Back to index Mt. Hoffman Hike
Trip Date:  08/18/2016

: 4.2 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1500'

Group Size: 4
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Mt. Hoffman Hike
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Mt. Hoffman Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 37 50.673, W 119 29.498 from May Lake
N 37 49.953, W 119 29.475 from May Lake Trailhead Parking Area (add 3 miles to trip)
    End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates

Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 120 (Tioga Pass Road) through Yosemite National Park.  There is a $30 fee as of 2016 for a week's admission for one vehicle into the park.  Take the signed May Lake Trailhead parking road which is 2 1/4 miles west of Olmstead Point and follow it  1 3/4 miles to the trailhead parking area.  The hike to May Lake is just under a half mile from this spot, which will be the official start of the hike up to the top of Mt. Hoffman.
Hazards of Note:   From May Lake the peak is only about 2 miles away, but it is almost a constant steep uphill climb for the last mile.  The scramble to the peak on the east side is class 3 and will require climbing up some large boulders. Crowd Factor:   High.  This is one of the main day hikes from the popular May Lake area, and you will meet many people on their way to summit this peak in the geographic center of Yosemite.
General Notes:
From May Lake High Sierra Camp at the southeast corner of the lake, head clockwise around the south edge of the lake until you see the trail off to the left when you are approximately on the western edge of the lake.  The first half mile takes you uphill at a gradual rate, passing through a spring-fed meadow early on and then offering some nice vistas just off the trail to the left when you come out to an open granite area.  Once you pass this area, the trail then turns sharply to the right (north,) and your steep ascent over the next mile will begin.  The way is marked pretty well with rock cairns (stacked rocks,) but if you don't see any just continue to head upward to the left of the granite rises which falsely appear to be Mt. Hoffman from the start of the hike.  About a third of a mile from the peak you will come up to an open area once again, which flattens a bit and leads you on a gravelly path through open tundra toward the peak.  This area is resplendent with Marmots, which we saw nearly 10 casually eating and paying us no attention.
At the rocks which lead up to the final peak (obvious due to the radio antenna on top) you will have to find your way as best as you can to attain the summit.  Both the right and left side routes as marked by previous summit climbers are about the same and do not offer any advantage for one over the other.

One last look at May Lake before heading up the trail to the summit which is found at the far west end of the lake. May Lake
After a first relatively pain-free climb a look back shows just the far edge of May Lake and gives you an idea of how much elevation still remains ahead of you.
Another look 
Stepping off the trail to the left in the first open granite area about 1/2 mile along the trail offers some pretty amazing views, including this one of Cathedral Peak and the area toward Sunrise Mountain to the Southeast. Early view
Staying at Mt. Hoffman in a previous year I had been told the peak above the lake visible from below was the actual mountain.  It isn't, and the trail skirts along the south side of it before climbing up and past the faux Mt. Hoffman's western flank. Fake Mt. Hoffman 
This climb up the west flank of the fake summit can be described in three words: steep, steep, steep.  It is slow going, and best to hit this part in the morning because it is exposed to the sun with little to no shade on the way. Steep 
The nice part about climbing up is you are almost always rewarded with amazing views all around.  At the point where the steepness mellows out a bit in favor of more gradual ascent along a gravel area you can look back and see Cloud's Rest and Half Dome in the Southwest distance. Half Dome
The actual Mt. Hoffman peak soon comes into view, as you make your way up an open, gravelly section of trail toward the saddle just to the right of the peak.
Approaching Lower falls 
We found the best access to the summit to be pretty close to the far right of the rocks heading up to the radio tower on the top. View of rocky summit 
The last bit of climb to the top is not terribly dangerous, but it does require careful navigation of large rocks and making sure you don't find a granite slope too slippery to easily negotiate. Rock climbing 
At the top are views into an area of Yosemite (and beyond) which I have yet to explore.  The mountsins to the northeast of the peak are extremely rugged from this vantage point.  Also visible in the nearest ridge is a white spot which is the location of a calcite cave which is another day hike destination from May Lake for the exceptionally adventurous.
Just north of the peak was a tarn unnamed on the map, but sporting a trail along the north edge distinctive enough to show many have been to this remote location. Below the peak 
Myself taking in the amazing views and successfully blocking any look at Cathedral Peak to the east. Enjoying the view
One last look at Half Dome from the summit and one of the nearby 'stacked' rock formations all around the area. Half Dome again
Mark and Phil enjoying lunch after the hard work exerted getting to the top of this peak in the exact center of Yosemite National Park. At the summit
A shot of Mark heading back down a little to the left of where we came up (looking at the peak from below.)  It was no worse or better than the way up, but did give us a chance to check out some of the amazing rock formations which look like they were stacked on top of each other. Heading down Crazy stack
After dropping down from the summit but before heading back down the trail, continue up a use trail to the east to find yourself in a surprising open plateau behind the faux Mt. Hoffman summit visible from May Lake.  In fact, head to the rocks and you can look down and see May Lake far below. May Lake
While perched high above May Lake, we amused ourselves by watching a family of five make it up to the summit of Mt. Hoffman.  The youngest appeared to be 7 or 8 and was often handed from mother to father on some of the larger boulders. Climber family 
Even on this late August day there were a number of wildflowers and greenery enjoying the benefit of a nearby spring. Spring growth
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike