My friend, Shayna, left us to go home and see Hamilton this morning, but, after showing her the pictures, she was really bummed she missed this hike. Today we did the Gaylor Lakes Trail and it may have been one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. This hike is definitely one of the best kept secrets in Yosemite. There were maybe 15 other hikers we saw on the trail, and we were on this beautiful trail for four hours because it was just so pretty we didn’t want to leave.
Four hours sounds like a long time, but the trail itself is actually quite short at about 4 miles long roundtrip and only has a 600 foot elevation. Like everything we have been doing in Yosemite, it is at a very high elevation and the start of the trailhead is already at 10,000 feet elevation. The trail is off of Tioga Pass, and so is open whenever that road is open (usually October-Septemberish). I would recommend bringing bug spray because you will be surrounded by lots of water and the mosquitos definitely came for me. I went home with over 30 bug bites!
The hike starts at a decently steep incline up a trail that takes you through some trees and near a stream. It’s almost an uphill meadow because there’s a lot of grass but there’s also a lot of trees. This part of the hike had some gorgeous wildflowers decorating the trail. My dad and I were in no hurry to rush through and I kept stopping and taking picture of flowers.
Eventually, the trail changes into more of a wooded area instead of a meadow, and then it crests up into an area that is straight rock that’s tinged red from all the iron in the ground. It’s a bit hard to describe because this trail would literally look like three or four separate hikes if you were to look at my pictures from the day. Once you get to this crest it completely changes scenery. Behind you, towards the valley, is all of Dana Meadow and it’s numerous ponds and streams stretching out before you. In front of you is a view of a gorgeous alpine lake and mountains in the background. The natural beauty of this place will take your breath away.
As you can see, you have to climb down to the lake, and then the trail follows it closely on the side. Close enough to where at one point I squatted down and put my hand in the water because I was curious how cold it was. (It was very cold). There were lots of wildflowers here too just like earlier in the hike. The lake was a deep sapphire blue color and looking out over it on the trail had a postcard-type view of some of the tallest peaks in the park. You almost get the sense that you’re looking off the edge of the world.
The next part of the hike feels like you are in the Sound of Music. The trail runs next to a stream up a grassy meadow. The path actually crosses over the stream a few times as it goes slightly uphill towards another lake. There’s a lot of wildflowers at this part of the hike too and the grass was incredibly green when we were there in late August. At the crest of the hill, you see another lake that is framed by a mountain. There was actually a large patch of snow when we were there, which was so strange to see because it was about 75 degrees out. The trail actually went across the snow, so my dad and I made some snowballs.
After we had shuffled about 100 yards across the snow, the trail continued up a hill above the lake, The scenery completely changes here. The ground has much more iron here and it is a deep red color as you walk up the hill overlooking the lake. Once you reach the top of this hill, you see a partially fallen down house made out of slate. If you walk a little further, you can see two sunken in mines. In the early 1900’s, there were silver mines up here, but they collapsed after they went out of use when they didn’t prove fruitful. The partially built houses up on this hill are the houses of the miners who used to live there. It was super cool to walk up around here and imagine how these miners might have lived in this incredibly isolated area. It would have been beautiful, but lonely.
This was definitely my favorite hike of the trip. It wasn’t the longest or the most well known, but it was incredibly beautiful and not very trafficked. Of all the hikes we did this week, this is the hike I would be most likely to do again and I would highly recommend it to anyone who finds themself on Tigoa Pass.
Thanks for reading!