Ten Lakes and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, Yosemite National Park, Caifornia
- Speculate about the 4,000-foot-deep Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne just as John Muir did 150 years ago
- Hike with only daypacks during two layover days
- Enjoy later season alpine meadows and timberline forests
- Mid-trip packer resupply to lighten our load
- All meals and cooking equipment
- Carefully designed route, all permits, reserved trailhead campground
|Dates||Aug 16–23, 2014|
|Difficulty||3 (out of 5)|
"Glen Aulin" means beautiful glen in Gaelic, John Muir's first language; he supposedly named both this green dell as well as the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. Magnificent Tuolumne Meadows and the Tuolumne River, just north of Yosemite Valley, were central to his nascent love affair with the Sierra Nevada. Muir, being ever on the lookout for remote, untrampled, and unspoiled nature, descended the intimidating Muir Gorge of the Tuolumne during his eye-opening first summer in the Sierra; it is thought he was also the first to climb Polly Dome, one of our possible peak climbs. He certainly must have also curled up on some pine boughs beside one of the seven lakes in Ten Lakes Basin for the night, or at least sat on Ten Lakes Pass to enjoy the fantastic view of Yosemite's domes and spires while munching on his luncheon of dry bread.
The main attractions of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, are, of course, the falls: Tuolumne Falls, White Cascade, California Falls, Le Conte Falls, and, most famous of all, Waterwheel Falls. We will likely miss the height of the flow, right after the snow melts in June, but maybe the volume of visitors will have also slowed by mid-August. Following the river below our second layover camp, we will enjoy not just the falls and the granite swimming pools between them but also the changing vegetation as we descend from red firs and Lodgepole pines to white firs and sugar pines, then finally drop into the black oaks and incense cedars.
Day 1: On Saturday, August 16, we will have a reserved group campground on the Tioga Pass Road. We will meet there for dinner (provided) in the afternoon. We will also need to shuttle most of our cars to our exit trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows.
Day 2: From the Yosemite Creek/Ten Lakes Trailhead (7,560 feet) we head up the well-used trail about five miles to Ten Lakes Pass (9,620 feet). Lunch may be there or at intriguingly named Half Moon Meadow just below the pass. Views from the pass are reportedly spectacular. Then we switchback down into Ten Lakes, probably not stopping to camp at the first big overused lake, but seeking out a lake of our own.
Day 3: Layover! Colby Mountain, named for the third president of the Sierra Club who served for some 50 years, is very close and an easy climb. From the summit, we will look straight down some 4,000 feet into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, from whence, a few days later, we will be looking back up. There should still be time for some swimming and lake-bagging after our optional ascent.
Days 4-6: We will split the difference and camp somewhere between Ten Lakes and Glen Aulin, maybe high on the headwaters of one of the creeks flowing off the north side of Tuolumne Peak, near the high point of our backpacking trip. Continuing down past Polly Dome Lakes and Cathedral Creek, we will climb over a gap past tiny McGee Lake and drop past the trailcamp at Glen Aulin to a scenic spot somewhere near the falls along the Tuolumne River. Total mileage will be about 18 miles for the three days. We will have a packer providing us with resupply during one of these days.
Day 7: Layover day #2! Ditching our backpacks, we will day hike downriver, probably as far as Muir Gorge. The gorge is too narrow and treacherous for the trail, which climbs above it, but it should be fun to peer down in. There are no more falls in this lower stretch of the Grand Canyon, but lots more swimming holes.
Day 8: We climb up the Tuolumne River, passing Glen Aulin and Tuolumne Falls, to reach Tuolumne Meadows via the Pacific Crest Trail. Distance: about eight miles. We should finish midafternoon.
We will meet at a campground near our starting trailhead on the Tioga Pass Road, State Route 120. The most convenient airports to fly into and rent a car from are Sacramento, Reno, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. Plan driving five hours to Yosemite from San Francisco, and four hours from Sacramento or Reno. Participants sometimes like to come up early and visit nearby Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne Meadows. A roster of trip members, with accompanying travel plans, will be sent ahead of time to arrange ride-sharing. Please have your ride to and from the trailhead arranged prior to leaving home. A departure bulletin, with meeting place and time and detailed driving instructions, will be sent out in July.
Accommodations and Food
The first trip meal is dinner on day one, Saturday, August 16, at a group campground on the Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park. The last meal is lunch on the final day, Saturday, August 23.
The Sierra Club will provide all meals and snacks. Vegetarians are welcome, but please let us know well in advance. Cooking and clean-up duties will be shared by all members of the group on a rotating basis. All of our food will be carried in bear-proof canisters.
This trip is rated 3 (Moderate) and is intended for backpackers with moderate experience. You must have the ability to hike up to eight miles a day at high altitude, with a backpack weighing as much as 45 pounds. We may have to cross snowfields that linger far into the summer and there will be stream crossings. Daily mileages will usually range from four to eight miles. We will backpack a total of 32 miles on trail for the trip, not including day hikes on layover days. Many days will be moderate hiking, while some other days will be strenuous, with elevation gains and losses of up to 2,100 feet. Most days we will be hiking for five to six hours, including breaks, but some days could run longer if unforeseen difficulties arise. Our campsites will be between 6,500 and 9,600 feet. The highest point of the trip will be at 9,800 feet, below Tuolumne Peak.
