Spring Hike from Tuolumne Meadows to 10,000 ft
Last weekend I had the urge to go and try my hand hiking up in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Tioga pass has been open off and on for a few weeks now, but I kept deciding to put it off because I wanted to really hike – not to hike for a bit, then run into the snow line and have to turn around. But, after hearing reports of diminishing snow levels from friends though I decided to give it a try. It just felt like about time to head up to the high sierra.
I set off to attempt to reach Young Lakes, a set of lakes I have not yet visited above Tuolumne Meadows. I still haven’t seen the lakes, but in terms of springtime high country hiking it was a pretty successful trip. Of course it is not good news that I had success hiking up to 10000 ft in May, and our California rivers, ecosystems, reservoirs, and water supply are hurting because of the low levels of snowpack… but if life gives you lemons, then why not make some (high)country lemonade?
Hiking Young Lakes Loop to 10,000 ft views, Delaney Creek Meadow, & Dog Lake
Trailhead: I parked at the Lembert Dome Trailhead off of highway 120 – a busy little day use only parking lot with restrooms. Map
Distance: Going to Young Lakes via the loop is in theory a 15-ish mile hike round trip. Since I did not reach Young Lakes, instead actually traversing part of the loop and cutting the distance short due to the snow, I hiked around 11 miles. Although this hike is in high country it is a relatively gradual uphill hike comparatively.
I hiked the loop clockwise, leaving Lembert dome and hiking towards Tuolumne meadows and then up towards the PCT. Backpackers are already heading out to Glen Aulin this time of year – crossing the logs “bridges” across the high flow of Delaney Creek.
Here is a confession: I kind of hate log crossings over rushing creeks. Heights don’t get to me, but being a foot and a half over a rushing creek – ugh. I blame it on reading ‘Death in Yosemite’. Because of that book I have imagined falling off a log, into a creek and bashing my head into the rocks one too many times. And while hiking solo there is no one to offer a hand?!…Of course this is all totally in my head – the creek isn’t really that deep and there are plenty of hikers/backpackers heading to Glen Aulin which will help you out even if you do fall. As Eleanor Roosevelt say: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
After crossing Delaney creek the trail to Young Lakes forks from the PCT and becomes less used. Eventually at around 9600 ft I reach snow elevation.
At this point I was less then a mile away from the intersecting loop trail and it was still about an hour before my designated turn around time. The trail was pretty easy to loose in the woods, but heading away from the treeline the snow became more spotty. Here I was able to scout a hike-able route to a few vistas, and eventually the other side of the loop trail.
The return trail does have some wonderful views of Ragged Peak, Cathedral peak, and all those mountains south of Tioga Rd. Reaching the meadow were Delaney Creek crosses the trail is pretty serene too… until you realize you have to cross this sucker, and the apparent crossing spot would entail wading to my waist depth in water. Really, river crossing gods? Of course following the river up a couple branches there is a spot only at knee height – and a snow melt soak is good for them, right?
I did a final stop at Dog Lake, where I met a gorgeous lake and (after not seeing anyone for a couple hours now) the general hiking population, then headed down to my car. I think if I were planning this early season hike to Young Lakes again I would just hike this trail from Lembert Dome to Dog Lake and up to the higher elevation instead of the loop trail – there is less snow along it, andit is arguably more vista filled.
I like to think of early season high country hiking as a character/attitude building exercise, and this one was pretty successful. I would still like to visit Young Lakes latter in the season and actually make it to the destination though ;) More photos below: