Back to index Yosemite High Sierra Camp Loop Hike - Day 3

An edited version of my adventure on the High Sierra Camps Loop appeared in the second issue of  Sidewalk - A hiking and backpacking magazine
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Day 4
Trip Date:  08/23/2014

: 9.2 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1700'

Group Size: 6
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Yosemite High Sierra Camp Loop Hike Day 3
Download GPX GPX for this trip
HSC Day 3 Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 37 52.699, W 119 20.315 (parking for first day's hike)     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 395 south from Monitor Pass toward Mono Lake.  At Lee Vining, turn on Highway 120 (Tioga Pass) and enter Yosemite Park on the east side.  About 10 miles into the park turn at the Wilderness Permit area (Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Road) and continue to the parking coordinates for backpacker vehicles.
Hazards of Note:   Wildlife, especially bears.  Some of the trails are difficult and footing can be tenuous at times.  Much of the uphill and downhill sections are made up of granite steps which are rough on the feet after time. Crowd Factor:   Mixed.  Yosemite is a very popular destination during the summer months, and this hike and option to stay in the HSC locations with served meals is available only by lottery system.  The further into the park the trails will be less crowded, but there are many places for day hikers to pick up the trail system.
General Notes:
Day three started out with an early morning sunrise festival for the senses at May Lake.  At 5am the blue in the eastern sky was just starting, and then the sun gradually coming up and hitting off the face of Mt. Hoffman was fantastic.  Before breakfast we also spent some time on "The Ridge," getting sunrise shots of Vogelsang Peak and Half Dome from there.  
The first part of the trail headed down some of the old Tioga Pass road from the last 1800s, with some of the old pavement still hanging in there after all this time.  Crossing the current Highway 120, which was a little bit of an iffy proposition at the time with gawking tourists driving and not really paying attention to hikers trying to get across the road, we then joined up with the multitudes of people setting off for a day hike to Cloud's Rest.  This part of the trail was very steep and relentless, and after the climb yesterday it was difficult to put much speed behind another long, long series of ups.  We had dropped down to just under 8000 feet by this time, only to gain everything we lost back from the morning in elevation plus some.  The Sunrise camp is at 9300 feet, so we had a ways to go.
At the junction of where you turn off the Cloud's Rest trail to head to Sunrise HSC, there is an unmarked, but obvious trail to the west which in about 200 yards presents a fantastic view down Tenaya Canyon into Yosemite Valley.  This is not to be missed under any circumstances!
After heading off toward Sunrise HSC, you will pass three Sunrise lakes on the way.  The first is scenic, the second has a swimming opportunity and an island that some were enjoying, and then the third is where we stopped as it had a small beach on the Southwestern shore where we could drop our packs and get in to cool off for a little bit.
The last part of the trail to Sunrise was just a little bit more up, up, and up, but the setting of the camp above the meadow with a nice view of Sunrise Mountain was very serene.

May Lake early in the morning, well before the sun decided to make an appearance. Pre sunrise May Lake
Just before actual sunrise, with the lake still as smooth as glass.
May Lake again
Mt. Hoffman and reflection in May Lake. Mt. Hoffman reflection
The morning here sitting next to the lake and watching the sun rise was beautiful. Start of the morning show
Sunrise just about to poke it's head above the distant mountains.
Another angle
This family of ducks was busy looking around for food in the morning, but they sure messed up the reflections of the mountains behind the lake! Sunrise ducks Sunrise ducks
Lots of Alpenglow on Mt. Hoffman this morning. Mt. Hoffman Alpenglow
Sunrise over Cathedral Peak from "The Ridge" at May Lake HSC.
The Ridge Sunrise 
Vogelsang Peak getting some early morning sun far off in the distance. Vogelsang waking up
Even Half Dome getting into the act.  Can almost see climbers making their way up the chains this early in the morning. Half Dome
It's cold this early in the mountains, but the views are worth every effort to get up and going. Phil at sunrise
We came across a plaque with some interesting info and history on the old Tioga Pass Road. Info on the old road
No longer in use by vehicles, this is a good example of what the old Tioga Pass Road now looks like for the most part. Tioga Road
Almost all of the signs along the way were helpful and had very important trail information on them.  Not this one. Not helpful
We dropped a lot of elevation at first, and then got to make all of it and more up by the end of the trek today. Enjoying some up
Taking a quick break at the trail junction while we wait for the group to finish the long climb. Rest stop My pack off my back for a moment
Not only do we know how far to tonight's stop, but tomorrow's as well. Our next two night stops
This is the view down Tenaya Canyon toward the main Yosemite area.  An amazing scene from this small tangent off the main trail. Wow!
Close up shot of Cathedral Peak from this side. Two of our team enjoying the area
Phil, Brent and myself in front of the good scenery. And more of us 
We didn't stop at this first Sunrise Lake, but it was very serene and nobody was around. First Sunrise Lake
We did stop at the third Sunrise Lake, however, and everyone got in to some degree, but none as much as Brent! 3rd Sunrise Lake 3rd Sunrise Lake
This coyote seemed pleased that his food had washed itself off for him right past the third lake. Coyote
Finally at Sunrise HSC, we had some pretty nice views across the meadow from our campsite. Sunrise Meadow 
Search and Rescue Helicoptor on their way to help out someone. Sunrise Meadow  
Oh, and speaking of our campsite... Campsite 
Yeah, I think I could live here, for sure. One more look 
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike