“Reach a pretty lake via an easy river-side trail dotted with cascades, swimming holes & wildflowers.”
— Megan W
Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers
Easy grades for kids, excitement along the river, and a rewarding swim at the end!
Although this is not one of the most spectacular lakes in Yosemite scenery-wise (that bar is pretty high), it is a worthwhile trip if you're staying in this area. Along the way you enjoy hiking through serene forest along the banks of the rushing Middle Tuolumne River
Begin across from the White Wolf Lodge, past the campground where a gate bars the old road to vehicles. Use the bridge to cross over the Middle Tuolumne River
and head generally northwards along the shore. In early season, the river is a torrent of crashing water, but by summer pools form that are fun for swimming if the conditions are safe.
At the first trail junction, you can go either way - the main trail branches left and the the Harden Lake Cutoff
branches right, rejoining the main trail shortly. On the main trail, another intersection soon appears, this time stay right, ignoring the Old Tioga Road
trail that goes west. The Harden Lake Cutoff
rejoins the main trail and now it is not far to the lake itself. Just before reaching the shores, the Smith Peak to Harden Lake Trail
turns off to the left, heading northwest. Stay right at the fork and arrive at the small tree-lined Harden Lake. Folks swim and wade in the shallow water here, which warms and shrinks as the season progresses. There is also a wildflower-filled meadow adjacent to the lake, the inhabitants reach peak bloom by June and early July.
Extra credit: if you'd like to see a distant and partial view of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, head around to the east side of Harden lake to the 3-way trail junction. Take the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
trail about 1/2 a mile down steep switchbacks. From an opening in the trees you should be able to see the east end of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
Once you're ready to head back to the campground, return the same way that you came.
Flora & Fauna
Columbine, lupine, yarrow, buttercups. Lodgepole pine, aspen, Jeffery pines.