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Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley

A strenuous 2-4 day backcountry trip full of meadows, mountains, and waterfalls
Rating: 4 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 27.8 miles
Duration: Multiple days

Overview :  Many hikers chose to hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley starting at Tenaya lake, but this hike offers a slight different... more »

Tips:  You will be near rivers for most of the hike, so bring a water pump with you to save you from carrying too much extra weight.

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Points of Interest

1. Tuolumne Meadows

Park your car at one of the parking lots just outside the main road leading towards the Tuolumne Meadows lodge (or keep your car parked in Yosemite Valley and take a bus to Tuolumne Meadows) and sling your pack over your shoulder. As is expected in a place called Tuolumne Meadows, you start with a very level hike away from Tioga pass and towards ... More

2. Footbridge

After almost a mile in you will arrive at a river, which is a temping place to stop and take a break while soaking your feet from the bank. The day ahead is a long one, so continue across the river via the wooden bridges. Bear right after the second bridge and continue your hike.

For the next segment of the hike you will hug the edge of the... More

3. On to Yosemite Valley

Look out for trail signs after another 0.7 miles, as you will need to take a fork to your right to continue up hill towards Yosemite Valley, and away from Lyell Canyon.

The next portion is steeper than one would expect when hiking in a meadow, and it seems like it will never end. You will gain a total of about 2,000 feet from the start of the ... More

4. Back in the meadow

Hike along for a couple of miles, slowly gaining elevation. You will see many boulders partially hidden in the ground, left there a long time ago by one of Yosemite’s glaciers.

5. Fork to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp

At the 7 mile point you will reach another fork. You can take a detour to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, extending your journey by 1 more day, or you can continue towards Merced Lake. You may be tempted to hike to Merced, as it is all downhill from here, and Vogelsang is a steep uphill climb.

6. Descent to Merced Lake

You will pass a couple of lakes during the next few miles and soon the flat meadow will end and you will enter a brief forest. Before finishing the day off with a final descent you will have a breath-taking view of Merced Lake and Little Yosemite Valley beyond. The last mile or so is almost exclusively granite, which is anything but forgiving on... More

7. High Sierra Camp

Just when your feet are about to quit on you, you will arrive at the High Sierra Camp, just shy of Merced Lake. Unless you have reserved a tent cabin, continue through the camp, past the fire pit to the backpackers are where you can drop your pack, set up your tent, and start cooking dinner.

If you are taking the trek more luxuriously, head... More

8. Day 2: Hiking to the Valley

On the second day, pack up your gear, and head out the other end of the camp (near the backpackers’ camp) to continue towards Yosemite Valley. After only a few minutes you will meet up with Merced Lake, which will accompany you for the next 5-10 minutes as you walk along its northern side.

The beginning of the second day is much more forgiving... More

9. Little Yosemite Valley

A little ways further and you will arrive at Little Yosemite Valley Campground, a great place to set up up camp if you plan to extend your trip and hike up Half Dome the next morning before finishing in Yosemite Valley. If you just want a break for lunch, head through the camp, past the bathrooms, to the river where you can soak your punished... More

10. Nevada Fall

About half a mile later you will arrive at another fork with 2 routes to finish the trek: you can continue down the Mist Trail, which offers more amazing views of Nevada Fall, Emerald Pool, and Vernal Fall, or you can continue to the left at the fork and finish the hike along the John Muir Trail, which has a bit of a climb but you are rewarded... More

11. Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool sits at the top of Vernal Fall, and at the end of the Silver Apron, a granite "slide" leading coming from Nevada Falls. While it may look fun to slide down, restrain yourself, and the current underwater is much stronger than it looks, and swimmers have been swept off the edge of the Fall. But that doesn't mean you can't sit by the... More

Soon you will arrive at the top of Vernal Fall where you can take a water break and creep to the edge (don't worry, there are rails) to look straight down at the river below. You likely will have learned why the trail is called "The Mist Trail" on your way down. The rock stairs can be a bit slippery when wet, so be careful. To see Vernal Fall at... More

13. Footbridge

After another 0.5 miles or so of hiking downhill you will walk across the Merced River on a wooden bridge. There is a restroom and water fountains here.

14. Happy Isles Trailhead

Before getting back on the YARTS shuttle head over to the refreshment stand and reward yourself for your hard work. If you want a little more variety to choose from, visit Curry Village for lunch or an afternoon snack.

If you left your car in Tuolumne Meadows you can catch a bus back, but make sure you figure out the details before hand so that... More