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JMT: Segment 1 - Happy Isles to Tuolomne Meadows

 4.9 (8)

A glorious hike through the high sierra in Yosemite Wilderness with a breathtaking waterfall finale.

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Point to Point

9,915' 3,022 m


4,055' 1,236 m


6,717' 2,047 m


2,052' 626 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (24°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Geological Significance · Lake · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers

Yosemite is on a permit only system currently. Check with the park to see what you need when you are looking at using this.

This is a one way hike. During normal times you should be able to take the park bus. During covid times, have a shuttle set up.

Section Of


This description is from Toulomne Meadows to Happy Isles, as I prefer a 6,700 foot drop with a 2,000 foot climb to the opposite.

This trail starts in Toulomne Meadows. If you want to cut a little distance off the hike, and avoid some of the chaos of the area, you can start at Cathedral Lakes TH. This first stretch of trail is a gentle uphill through the forest. The path is wide and there are bound to be plenty of people on their way to or from Cathedral Lakes (usually Lower Cathedral Lake).

About 2.5 miles from the Cathedral Lakes TH the trail to Lower Cathedral Lake splits off to the right. It is a worthy side trip and particularly worth adding those miles when you've shaved the miles starting at the Cathedral Lakes TH. The lake can be busy but offers a lovely alpine lake in a short distance. If you don't want to add the mileage however, I don't think you are missing much. Upper Cathedral Lakes is just up the trail, and viewable from the trail, and it is almost as scenic and without the crowds.

Once past the lakes, you'll mostly only see backpackers. Though we saw enough people to remind us we weren't alone, we only ran into a few people or groups until we got to the falls at the top of the valley.

Anyway, past the lakes you'll begin another gentle climb through woods with Cathedral Peak providing the main backdrop. About 5 miles after the Cathedral Lakes TH you'll reach a ridge and drop into a meadow. Crossing it you'll find a trail to Sunrise High Sierra Campsite and the Sunrise Lakes Trail to the right, with a backcountry bathroom in case you feel the need. From this point the trail begins to climb again, gently, for about 1.5 miles to the high point of this hike. This is where the downhill splendor begins.

Enjoy the views of the mountains in the distance as you drop down a rocky series of moderately steep switchbacks through the forest, quickly meeting up with a stream. It doesn't take long for the trail to begin to moderate and for a soft singletrack to wind its way before you. Absolutely effortless running. After maybe 3-4 miles of this you'll reach a burn area. This doesn't start out badly and there is a lovely creek to stop at for water or relaxing. However, once you move on past the creek, with half dome coming into view and the valley around the corner, the thorny overgrowth does get annoying. It doesn't last too long. Maybe a mile. Then, it is blissful running to the falls. Enjoy the views. Ignore the crowds. Three miles to go.

Shared By:

Jason Doedderlein

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 8 votes


  4.9 from 8 votes
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Current Trail Conditions

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Sep 11, 2020
Don Childrey
Jun 28, 2020
Nicolas Caramp
Segment to Lower Cathedral Lake 2.6mi
Oct 21, 2019
Hopped on a segment to connect back to clouds rest trail after sumitting Half Dome.
Sep 11, 2019
JoAnn Saccato
Super cold last night! Hand warmers saved me. Liter of water frozen solid! Day unfolding nicely. Yoga and meditation on granite slab always a blessing
Sep 10, 2019
JoAnn Saccato
Climb the rocks behind upper cathedral lake for a stunning view of lower cathedral and surrounding granite grandeur.
Sep 9, 2019
JoAnn Saccato
Upper cathedral lake
Sep 6, 2019
Aimee Milarski
Aug 23, 2019
Lewis Perkins