers on their way up to Cathedral Lakes.
Catching up with family of day hikers on their way up to Cathedral Lakes.
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Scoping Each Other Out
Little dude sees me passing first.

Yo, Little Bro.
Little dude sees me passing first.

Interest shows in his eyes.


Family Hike
We stop to say hi to the whole family unit.

We stop to say hi to the whole family unit.

What-Up in the Wilderness Wonderland?

Growing family getting the Kid into the Mix while the parental units maintain Natural engagement.

I call that a future hiking unit being familiarized with the environment.

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Expansive Views Open Up
View Northeast into Hoover Wilderness.

We are beginning to climb high enough to get glimpses of the surrounding landmarks beyond our forest cover, when we finally get high enough to get good glimpses out from and above our covering forest.

We get our first views Northeast into Hoover Wilderness. We are looking across Tuolumne Meadows, which is out of sight below, it's position obscured by the forest.

This is going to get good!


Degraded Surfaces
Heavy traffic breaks down to a sandy trail up to Cathedral Lake.

Heavy traffic breaks down to a sandy trail up to Cathedral Lake.

The close-in forest terrain is nice and cozy, despite trail traffic and wear.

An intimate feeling of quiet rises and falls with the density of forest.

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Up the Trail
Approaching Northwest Flank of Cathedral Peak hiking South towards Cathedral Lakes.
A gap in the forest cover exposes a Northwestern Flank of Cathedral Peak as our route turns more directly South as we continue hiking towards Cathedral Lakes.

Cathedral Flank
A closer look at the sheer Northwestern Flank of Cathedral Peak approaching Cathedral Lakes.
A closer look at the sheer Northwestern Flank of Cathedral Peak approaching Cathedral Lakes.
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On the Trail
Three cool backpackers on the trail out of the heart of Yosemite.

Three cool backpackers on the trail out of the heart of Yosemite.

Trevor, Alahandra, and Larry.

Two things happen out here. Nature animates and Nature drains.

Nature fills the spirit with life while putting great demands on the flesh.

How we look and feel on the way out is our final gage of how we balanced these two fundamental forces.

This triplet of hikers was looking good.


To the Northwest
A Rising Wall of Rock
The main dome of Fairview Dome rises about its surrounding collar of forest.

Looking to our Northwest we see the main dome of Fairview Dome rising above its surrounding collar of forest.

Well, we begin to pick it out between the trees. We've seen elements of its "tail," its great descending smooth oblong granite ridge that we've seen peeking through the forest to our Northwest as we've climbed from the wilderness boundary.

Now the quite impressive main rock's commanding presence demands our attention.

We can throw a rock and hit it.

Looks like some nice potential scrambling over on Fairview Dome.

Some Fine Views
of
Fairview Dome
View Fairview Dome from the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail hiking in
Lower Tuolumne Meadows.

End of Fairview Dome
from Upper Tuolumne Meadow.

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Mostly-Happy Herd
Eight day hikers on trail to Cathedral Lakes from Tuolumne Meadows.

Eight day hikers on trail to Cathedral Lakes from Tuolumne Meadows.

A Small Herd!

Though somewhat damaged and heavily loaded I was moving quickly through lots of day hikers. Their density depends on the times of year we hike through. October gets really quiet. July is really busy.

Use caution around the crowds of day hikers on Yosemite Trails. Many are not paying attention and will walk right into fully loaded backpackers. Some are struggling along. Others are watching everything. Our skill is knowing which ones are walking blindly and which are engaged observers.

It's pretty clear...

Our skill is enjoying the differences as we all hike along, not just from our start to end points, but also hiking between the various "stations," the mental and physical spaces we visit hiking through wide ranges of human experience triggered by the rigors as we push towards our goal.

Pain, Pleasure, and so on...


Along Cathedral Crestline
Feature on Cathedral Peak of the Cathedral Range.

Feature on Cathedral Peak of the Cathedral Range.

Check out the view of our position here under Cathedral Peak from Cold Canyon as we came hiking down the route of the PCT-TYT.

The view from the bottom of Cold Canyon shows us the "ramp" of terrain we are climbing Southwest from Tuolumne Meadows leading us up onto the shelf where the Cathedral Lakes are situated under Cathedral, Echo, and Tressidor Peaks just below Cathedral Pass.

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Cathedral Rock Rises Abruptly
Sweet granite peaks along Cathedral Peak's Crestline running to its starry summit.
Sweet granite formations along Cathedral Peak's massif running up to its starry summit.

TYPICAL
Climbing Trail
But, with more sand...
Sample of climbing to Cathedral Lake from Tuolumne Meadows.

Sample of climbing to Cathedral Lake from Tuolumne Meadows.

After climbing to, and enjoying crossing a flattish sandy shelf on our way up from the wilderness boundary, we resume climbing again.

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Northeast: View of Mount Conness
Rising above Fairview Dome our view Northeast takes in the Sierra Crestline capped by Mount Conness.

Rising above Fairview Dome combined with finding a crack in the dense forest cover opens up a view Northeast to take in the Sierra Crestline capped by Mount Conness.

Ragged Peak in the foreground-Left.

Map of Mount Conness East of Yosemite
Splitting the Sierra Crestline with the Hoover Wilderness
.

View of Mount Conness to our East
hiking South down Cold Canyon
.


Cathedral Peak
Coming around to the West Flank of Cathedral Peak we see Echo Peaks down the Southern-running crestline.
Coming around to the West Flank of Cathedral Peak we begin to enjoy observing the unique changeability of the character of its Peaks from a rotating perspective complimenting its many aspects.
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Cathedral Peak
Echo Peaks above Cathedral Lakes in the Cathedral Range.

Cathedral Peak Formations rotate into a clearer view as we hike South around the base of the Cathedral Peak and upward under its Western flank towards the Cathedral Lake trail junction.

We can see that what appeared as a bulky mountain top while hiking down Cold Canyon appears as a fragile silhouette from here, as we get close-up rotating views of the crestline from the John Muir Trail under Cathedral Peak.


Day Hikers
Nice couple day hiking all around Cathedral Lakes.

Nice couple having a great time day hiking all around Cathedral Lakes.

You will meet the nicest folks out here.

Folks who are animated and engaged.

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Cathedral Lake Trail Junction
with the
John Muir Trail

9439 Feet

864 feet above
Post Office

4.05 miles from
Post Office

Half a mile spur trail off John Muir Trail out to Lower Cathedral Lake.

Map
Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map

Mileage
Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Lower Cathedral Lake Trail Junction
Miles and Elevations

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Cathedral Lake Trail Junction

Trail Junction
SOUTHWEST
to Lower Cathedral Lake

Cathedral Lake Trail Junction under Cathedral Peak to the lower lake.

Cathedral Lake Trail Junction under Cathedral Peak directing us onto the spur trail out to the lower lake.

The JMT continues up a short segment of gently-rising terrain before resuming brief middle-difficulty climb to Upper Cathedral Lake preceding Cathedral Pass.

Tuolumne Meadows Hiking Map
15 minute topo hiking map
Central Yosemite Hiking Map
30 minute topo hiking map

Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Miles and Elevations

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North JMT
Back To Tuolumne Meadows
(The Top of This Page)

Yosemite miles sign cilts 5.5 miles from Tuolumne Meadows to Cathedral Lakes junction.

Yosemite miles sign cites 5.5 miles from Tuolumne Meadows to Cathedral Lakes junction.

This is a reasonable figure depending on where "Tuolumne Meadows" is.

If the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge High Sierra Camp is considered "Tuolumne Meadows," then the 5.5 miles measured to its location on the far Eastern end of the Tuolumne Meadows Facilities, a mile and a half East of the Post Office, may not be out of the range of reason.

This trail guide cites the distance from the junction above to the Post Office at 4.05 miles, and the distance to the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge from there at 1.46 miles. The total distance from here to the Lodge is 5.46 miles according to our measurements, making this particular sign correct, if interpreted correctly.

Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Miles and Elevations

We discuss signs, miles, and zero points above.


South JMT
Cathedral Lakes to Sunrise High Sierra Camp
(The Next Page)

4.5 miles to Sunrise HSC, and 19.6 miles to Yosemite Valley from Cathedral Lakes trail junction.

This Steel Yosemite Trail Miles Sign
4.5 miles to Sunrise HSC, and 19.6 to Yosemite Valley from Cathedral Lakes trail junction.

TW Trail Guide Miles
4.39 miles to Sunrise HSC, and 17.75 to Yosemite Valley from here:

Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley
Miles and Elevations

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Hiking to
Lower Cathedral Lake
Down the Spur Trail to Lower Cathedral Lake
We look at the JMT through boulder field as we drop down towards Lower Cathedral Lake.
We look back at the JMT winding its way through a boulder field as we split away to the Southwest dropping down towards Lower Cathedral Lake.

Creek to Meadow
Creek from John Muir Trail to Lower Cathedral Lake in Yosemite Wilderness.
Our trail fords, then follows a rough path down along the creek connecting Upper Cathedral Lake to the Lower Lake.
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Forest-Meadow Interface
Trail to Lower Cathedral Lake.

Trail to Lower Cathedral Lake.

