Back to index Yosemite High Sierra Camp Loop Hike - Day 2

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 3
Trip Date:  08/22/2014

: 8.4 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1500'

Group Size: 6
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Yosemite High Sierra Camp Loop Hike Day 2
Download GPX GPX for this trip
HSC Day 2 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 two starts from the Glen Aulin HSC site, and then heads back about 2/10 of a mile to the junction toward May Lake.  Along the first part of the trail you are passing through a pleasant wooded area, and soon McGee Lake makes an appearance on the left side.  There are a couple of nice camping spots here right on the shoreline.  Past the lake you will slowly start to gain elevation, and hints of Tuolumne Peak will appear on the right side as you make your way up the trail.   About 4 miles into the hike you will finally leave the forest for the last time, and begin a significant climb up granite switchbacks and trail as you head up to a flat area with Raisin Lake off to your left.  Some more climbing ensues, until you finally drop down into the May Lake basin, catching your first glimpse of the lake through the trees.  Mt. Hoffman rises high above the lake on the Northwest shore, and is the geographic center of Yosemite National Park.  Worth a dayhike climb to the top, but only if you have lots of energy after the nearly 8 1/2 mile hike to the May Lake HSC.  An easier alternative is to climb "The Ridge" behind the dining tent, where you are afforded fantasic views of the area including Vogelsang Peak, Clouds Rest and Half Dome off in the distance.  A bonus is that cell phone service from this spot is perfect.

Early on the trail to May Lake, I came across one of the most unique trail blazes I have ever seen. Interesting trail blaze
McGee Lake appeared on our left early along the trail, and I was very glad to be past the mosquito season while checking this location out.
McGee Lake
Just past McGee Lake there was a rise off to the right, and climbing up it gave a great view toward the Falls Ridge range with Cathedral Creek running through the middle of it. Side view from the trail
Every time we came to a high spot in the trail, there was a view of distant mountains in almost every direction.  It was odd to be in a place where I didn't know all the names of at least the most prominent ones. Mountains in the distance
Yep, that's a pretty unique rock formation, I must admit.
Rock formation
The first junction in the trail after the one early on was a spot where we waited until the group all caught up, and some mule riders who were on the same track for the first three days were waiting there when we arrived. Another sign
This would certainly be one way to experience the high country, but it seemed too dusty and not challenging enough for my tastes. Mule team
Phil and I checking out some really crazy, neon colored lichen or similar on a tree at the junction.
Phil with some neon growth Greg with some neon growth
Views ahead of Vogelsang Peak in the distance, where we would be two days from now. Looking ahead to Vogelsang Peak in the distance
Yes, that's where we are headed eventually.  Just a little intimidating from here... Vogelsang
A good example of all of the work that has been done by people to make these trails accessible to hikers such as ourselves. The trail
The views are just incredible along the trail in every direction you turn. More amazing views
Finally, after what seems like a pretty long climb May Lake and Mt. Hoffman make their appearance to a tired hiker. Finally, May Lake
The  view across May Lake toward the backpackers campground on the far side of the picture. A look across May Lake
Our campsite not too far from the lake. Our campsite
The main office and mess hall cabin for the May Lake HSC. May Lake HSC
Just behind the HSC area there was a small area to climb up called "The Ridge," and the views from there were absolutely spectacular. Views from the Ridge
You could see all the way to Cloud's Rest and Half Dome from here, and had great cell reception as well! Half Dome
Panorama from The Ridge, of all the way from Cathedral Peak on the left to Half Dome on the right. Panorama from The Ridge 
Close up shot of Cathedral Peak from this side. Cathedral Peak
Front row seats to the amazing views from this spot. Front row seats 
This was one of only two places we had cell reception on the trip, so everyone took advantage of a chance to call home. Cell Reception
Myself at the ridge.  During the time I wasn't on the phone! At the Ridge
Since we had the 'meals only' option for the trip, this was my accomodation for the week.  It was GREAT! Half Dome
Brent getting a chance to relax at camp and enjoy the end of another great day. Relaxing at camp 
Search and Rescue Helicoptor on their way to help out someone. Sunset at Glen Aulin  
Boaters enjoying one last spin on the lake before sunset. Twilight 
Mt. Hoffman just before sunset hit the camp. Twilight 
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike