Hike Date: August 20, 2009
Distance: ~ 23 miles
Trail(s): Mt. Hoffman Trail, High Sierra Loop, Pacific Crest Trail
Where’s it at? Tuolumne Meadows Northeast of Yosemite Valley
This was a breathtaking trip that I’d love to do again with more time. Me and a buddy started the hike parking near Lembert Dome in Tuolumne Meadows where we parked the car. We hadn’t intended to take this hike but the first-come-first-serve wilderness permit attempt to Vogelsang didn’t go as planned. Because of the drive to get there from the bay, we stayed (free) at the Tuolumne Meadows Backpacking Camp the evening prior and met a few cool people who shared their “site” with us due to the place being packed.
The first leg was to Glen Aulin where we stayed near the High Sierra Camp the first night. The weather was great and the trail was very scenic and fairly easy hiking. Along the trail to Glen Aulin is the awe-inspiring Tuolumne River. The very beginning was mostly a flat meadow around Soda Springs. The first real treat were the few falls around 2/3 of the way to Glen Aulin, which includes the picturesque Tuolumne Falls. This place is like a paradise, a fairly tall fall spilling into an emerald green pool that is swimmable. Took a number of photos here and wished it were our final destination.
From Tuolumne Falls onward was the more challenging part of this leg, though still not too hard. The river helps lead the way. Finally after acending for a while we began the rapid descent to Glen Aulin and White Cascades. Due to the time of year (late summer) the water wasn’t TOO rushed but it was still a very nice waterfall. You could swim around in the large pool at the bottom including swimming underneath the cascade. We did a little fishing here and relaxed after setting up camp.
The camp at Glen Aulin is nice, we went all the way up to one of the farthest sites though there are some very close to White Cascades. One thing that wasn’t so great was that while you have to stay in an assigned campsite, you cannot have campfires at every campsite. There were shared firepits serving about 10-15 campsites each. We had to walk a little ways to the one nearest our site.
An early rise and breakfast and we were on the trail again, this time to May Lake recommended to me by my ranger buddy Andy. He was right, it’s very scenic. What he didn’t mention is what a hike it is to get there.
8-9 miles really isn’t too much, unless it’s plenty of uphill in high altitude with a very heavy backpack on! That’s ok, you should expect excersion while backpacking in the high country.
The first picturesque milestone was arrival at McGee Lake which was absolutely gorgeous. The water was amazingly still. I took a great picture here that has ultimately served as a dekstop and mobile device wallpaper for me ever since. We didn’t really linger here, in fact we didn’t linger anywhere for long on this leg. The buddy Dylan is relentless about not resting. (in fact, as I’ll mention later, he didn’t even want to go home at the end of our trip)
About 1/3 of the way to May Lake Cathedral Creek crosses the trail. The next highlight was the numerous Poly Dome Lakes at the base of the ascent to Mount Hoffman. Gorgeous. I found myself already getting a little tired here when I was warned that the rest of the way was a fairly steep switchback trail. The climb was brutal requiring a number of stops to catch a breath and rest the legs. I always pack too much stuff but the was one rare occasion where I seriously considered leaving some on the mountain to lighten the load. But I trekked onward.
Finally we reached May Lake and it’s alpine beauty. What a great view across the lake and up to Mt. Hoffman. May Lake is pretty large and on this day it appeared to be much warmer than the surrounding air causing a light fog to rise from it’s surface for added effect. As of today the background for my blog is a picture of this phenomenon. There’s a better version in the “outdoor wallpaper?” section.
After sleeping like a baby we had planned to continue the journey to Hidden Lake on the way back, but the weather was not cooperating. it rained for several hours and soaked everything so I voted for sleeping in and sticking around May lake for a day with a hike around it without the packs. Onward to the top of Mt. Hoffman (10,850 ft. elevation) we went. There’s a great meadow on the way up which we explored and at the top of Mt. Hoffman you are treated to a very broad view of Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows.
We ended up sleeping nicely and the following morning it was off to home, for me. My friend Dylan took his chances by staying in Tuolumne to hitch or train a ride home… He did eventually come back to the bay area.