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Hiking & Walking: California > Yosemite National Park

Quick Facts

Tuolumne River Trail

Beginning Elevation: 8,600 Feet (2680.8 Meters) Glen Aulin/Lembert Dome Trailhead
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain, Round Trip: 4,500 Feet (1402.7 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 4,300 Feet (1340.4 Meters) Pate Valley Trail junction
Length, One-way: 20 Miles (33.33 Kilometers)
Recommended Season: Summer
Usage: Moderate


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General Description

This trail follows the Tuolumne River from Glen Aulin toward the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. It leads through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River then follows Morrison Creek toward Harden Lake. This trail can be used in conjunction with several other trails to create a long backcountry trek.

Begin this hike from the Glen Aulin/Lembert Dome Trailhead or the Murphy Creek Trailhead. Use the Tuolumne Falls or Murphy Creek Trail to reach Glen Aulin. Walk northwestward from the camp along the river. A trail leading to the right is the Cold Canyon Trail. Cross this trail and continue following the Tuolumne River.

The next few miles lead through a glaciated river valley with a flat, wide floor. The trail descends from the camp to the first of a series of cascades along the river. After descending a few switchbacks the trail brings hikers to some river side camps. Continue past these and over some flat granite slabs to California Falls. The trail then switchbacks down to the base of the falls.

Shortly beyond California Falls is a smaller cascade continue past it. Descending approximately 600 feet in the next mile the trail reaches the crest of La Conte Falls. Past this cascade the trail parallels the river and descends another 400 feet, reaching Waterwheel Falls. The water in this stretch of river cascades steadily along a granite slab in which the river has cut a deep channel. Deep, linear pools cut by the river abruptly throw water up from the stream. This only occurs in the spring and early summer months when the water flow is very high. Waterwheel Falls is a good ending spot for a long day hike. It is approximately eight miles one way from Tuolumne Meadows and ten miles one way from the Murphy Creek Trailhead to this formation.

Approximately one half mile downstream from Waterwheel Falls is another small cascade in the river. This cascade occurs after a small stream enters the river from the north. This is the last cascade in the series from Glen Aulin. Three quarters of a mile beyond this cascade the trail reaches an area where the northern wall of the canyon is very steep. Passed this the trail continues to descend. In a mile hikers will notice a waterway entering the river from the south. A mile past this tributary the trail turns northward and begins to climb. After climbing approximately 200 feet the trail descends to the rivers shore again. As the trail turns southward to the river hikers will be able to see into the Ten Lakes drainage directly across the river. Colby and Grand Mountains lie on either side of the drainage.

The trail descends from the Ten Lakes viewpoint continuing westward along the riverbank. Shortly it reaches the mouth of Register Creek and crosses it. Immediately beyond Register Creek is the mouth of Rodgers Canyon. Westward from this point the canyon begins to widen and, after a few switchbacks, it is very level. In approximately three miles the trail descends approximately 850 feet to the Pate Valley Trail junction. Turn northward here to reach Rodgers Canyon and Table Lake. Continue Following the river along the Pate Valley Trail to reach Harden Lake.

Directions from Arch Rock Entrance: Drive northward into the park toward the Yosemite Valley. Turn left on to Big Oak Flat Road and travel almost 9.5 miles to Tioga Road. Turn right on to Tioga Road and travel 39 miles to Tuolumne Meadows. Turn left on to the dirt road that leads to the Lembert Dome/Glen Aulin Trailhead. Hike northwest from the western side of the trailhead parking area.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: July through Mid-October (NOTE: Opening and closing dates may vary depending on snowpack.) .



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Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Trailhead Parking Tuolumne River Trail - Glen Aulin/Lembert Dome Trailhead, Murphy Creek Trailhead
Yes
ICON Backpacking Tuolumne River Trail - wilderness permit required for overnight camping.
Yes
ICON Dispersed Camping Tuolumne River Trail - wilderness permit required
Yes
ICON Tent Camping Tuolumne River Trail - Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp
Yes
ICON Geology Tuolumne River Trail
Yes
ICON Hiking & Walking Tuolumne River Trail
Yes
ICON Stock Packing Tuolumne River Trail
Yes
ICON Horseback Riding Tuolumne River Trail
Yes
ICON Plant Identification Tuolumne River Trail
Yes
ICON Swimming & Waterplay Tuolumne River Trail
Yes



Related Activities
Pate Valley Trail - This trail leads six miles northeastward into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. At the end of the trail are many good campsites.

Tuolumne Falls Trail - This trail leads five miles from Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. It is relatively easy with a 400-foot elevation gain.



More Information

Visitor Information:

Yosemite National Park, P.O. Box 577 , Yosemite, CA, 95389, Phone: 209-372-0200, Fax: 209-372-0220, TTY: 209-372-4726

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