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Hiking & Walking: California > Yosemite National Park

Quick Facts

Ten Lakes Trail

Beginning Elevation: 7,500 Feet (2337.9 Meters) Ten Lakes Trailhead
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation Gain, Round Trip: 2,400 Feet (748.1 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 8,825 Feet (2750.9 Meters) May Lake Trailhead
Length, One-way: 22 Miles (36.67 Kilometers)
Recommended Season: Early Fall
Usage: Heavy from Ten Lakes eastward trail use is light

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Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

This trail leads to the head of the Yosemite Creek drainage and into the Tuolumne River basin. Most hikers use this trail to reach Ten Lakes and Grant Lakes, but the trail continues to May Lake. It forms a long semicircle that leads past Tuolumne Peak and ends at May Lake Campground. The total mileage for this trail is 22 miles.

Begin the hike from the Ten Lakes Trailhead on Tioga Road. The trail climbs slowly for the first two miles gaining only 600 feet. At this point a trail from White Wolf Campground joins the Ten Lakes Trail from the west. Immediately after the junction Ten Lakes Trail crosses a small stream and continues climbing. During the next two miles the route continues to climb slowly. At mile four switchbacks begin. The trail ascends 800 feet before reaching a trail junction at mile five.

From this junction the trail to Grant Lakes leads southward one mile to the lower of the two lakes. This would be a good place to drop packs and enjoy some easy walking down to Grant Lakes. Day hikers may choose to make Grant Lakes their destination as it is not heavily used by the backpackers who frequent the area. If this is the case consider ascending the ridge northeast of this junction to reach an overlook of the Ten Lakes basin. From the ridge you'll be able to see a few of the lakes and into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.

A half mile from the trail junction the trail ascends the above described ridge then begins descending to Ten Lakes. The trail skirts between two large lakes. There are several lake side campsites in this area. Backpackers can make camp then explore the area and lakes in it. Swimming and fishing are possible at most of the Ten and Grant Lakes.

The eastern most lake is approximately two and a half miles from the trail junction to Grant Lakes. Beyond this large lake the trail is less frequently used. It traverses a flat meadow then descends 400 feet to 9,000 feet before beginning to switchback. This series of switchbacks descends 800 feet to the western bank of the South Fork Cathedral Creek.

The trail turns southward and follows the creek for two miles to a crossing. Backpackers may consider camping in this area as it provides easy access to water. After crossing the South Fork Cathedral Creek the trail leads north as it traverses the northwestern flank of Tuolumne Peak, 10,845 feet, for one mile. At the end of this traverse are switchbacks that lead to a steady climb along the northern slopes of the peak. The two mile trek along the northern slopes of the peak ends at 9,850 feet, gaining 1,850 vertical feet.

From here the trail descends steeply into the next drainage. After numerous switchbacks the trail turns southward and descends less steeply for a mile to a trail junction along a creek. Before reaching the creek there are some flat areas good for camping. To reach May Lake Campground turn right at this junction. (The trail to the left connects with the Murphy Creek within a half mile.)

Beyond this junction the trail levels. It descends slightly then ascends along a few sets of switchbacks. From the junction the trail leads southward for one and a half miles then makes a sharp westerly turn, skirting the northern shore of Raisin Lake, often a good swimming spot. A half mile beyond this turn the trail ascends 400 feet along switchbacks then turns southward again. May Lake lies within three and a half miles of the last trail junction. pass the lake along its eastern shore and continue following the trail one more mile to the trailhead.

Directions from Arch Rock Entrance: Travel along the Merced River on Highway 140 to the Old Big Oak Flat Road junction. Turn left on to Old Big Oak Flat Road and drive 9.5 miles to Tioga Road. Turn right on Tioga Road and travel 19.5 miles to the Ten Lakes Trailhead. Continue 7 miles along Tioga Road to May Lake Road. Turn left toward May Lake and drive to the trailhead parking area at the end of the road.

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 Ten Lakes Trail - Ten Lakes Trailhead, May Lake Trailhead
ICON Backpacking Ten Lakes Trail - wilderness permit required for overnight camping
ICON Dispersed Camping Ten Lakes Trail - wilderness permit required
ICON Fishing Ten Lakes Trail
ICON Hiking & Walking Ten Lakes Trail
ICON Horseback Riding Ten Lakes Trail
ICON Plant Identification Ten Lakes Trail
ICON Mountain Climbing Ten Lakes Trail - Tuolumne Peak
ICON Swimming & Waterplay Ten Lakes Trail

Related Activities
May Lake Trail - This short trail can be a precursor to an ascent of Mt. Hoffmann or an easy trek with the kids. Expect to see crowds due to easy access.

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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