Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Young Lakes Information

I just replied to an email from future European visitor to Yosemite who wanted to know a bit about visiting the Young Lakes region in the Yosemite National Park high country, and I thought it might be useful to share the message with others who may want to go there. Here is the text, slightly modified:


Glad to help out. I hike and backpack and photograph in the Tuolumne area a LOT, since it is only about a four hour drive from my home in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Young Lakes hike can be done as a rather long day hike from Tuolumne Meadows. The round trip is perhaps 14 miles or so, and you would want to plan on a full day for this – it is a long hike and there is a lot to see. While I have done it as a day hike, I prefer to backpack and stay overnight at one of the three Young Lakes. The first lake is the most popular and has the most obvious and extensive camp sites, though there are places to camp at the middle and upper lakes as well. The middle lake is nestled in a meadow and forest area, and the upper lake has a more alpine character.

There are two main routes to the Young Lakes Basin.

One goes over the shoulder of Lembert/Dog Domes, past Dog Lake, crosses a very beautiful open area of small trees and seasonal but extensive lupine flowers near Dingley Creek, and then ascends a shoulder of Ragged Peak before descending to join the other trail mentioned below for the final mile or so to the first lake. This is my preferred route since it is bit shorter, less crowded, and passes through some very beautiful terrain.

The alternative is to take the trail from Tuolumne Meadows that goes toward Glen Aulin, and then leave it to climb up toward Young Lakes. I’ve done this route once, and my recollection is that it was more open and had more sandy trail sections.

If you are experienced with off-trail travel and map reading and route finding, there is an interesting alternative way to leave the lake via an unmarked cross-country route that ascends a rocky gully near the lake, crosses a pass near Ragged Peak, and then drops down to Dingley Creek.

You do not need any permits for “shooting” if by “shooting” you meant photography. (If you meant “shooting” as in carrying a gun for hunting… uh, you can’t do that in Yosemite… ;-) The only regulations regarding photography affect professional photography that uses a big crew, disrupts other park visitors, and so forth. Individual photographs – even professionals – don’t have to worry about this.

No permits are required if you day hike the trail and return to the trailhead the same day. If you decide to backpack and stay overnight on the trail you will need a wilderness permit. You can get them at various places in the park, including the wilderness permit station right in Tuolumne. On busy August Fridays and Saturdays permits can be in short supply, especially if you don’t get there quite early . On other days the chances are much better that you can show up at the wilderness permit station and get one. A strategy is to arrive the day before your backpack trip and get a permit for the _following_ day – this almost always works. Once you have the permit you are guaranteed a spot at the backpacker walk-in campground at Tuolumne on the night before and after your pack trip. Some permits can also be reserved in advance.

If you can come a bit later in the season, the crowds diminish after the early September USA Labor Day holiday. Mid to late September can be a very beautiful time in the Sierra Nevada range since the weather is a bit cooler… and most of the mosquitos are gone. It is possible to do this trip in the first half of October. You do need to watch the weather in the mid-September to mid-October period, since it can snow.


July 30, 2008 - Posted by | Trails | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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