Back to index Tanglefoot Canyon Hike

Trip Date:  08/05/2017

: 8.5 Miles

Vertical Gain: 500'

Group Size: 6

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Tanglefoot Canyon Route
Download GPXGPX for this trip

Tanglefoot Canyon Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 31.408
W 120 10.414
    End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No
Parking Directions:   Take Highway 88 to the Bear River Reservoir exit and head downhill and cross over the dam.  Continue on this paved road, passing the South Shore and Pardoes Point campgrounds.  After 4.25 miles on this road, take the first left turn at Forest Service Road 8N14, which is still on paved surface.  Follow the signs to the Cole Creek Campground.  Stay on this road for another 5.7 miles.  You will start to see signs for Tanglefoot Trailhead.  Following these signs, turn left and cross two bridges over Cole Creek.  After this point a dirt road continues 3.8 miles to the trailhead.  On this road ignore various spur trails to the left and right.  About 1/3 mile before the trailhead there is a fork in the road.  Stay to the left to reach the trail, passing along a tight squeeze between shrubbery which might want to have its way with your vehicle's paint.
Hazards of Note:   Getting to the trailhead is one of the hardest parts of this hike.   Footing on the granite section of trail down into the canyon can be tricky, and is probably one of the reasons this trail is called "Tanglefoot."  

Crowd Factor:   Minimal.  The trailhead is not easy to get to, and the trail heads into a pretty remote part of the Mokelumne Wilderness.  Your best chance of meeting others on the trail are those either heading to or from a climb up Mokelumne Peak.
General Notes:
From the parking area, the trailhead is at the sign immediately to the north of the vehicle parking spots.  Head up the trail for the first mile through forested area, gradually gaining elevation until you reach the open views into Tanglefoot Canyon and the imposing sight of Mokelumne Peak about 7 or 8 miles to the east.  About a mile and a half into the hike is the junction for the short 1/2 mile trail to Shriner Lake on your left, which can make for a nice camp spot with very little traffic.   The trail then begins a significant descent into Tanglefoot canyon along an impressive pathway undoubtedly crafted by the CCC members back in the 1930s when a lot of work cutting paths through the Sierras (including Yosemite) were done.  When you reach the bottom of the canyon there might be a crossing of Tanglefoot Creek over logs necessary in the spring or early summer, and you wind through the forest for a short distance before you begin an ascent of the east side of the canyon on your way up to Moraine Lake about 4.5 miles from the trailhead.  
Note:  This GPX track stops about 3/10 miles short of Moraine Lake as the focus of this date was clearing logs off the trail from the previous winter storms.  The last of 19 was at this spot short of Moraine Lake and took over an hour to clear off the trail.

Very early into the trip you will pass a moderate sized meadow on the left which is all that remains of a relatively recent lake.
Former Lake

The Mokelumne Wilderness sign at this location had been chewed on and torn down into three pieces by a bear unimpressed with it.  We had to piece it back together, secure it back in place and then stain it to protect it for the next year.  
Wilderness Sign Maintenance 

A first glimpse out of the forest toward Tanglefoot Canyon and beyond to the East.  Munson Meadow is beyond the ridge in the distance and can be reached either from this trail or from a trail heading south from Silver Lake.
First look east into Tanglefoot Canyon and beyond 

The trail down into the canyon is impressive for it's workmanship, especially considering how little use it gets compared to others in this Wilderness area.
Into the canyon 

Past the creek is where we picked up from a previous work crew's efforts on the trail, and this was the first of 19 trees to clear on the day.  Shown here are the before and after pics of this reasonably quick stop.
First of many First of many

One of the crew, Dave, packing up the Single Buck saw for the next stop.

The trees seemed to get larger and larger as we went on, and this next set of three in all took us a lot longer than the first one.
Another stop 

Using a wedge to help keep the saw from binding up on us as the depth of the cut got further into the tree.
In process

It wasn't easy, but we finally got this good sized log cleared with a couple of cuts to allow the trail to pass on through.   We spent so much time here that it made for a good lunch spot.
 Lunch spot cleared

Ranger Chip supervising Dave's turn on one of the smaller trees to be cleared along the way.
Another smaller one

On the way up the trail toward Moraine Lake were some nice views of the west side of the Tanglefoot Canyon and the way we had trekked down into the canyon.
West side of the canyon

Everyone had their stomachs drop when, almost to Moraine Lake we came across this bugger which was huge and ended up taking the rest of our time to clear.
Last, worst tree

The position of the tree made it two dangerous for the double-buck saw, at least for the person on the down-slope side, so we all took multiple turns with this one getting through one cut, and hoping we could cut through the base still slightly attached.
Hoping for just one cut

Amazingly enough, it not only took just one major cut, but it rolled down completely off the trail just as we had hoped it would with a little help from roller logs underneath it.

On the way back the temptation was there to check out Shriner Lake, but all the effort expended on the day had us just wanting to get back to the vehicles. Maybe next trip.

GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike