Yosemite Valley to John Muir Trail in Lyell Canyon via Vogelsang High Sierra Camp

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 03 March 2015

Alternative Route
hiking to
Tuolumne Meadows
and the
Southbound John Muir Trail

I call it 25.94 miles.

That is 25.94 miles starting out of Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley to the point 5.6 miles South of Tuolumne Meadows where the end of this alternative route tees-out on the John Muir Trail.

This page below introduces the general outlines of what is the "other" route we can hike out of Happy Isles, other than following the JMT up to Tuolumne Meadows.

That JMT route looks like 21.8 miles to Tuolumne Meadows to me.

One Way into The Valley
I have never hiked to Tuolumne Meadows out of the Valley. I've only hiked down to the Valley from Tuolumne Meadows, and back up to the JMT in Lyell Canyon on the return leg. I avoid Yosemite except as part of long distance backpacking trips.

Another Way Out
Returning to the JMT via Merced Lake means we will share the first segment of this most profoundly popular John Muir Trail out of Happy Isles with many, many JMT hikers, as many as the trail can possibly hold, in addition to its heavy day and overnight use by thousands of Half Dome, Glacier Point, and other local Hikers.

Nice folks, for the most part. Just a lot of us.

Thus it's hard to get permits, and busy when you do get them. I've hiked this loop twice on long distance permits issued out of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Stanislaus National Forest. When that was even possible... Good Luck! You will likely have to obtain a series of permits to do unique Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trips I hiked with one permit for decades.

Our route to the JMT in Lyell Canyon from Yosemite Valley will split from the "regular" route of the JMT at Little Yosemite Valley. Instead of following the JMT climbing North out the Merced Canyon we will hike up the canyon alongside the Merced River up to Merced Lake. Just above Merced Lake we'll turn North to cross the Cathedral Range, which will be our last obstacle between us and the John Muir Trail in Lyell Canyon.

The first segment of this route brings us up the standard JMT route out of Happy Isles to Nevada Falls and into Little Yosemite Valley.
 Input, comments, and more information on that first segment of our trail out of Yosemite Valley are located here, on the Big and Little Yosemite Valleys Forum Page. That's the last page of the forum section covering our hike down to
Yosemite Valley from Tuolumne Meadows.

The next page of this Yosemite Valley to Lyell Canyon Trail Forum is, Little Yosemite Valley to Merced Lake, which was created for your specific supplemental information, questions, comments, and experiences along the 8.4 miles hiking above Little Yosemite Valley along the Merced River up to Merced Lake.

The trail guide index for this section lays out the information we've put together:

Yosemite Valley to John Muir Trail in Lyell Canyon

Of particular note about the section of trail from Merced Lake to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp is that we have two distinct routes we can choose from leading us up to Voglesang High Sierra Camp from the Lewis-Fletcher trail junction. The Lewis-Fletcher trail junction is located a mile climbing North from the Merced Lake Ranger Station.

 The steeper of the two trails up Lewis Creek also climbs much higher than the Fletcher Creek route. This is to get it over Vogelsang Pass on its way to Vogelsang HSC.

Though the more moderate trail up Fletcher Creek does not climb as high, it does not disappoint. Each route highlights unique views and perspectives, and both rejoin again at Vogelsang HSC. 

The Eastern of the two backpacking maps covering this section below lays out our two routes from Merced Lake to Vogelsang HSC well, while the Western map displays the character of the segment of our trail from Little Yosemite Valley to Merced Lake:

Merced Lake to Lyell Canyon Map

Yosemite Valley to Merced Lake

We get a comprehensive contex on our Golden Triangle route through the Central Yosemite Wilderness when we incorporate the context of the Tuolumne Meadows Region Map into that imparted by the other two maps above.

After visiting Voglesang HSC we hike the route past Evelyn and Ireland Lakes on our way descending back to the Southbound JMT in Lyell Canyon, which sets us up for our exit out the South end of Yosemite National Park, or to close our Golden Triangle backpacking loop in Tuolumne Meadows.

Trail Guide
Section Index Page

Yosemite Valley to Lyell Canyon via Merced River and Voglesang 

The page above links to all our maps, miles & elevations, and trail guide information for this section of our hike from Tahoe to Whitney.


Post up your comments on what you think about, or have experienced along this section of trail from Little Yosemite Valley to Lyell Canyon via Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Post up information about good trips, shorter and variations along the routes, favorite campsites, views, memories, and your future plans here:

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