The Grand Canyon on the Tuolumne Backpacking in Yosemite

Backpacking the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne - Yosemite National Park

Invited by our friend Christine to attend her annual “Birthday Backpacking Bash” I hiked the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne for 4 days and 3 nights with a group of 9 amazing people. We hiked from White Wolf to Tuolumne meadows, exiting at Pothole Dome. Overall the trip ended up being around 28 miles in length – estimated using both the Yosemite NE and NW National Geographic Maps, which are both necessary to cover the length of this trail.

This trip had been on my “to do” list of backpacking in the park ever since our first year we moved here, hearing the snazzy name (how could you not want to go see a “Grand Canyon?”) and because my internship supervisor at the City of Merced had such glowing reviews after backpacking it with his sons. It was a wonderful trip, as the canyon offered some much needed time to bond with Tuolumne river (which can usually only be accessed by white water rafters and kayaker down near Groveland) and many beautiful waterfall views. The trail was fairly busy – perhaps because we were going against the flow of traffic, often backpackers choose to head down the canyon from Tuolumne Meadows to White Wolf – although we could go for many hours at a time without seeing anyone.

Check out the individual blog posts detailing each day’s hike, sights, swimingholes, and camping spots:

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne Map

Click to see map


12 Responses

  1. Elaine Yastishock
    Elaine Yastishock · August 14, 2014 at 23:25:19 · →

    Thanks for your great blog, Denise! My husband and I are preparing for our annual Yosemite High Country backpacking trip which–in 2014–is the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. However, we’re going the opposite direction (Tuolumne to White Wolf) from your trip and will have 4 nights/5 days. We’re hoping to camp 2 nights in one spot in order to enjoy a day of relaxing day trips without packs.

    We haven’t done this trail before. What spot would you recommend we camp at for 2 nights? I’m thinking maybe some place towards the base of the big uphill at the end. But I’m not sure. I’d like a location that is not only beautiful/peaceful (of course), but that is also in close proximity to other trails.

    What do you suggest? Given your experience there, I’d appreciate any feedback you may have.

    Thank you very much!

    :) Elaine
    San Jose, CA

  2. Elaine Yastishock
    Elaine Yastishock · August 16, 2014 at 10:48:25 · →

    Thank you SO much for your feedback. Rodgers sounds beautiful and I love exploring remote areas. My husband has an interest in seeing Hetch Hetchy, too. Is there a worthwhile way to do that from a campsite near the base of the big uphill? (With the water being so low, I do wonder how the whole Grand Canyon experience might be this year…) Thanks again. We really appreciate your wisdom from being there. :)

  3. Terry
    Terry · August 16, 2014 at 18:33:24 · →

    Elaine, we may encounter you on the trail, we will be hiking Tuolumne to WW the 21st – 24th. We will be the six guys with gray hair.

  4. Elaine Yastishock
    Elaine Yastishock · August 17, 2014 at 23:12:53 · →

    Darn! We’ll just miss you. We go from Tuolumne to WW Aug. 26th -30th. Blaze that trail for us. Let us know how it goes–send some updates!

  5. Kim
    Kim · June 3, 2015 at 11:14:29 · →

    Great post! I am leaving for this very same trip tomorrow morning. Feeling super jazzed and even more excited after reading this. :)

  6. Bill Hensley
    Bill Hensley · June 24, 2015 at 11:15:30 · →

    Nicely informative post. I’m starting to think about a GCotT trip for next year.

  7. Nina B
    Nina B · February 24, 2016 at 07:29:44 · →

    Hi Denise. Just found your blog and am enjoying reading of your trip reports. I have a question for you about the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne hike you did. It looks like there is no shortage of water sources from Pate Valley to Glen Aulin, but what about the section between White Wolf and Pate Valley. Are there water sources between there or is there a water source at Pate Valley? Thanks for any info you can provide. I want to do the same trip you did, though may “add-on” and do May Lake.

  8. Robert Essink
    Robert Essink · June 8, 2016 at 06:38:57 · →

    Hi Denise,

    Really helpful trip description, thank you. Appreciate a little advice on two questions. We’re planning this trip the second week of September ’16.

    White Wolf to Pothole Dome looks like a shuttle trip. Do you know of shuttle services in Yosemite or is it best to arrange for you own shuttle with two cars?

    Do you know if there is fire damage in the Tuolumne Valley similar to north of Hetch Hetchy? Thanks much,


  9. Kara
    Kara · February 4, 2017 at 09:21:43 · →

    Great write-up of an awesome trip! I did this trip this past October ( but went to May Lake from Glen Aulin and then tagged Mount Hoffmann before heading out. I totally didn’t realize there were petroglyphs on this route and missed them completely! I’ll just have to do this route again to check them out and go a different time of year when the water is a bit more raging, hike on!

  10. David McClure
    David McClure · March 6, 2017 at 13:54:27 · →

    Are fires alowed in the GC of the Tuolumne? I havn’t been on a backpack trip since I was in my 20s (long time ago) and am planning a trip with my wife but have been amazed that so many places ban open fires.

Leave a Reply


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: