“An exceptional route with views of everything from granite cliffs to cascading waterfalls.”
— Nate Porter
Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This is an excellent way to take in some of the most beautiful features that Yosemite National Park has to offer. The route takes you past lakes, around pounding waterfalls and gives you plenty of groomed trail to take in the high country scenery.
Need to Know
Familiarize yourself with the free Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle Bus schedule, found here
. I would recommend leaving your car at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, then taking the bus to Sunrise TH. The bus leaves every 30 mins starting at 7 am.
From the trailhead at the shuttle bus stop between Olmstead Point and Tenaya Lake, one should expect to ascend The May Lake Trail
, which is dispersed with varying sizes of rocks. Once the 3 miles of uphill to May Lake has been completed the trail continues to meander alongside the lake until it eventually cuts into some switchbacks. These switchbacks are accompanied by technical descents and are arguably the most technical and challenging part of the trail.
After another few miles on the May Lake Trail
, you'll come to a major trail junction. Here, the May Lake Trail
, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Waterwheel Trail all converge. The May Lake Trail
will end, so turn onto the Waterwheel Trail to descend into Glen Aulin.
The views presented in this section are not disappointing as one overlooks the magnificence that Yosemite's High Country has to offer. However, one will also be sweetly rewarded upon completion of these couple miles of the trail as the next five are perfectly groomed singletrack where you can simply waltz into Glen Aulin. At this point, it is of the utmost importance to stop and take in the serene landscape and powerful waterfalls that plummet hundreds of feet to the valley floor.
Climbing out of Glen Aulin, one cannot help but be inspired by the beautiful granite that surrounds you. The majority of the Glen Aulin Trail from this point until Soda Springs is primarily loose sand on top of rock so it is important to pay attention to your footing. Upon reaching the natural wonder of Soda Springs one will cross Tioga Road and follow signs for the John Muir Trail and the High Sierra Camp of Tuolumne Meadows which is approximately a 3.5-mile hike to the camp and a 2.9-mile hike to the actual meadows themselves.
After crossing the road the remainder of the trail is quite smooth and relatively flat as you can hear the gentle murmur of the river. Upon reaching the Meadows and Twin Bridges that cross the river there will be one last uphill before you cruise into the High Sierra Camp and end your hike with a cold beer (or perhaps continue up to Lembert Dome
if this hasn't been much of a challenge).