“A beautiful loop through Tenaya Canyon.
— Brian Smith
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
This trail is open year-round. In winter, it can be icy and snowy, especially along the south side of Tenaya Creek.
Leashed pets, bicycles, and strollers are allowed on the first paved mile of the trail. Beyond that, they are prohibited.
With a fresh perspective looking up at Half Dome
directly from its base, you'll be rewarded with views of Tenaya Canyon, Mount Watkins, Washington Column, and more.
Need to Know
The Valley Visitor Shuttle (7 am to 10 pm year-round) serves the trailhead at shuttle stop #17. You can also bicycle the first mile of the trail to the end of the paved service road. From there, you can either turn around or park your bike and begin your run.
Stay on the trail! This is especially important during spring and early summer when water levels are highest. When running on the south side of the loop, runners often spot what appears to be an easy way to rock-hop across Tenaya Creek, either just for fun, or as a way to shortcut the loop and rejoin the trail without doing the entire loop. While this crossing is only ankle deep at first, it quickly becomes thigh deep, and, all too often, runners are swept into dangerous whitewater and pinned against rocks. Dont be tempted to leave the trail, and always remember when approaching moving water to look at the conditions downstream.
This trail begins at shuttle stop #17. The first mile of this trail is a paved service road that leads directly to Mirror Lake. You may access the loop trail from the end of the paved path. The loop follows Tenaya Creek beyond the lake, and crosses two bridges after the Snow Creek Trail junction before returning past Mirror Lake on the south side of Tenaya Canyon. (There is no safe access to the north side of Mirror Lake directly from the south side of the loop, except via bridges at the west and east ends of the trail).
Mirror Lake has little water much of the year and, while pleasant at any time of year, it is fullest in spring and early summer, when Tenaya Creek flows freely with fresh snowmelt. When water is calm, the lake offers beautiful reflections of surrounding cliffs. Exhibits along the trail tell the story of Mirror Lake's lake-to-meadow succession, and also highlight some of the cultural history of the area. Mirror Lake is often referred to as Mirror Meadow in late summer due to the lack of water and the influx of grasses and sandy areas.