Participants must be in good physical condition and have previous backpacking experience. Hiking, running, and cycling are good training activities. Lack of adequate preparation not only affects your enjoyment of the trip, but reduces the enjoyment of other trip members as well. At least one previous overnight backpack is a must before participating in this outing. We are hoping for a diverse group of age and experience.
Leader approval is required. Please complete and return the questionnaire included in your confirmation packet to the trip leader.
The High Sierra is renowned for its excellent summer weather; however, extended storms can occur at any time of the year. Afternoon thunderstorms, with sudden cloudbursts of wind, rain, hail, and even snow are not uncommon. Be prepared for extremes: high temperatures during the day can exceed 80 degrees and fall into the low 20s at night.
Note that depending on snow pack in August ,we could encounter high water at stream crossings and snowfields on passes. Be prepared to be flexible as the itinerary may change due to unforeseen conditions and circumstances.
Equipment and Clothing
A basic equipment list will be sent when you are accepted for the trip. Trip participants will need to furnish their own backpack and personal gear, including eating utensils. The club will provide food and commissary equipment, including pots, cooking utensils, and stoves and fuel. Each person should keep the weight of personal gear (including your backpack) under 25 pounds so that, with the addition of approximately 12 to 16 pounds of commissary equipment and food, total pack weight will be less than 37 to 41 pounds at the start of the trip.
Your pack should have room for commissary equipment, as well as your personal gear. Each participant's commissary load will likely include one food canister, plus an additional non-food item such as a stove, fuel bottle, tarp, rope, pot set, etc. This is roughly equal to the size of a full grocery sack.
In August, weather is usually mild, but storms are possible, so bring cold-weather clothing, raingear (rain jacket and rain pants), and a tent. Boots must be waterproof, be broken in (but not broken) before the trip, and have good Vibram soles. If you are in doubt about your boots or they require repair, consider buying new boots before this trip and getting them early enough so they will be broken in for this trip. Your personal first-aid kit should include a roll of cloth-bound, two-inch athletic adhesive tape. When preparing your backpack, you might want to consider Thoreau's words: "A man is rich in proportion to what he can do without."
Please plan on carrying either the two USGS topo maps or one of the larger area maps such as the Tom Harrison or Trails Illustrated map.
- U.S.G.S. 7.5-minute topographic maps: The "Ten Lakes" and "Falls Ridge" quads cover most of the trip.
- "Yosemite High Country Trail Map" Tom Harrison Maps (www.tomharrisonmaps.com ) covers all of the trip.
- "Yosemite National Park" Trails Illustrated - National Geographic Map (www.trailsillustrated.com) covers all of the trip.
- Laws, John M, The Laws Field Guide To The Sierra Nevada. An excellent field guide to plants, animals, and more.
- Schaffer, Jeffrey P., Yosemite National Park, A Natural History Guide to Yosemite and Its Trails. Wilderness Press. A reference to trails in Yosemite.
- Secor, R.J., The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails. The Mountaineers. An excellent general reference to climbing routes, cross-country routes, and trails in the Sierra Nevada.
- Storer, Tracy I., and Robert L. Usinger, The Sierra Nevada Natural History. Gives more details on specific plants and animals.
- Whitney, Stephen, A Sierra Club Naturalist's Guide to the Sierra Nevada. An excellent trip and/or pre-trip read to understand Sierra ecology.
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy and participation in the goals of the Club. Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Yosemite National Park.
We will be visiting the Yosemite National Park Wilderness area on the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Wilderness Act. Though this area is preserved, adjacent areas not in the national park are still threatened by development, logging, and overgrazing. All of the Sierra Nevada is threatened by air pollution from the San Joaquin Valley below.
Sierra Club outings and the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act:
In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. The Sierra Club’s outings program is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our Outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it—the need to set aside, by civic agreement, certain special places—forever—from human developments. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role, in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving vastly more designated wilderness since then.
California is a key state for Wilderness. In the original 1964 Act, California got more wilderness areas designated than any of the other 12 states, with units in the new National Wilderness Preservation System (although Montana had somewhat more acreage). Out of 54 wilderness areas designated in 1964, 13 were in California—the largest being the John Muir wilderness. Today, California alone has 149 wilderness areas. And California is second only to Alaska in the percentage of its land area that is designated as wilderness—Alaska has 16 percent, California nearly 15 percent. No other state even comes close.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Yosemite National Park.
Notes for Sierra Club Outings
- Carbon Offsets
- Electronic Billing and Forms
- Electronic Devices
- How to Apply for a Trip
- Leader Gratuities
- Liability Release and Assumption of Risk
- Medical Issues
- Non-discrimination Statement
- Participant Approval
- Reservation and Cancellation Policy
- Seller of Travel Disclosure
- Travel Insurance
- Trip Feedback
- Trip Price
- Wilderness Manners