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May Lake Trail



2.6 mile 4.2 kilometer point to point
84% Runnable


Ascent: 1,071' 326 m
Descent: -1' 0 m
High: 9,325' 2,842 m
Low: 8,256' 2,516 m


Avg Grade: 8% (4°)
Max Grade: 21% (12°)


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Trail shared by Isabel Jacobson

A winding trail with stunning views ending at one of Yosemite's greatest gems.

Isabel Jacobson

Features Birding · Lake · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Typically closed mid October through the end of May.

Runner Notes

The trail is fairly rocky and are sometimes a bit slippery. Several sections especially those nearing the top do not make for ideal running conditions. If you are looking for a trail to run I would not recommend this one.


The May Lake Trail will lead you to expansive views over granite peaks, a sparkling blue lake set below 10,000ft. The trail moves upwards gradually in the beginning but continues in incline until you hit switchbacks. The trail ascends over sections granite hillsides through patches of pine tree3s which makes the trail at times a bit slippery so be careful. As you make your way along the trail do not forget to stop and check out the picturesque views. Among them are views of clouds rest and Tenaya Lake. It is considered one of the most scenic lake runs throughout Yosemite. While the steepness of the trail and the increase in elevation can pose as a bit difficult for some, and while few would consider it super easy, most find it to be a totally doable run.

If given the opportunity I highly recommend this run. For many they consider it one of the best runs in the park. in order to find comparable views on other runs you'll usually need to run at least 6 or more miles. For me, it almost feels like cheating to have such breathtaking views with such easy and short access.

May Lake itself is a circular lake that is fairly large. The views from the lake include that of the steep granite face of Mt. Hoffmann. The location is stunning though fairly crowded so it does not afford much privacy. May lake is also home to one Yosemites' High Sierra Camps.which does allow for the bonus of having toilet access at the lake. The north and west edges are closed to protect the delicate environment. You can swim in the lake and I have even come across people paddle boarding. May Lake is one of the best, easily-accessed places for photographing the iconic Yosemite image of jagged granite peaks reflected in calm blue waters. If your kids are up for a bit of an uphill run this is definitely one you can take them on. Many families will use this run as a begining run to introduce there children to backpacking, At any age however if you are trying to get a feel of what backpacking is like this is a great option due to the steepness the increase in elevation and the short distance.

Flora & Fauna

Do to the high foot traffic there are not many animals along the trail. It is possible to glimpse a bird or squirrel but other than that seeing another animal is unlikely.


Land Manager: NPS - Yosemite

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Jun 10, 2018
Wayward One

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Passing May Lake on the trail up to Mt. Hoffman.
Feb 4, 2016 near Yosemit…, CA