Followed the jumbled run of the creek down to a brightening forest-meadow interface.


East Edge of Lower Cathedral Meadow
Westbound entering meadow around East Shore of Lower Cathedral Lake.

At the bottom of the creek we come to the perimeter of an expansive meadow wrapping around the granite arm wrapping around the East Shore of Lower Cathedral Lake.

We are Westbound entering East fringe of meadow around East Shore of Lower Cathedral Lake.

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View West across Lower Cathedral Meadow
First view of Lower Cathedral Lake hiking across expansive meadow East of the lake.
First view of Lower Cathedral Lake and its protective granite berm wrapping its Eastern shore.

Northwest sits Cathedral Peak
Inspecting Cathedral Peak as we hike West towards Cathedral Lake across its meadow apron.
Looking back to our East at Cathedral Peak as we hike West to its namesake lake to end our day as the day draws to a close.
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Detail of Complex top of Cathedral Peak
Detail of Cathedral Peak from Lower Cathedral Lake.

Detail of Cathedral Peak from Lower Cathedral Lake.

Each perspective adds to our understanding while adding layers of complexity to the character of the mountain, one layer at a time.


Fantastic Wall wrapping around Lower Cathedral Lake and Meadow
A granite berm across the splendid Lower Cathedral Lake's Basin divides the Meadow on our Left from Lower Cathedral Lake on our Right.

Looking South from atop the granite berm running across the splendid Lower Cathedral Lake's Basin dividing its Meadow component on our Left, the East, from Lower Cathedral Lake on our Right.

Atop the wall, over off its Eastern edge, the Left edge of the image above, sits the upper flat cradling Upper Cathedral Lake just below Cathedral Pass.

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Lower Cathedral Lake Campsite
Campsite on the berm dividing the lower Cathedral meadow from the lake.

Campsite established on the granite berm above both meadow and lake, a good place to observe the "action" as day turns into evening and finally night.

Also above the meadow zone of the mosquitoes.

My backpack is acting as my backrest, while the Garcia food canister is the foot rest.

A very nice platform for relaxed observations...


Harsh Glare of Approaching Sunset
Afternoon Sun dropping towards horizon above Cathedral Lake.

Afternoon Sun dropping towards horizon above Cathedral Lake.

In our eye.

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Night Falling
Sunset on Lower Cathedral Lake.
Sunset on Lower Cathedral Lake.

Golden Twilights
Cathedral Peak, the rounded crestline of Peak 11168 and Echo Peaks in Sunset's amber glow.

Cathedral Peak on the far Left, the rounded crestline of Peak 11168 in the middle-most distance, and Echo Peaks jutting up on the far Right side of this image of Sunset's amber glow from our Lower Cathedral Lake campsite.

Long languorous shadows begin hunting and trapping the last bits of glowing sun between their growing fingers.

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Last of the Golden Amber Glow
Just after sunset at Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park.

Gone.

The golden glow is the last bit of day to go.

Last of the shadows withdrawing with the last of the golden glow fades as darkness asserts
itself at Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park.


Cool Clarity of Morning Views
First light of day reaching down to Lower Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park.
Lower Cathedral about to get first direct light of day.
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Steel Gray Morning after Golden Sunset
Looking at Cathedral Peak in the moring hiking back to the JMT to continue on down to the Yosemite Valley.

Another Aspect of Cathedral Peak.
Hiking back to the John Muir Trail.

Page Index Top of Page

Back to the John Muir Trail

Northbound,
Back to Tuolumne Meadows
AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE

Next Page South:
Cathedral Lake Trail Junction

South to Sunrise
and on to
Yosemite Valley

North: Tuolumne Meadows, top of this page                                     South: South to Sunrise and Yosemite Valley

Backpacking
The Heart of Yosemite National Park

The Golden Triangle

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 arrive at roughly the center of the Sierra Nevada hiking into 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.

Since I consider everything South of Tuolumne Meadow to be the South Sierra, our explorations of the center of Yosemite will be quite limited. Unless...

The GC
Unless we take an amazing alternative route that will run us down to Yosemite Valley and back up to the JMT 5.6 miles South of Tuolumne Meadows in Lyell Canyon.
This is the Golden Triangle Route. Hiking the Golden Triangle Route in conjunction with, or I should say in addition to our hiking into Yosemite across the North Yosemite Backcountry, and our hiking out of Yosemite through Donohue Pass will give us a broad view of this magnificent park on our way down the Sierra Crest from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney.

 

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

COME ON BACK NOW, 'YA HEAR?

 

7.5 Map:
Tuolumne Meadows Region

30 min Map
Central Yosemite

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

Cathedral
Lakes
to
Sunrise
High
Sierra
Camp

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