August 16, 2014

Yosemite's Tenaya Lake Loop

Yosemite National park is a really nice place except there are too many people there. Period. I've tried going in winter, I've tried going in fall, I've tried going midweek, and still there are a lot of people there. As a kid, our family hosted exchange students from Japan, Poland, and Germany, and each one of them wanted to go to Yosemite; its notoriety is far and wide.

However, Yosemite is strikingly beautiful so a way has to be found to cope with the masses. Sooo... if you find yourself going through Yosemite on a Saturday in the high-season of August, the week before school goes back, I would recommend a hike around Tenaya Lake. It has crystal-blue waters, granite peaks, a thick forested southern edge, and parking spaces if you get there before 10:00AM. The only Yosemite feature that you're really missing is the waterfall, and you can simulate that with a swim after your hike.

We did this hike by starting at the west parking lot, hiking clockwise around the lake so you hit the part where you walk along Hwy 120 before the sun gets too high and reflective on the granite walls, then past the swampier eastern edge before hiking along the forested southern edge during the mid-day sun to get some shade. There are a few ups and downs and loose rock on this side, but it has solitude as we only passed a few other hikers in this section, and the views of the rock climbers across the lake are spectacular along here. Unfortunately, we read later that a climber fell from a rock and died just a few miles up the road between here and Tuolomne Meadows on the same day we were here. As you get closer to where you started, you'll pass some gorgeous meadows, and the intersection with the Sunrise Trail with its backpackers exiting Tuolomne Shuttle Stop #10 and heading out to the back country. Don't forget a picnic to enjoy along the granite outcrops of the western edge of the lake!

Length: 2.5 mile loop
Elevation gain: 100 feet
Time it took us: 2 hours
Dogs allowed: No
Fees: $20 per car to enter the park
Directions: Tenaya Lake is along the Tioga Pass (Hwy 120) that runs through Yosemite National Park during the summer months (at 8,150 feet elevation, it closes for the winter.) The lake is 31 miles east of Crane Flat or 16 miles west of Yosemite's East entrance. 

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