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Fern on the Four Mile Trail, Yosemite National Park

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Re: Alternatives

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avatar Alternatives
September 01, 2021 08:48AM
After an 8-year absence to the High Sierra, in mid August I ventured a return to the area for a week of day hiking. Due to age and assorted medical problems backpacking was no longer an option for me. I did 3 day hikes inside Yosemite near Tuolumne Meadows on my 3-day pass, including one day with chick-on, basilbop, and JustKeepWalking which was a wonderful reunion with prior hiking companions. The rest of my time was spent in the eastern slopes near Yosemite.

Given the increased difficulty of acquiring Yosemite backpacking permits plus the introduction of 3-day car passes, access to backpacking and even day hiking inside Yosemite has become a bit inconvenient. The time I spent on the eastern slopes presented a delightful alternative I would like to share. Many of you are already aware of these trails outside of the park but I will venture many others are not fully aware of what they have to offer. I'm not speaking of just day hikes. Lots of backpackers are gaining access to Yosemite via these outside trails. I met a lot of them. Following is a list of trails you might check out for future consideration. I have not done all of them.

1. Monroe Hall Research natural area, just outside the Tioga Pass gate. Hike past Shell Lake, Fantail Lake, Spuller Lake, Maul Lake, Green Treble Lake, and if feeling energetic, up to Big Horn Lake.
2. Gardisky Lake, off Saddleback Road.
3. Saddleback Lake to Greenstone, Hummingbird, Odell, Twin (not the large ones), and Steelhead Lakes. Hike up the long bench behind Steelhead Lake to the north side of North Peak overlooking Upper McCabe Lake.
4. Twin Lakes area out of Bridgeport: Take Horse Creek Trail up to where an unnamed use trail branches off following Horse Creek up to the Matterhorn and Whorl Mountain area overlooking Spiller Canyon.
Also out of Twin Lakes take the Tamarack lakes trail to Tamarack and Hunewill Lakes.
5. Green Creek out of Bridgeport. Hike to West Lake or do the Green Lake, East Lake, Nutter lake, Gilman Lake, Hoover Lakes route. Green lake was by far the prettiest lake I saw on this trip. I did not want to leave!
6. Virginia Lakes a little ways north of Lee Vining. Hike Red Lake, Blue Lake, Cooney Lake, Frog Lakes, to the pass overlooking the descent into the Summit lake area.
7. Lundy Canyon just north of Lee Vining. Hike the canyon past waterfalls, possibly all the way to Helen Lake in the Saddleback area.
8. Gibbs Lake just below Lee Vining. Gibbs lake trail to Gibbs and then up to Kidney Lake at the eastern foot of Mt. Dana and Mount Gibbs.
9. Bloody Canyon. Hike past Walker Lake up to Lower and Upper Sardine Lakes to Mono Pass.
10. Parker Lake further south of Lee Vining.

All of these trails can be found on the Nat'l Geo Yosemite NE map #308 but you will need to consult local road maps for initial access off Rt. 395 for several of these trails. The Green Creek access is a very long dirt road south of Bridgeport. Virginia Lakes is a paved road off 395 just at the top of the grade that drops down to Mono lake. Lundy Canyon access is off 395 near the foot of that grade. Gibbs Lake is off 395 just south of lee Vining via Upper Horse Meadow Road, which is dirt. I've not done Bloody Canyon or Parker Lake. Both of these are accessed via multiple dirt roads off 395. Monro Hall, Gardisky, and Saddleback are all accessed from Tioga Road before entering the park.

So, if you are looking for some easy to access hiking from the eastern side I highly recommend checking out some of these trails when Yosemite access becomes frustrating.
Re: Alternatives
September 03, 2021 03:29AM
Thanks for the tips, Tomdisco. In case you are able to go back, there are a lot of options out of Mammoth Lakes, and south of there at Mosquito Flats. Enjoy!
Re: Alternatives
October 20, 2021 08:57AM
There's always the Mt Dana trail, too. Starts just about 100 feet outside the park at Tioga Pass. But it's not for the faint of heart!
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