“A High Sierra trail with great views of the Cathedral Range, alpine lakes, and low crowd factor.”
— David Hitchcock
Lake · Views · Wildflowers
Toga Road east of Crane Flat and west of Tioga Pass Entrance station is closed in the winter and spring until the road is cleared of snow. You can check road conditions at nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/…
or by dialing 1-209-372-0200, dialing extensions 1/1. However, if you want to snowshoe in, it's open year round!
The trail is rocky, steep, and often wet when you get around the lakes.
The trailhead is located at Tioga Pass immediately past the entrance station on Highway 120. Parking can be limited, so you may need to find parking on the side of Tioga Road. Several bear boxes are provided at the trailhead to store food while you are gone.
The trail immediate begins climbing a ridge of Gaylor Peak through a subalpine forest. Climbing over 750 feet in a 1/2 mile via switchbacks, the trail offers views of Dana Meadows and the surrounding peaks as you climb toward the saddle. As you level out at the top, you enter a metamorphic rock field with Gaylor Peak rising off to your left. Views of middle Gaylor Lake can be seen in the alpine basin below. If you look back toward Mount Dana, you'll see Tioga Peak, Mount Gibbs, Kuna Peak, Mammoth Peak, Lyell Canyon, and the peaks of the Cathedral Range.
From here, the trail drops steeply to the lake, where mosquitos will greet you in the summer months, so make sure you have bug spray. The cold snow-fed lake is great to run around in the summer, with the Cathedral Range appearing to emerge from the lake itself. At this point, you can enjoy exploring this lake, or follow the trail on the north edge of the lake, and follow the trail to Upper Gaylor Lake.
Following the stream drainage from Upper Gaylor Lake, you arrive at the other lake with more fantastic views of the Middle Gaylor Lake and the Cathedral Range. Follow the trail on the west side of the lake to climb another ridge to the park boundary where you'll find the old Great Sierra Mine. Take time to explore the old mines, demolished stone cabins, and spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes. You can return to your car via the same path, taking in the views as you return.
An optional route on this trail is to run to the Middle Gaylor Lake, and when the trail turns to the right, go straight ahead, hopping the creek and running about 1/3 of a mile to the Granite Lakes
. These beautiful lakes provide the same views of the basin as the Gaylor Lakes, with even more solitude than the other trail.
Fishing is popular at both lakes during the summer. Even in the middle of July, one of the busiest times in Yosemite, you'll spot a few hikers, but the alpine basin provides everyone plenty of room to spread out and find solitude.
Flora & Fauna
Marmots can be seen at the old mine, corn lilies around the lakes. Wildflowers can be seen throughout the summer like the single-stemmed senecio, Sierra penstemon, Gray's lovage, daisy, pussytoes, baby elephant heads, lupine, monkey flower, Sierra wallflower, phlox, red mountain heather, buckwheat, and coyote mint.