INDEX: The Golden Triangle

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By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 03 March 2015

This is the comments and basic information page for our Golden Triangle alternative route off the main crestline route of our Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip. I want to hear how you weave in the more famous parts of Yosemite into your Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip. Or, how you figured out the best way to hike a huge loop around the entirety of Yosemite National Park, which would be the next best thing.


In Yosemite
Backpacking from Tahoe to Whitney the portion of our trip through Yosemite enters the North Yosemite Backcountry through Bond Pass, and follows the Sierra Crestline South to exit the South end of Yosemite into the Ansel Adams Wilderness via Donohue Pass. Our only question is, are we hiking through Yosemite Valley on the way, or are we not? That is the question.


Standard Route
I had been hiking across Yosemite along the Sierra Crest from Bond (or Dorothy Lake Pass) to Donohue Pass for decades, essentially ignoring Yosemite Valley and the Central Yosemite Wilderness wrapping around it.
  I had been exploring various routes across all the trail sections over the years, except in Central Yosemite. At a certain point in time my resistance to low elevations and large numbers of people was overcome by my desire to weave the most famous of the Sierra Range's icons of beauty and globally-known landmarks of the Central Yosemite Wilderness into my Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trips. 

The Golden Triangle
I consider the Sierra and our routes along it to be a living interaction between all its participants that's always growing and changing, and I wanted to have the option of extending the length of the TW by, "threading the eye of the needle" through Yosemite Valley on the way from Tahoe to Whitney. This is the result. 

Permit Hell
I was honestly surprised I talked the Forest Service into writing these particular permits. I doubt I could talk them into it again. Today we would most likely have to draw a series of permits from the line of Forests our route covers, and then have to deal with Yosemite, to put together such an extensive trip.

Route of the Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle has two legs, the first following the JMT "backwards" off the line of the Sierra Crest down to Yosemite Valley after we hike into Tuolumne Meadows. The return leg starts through the classic John Muir Trailhead at Happy Isles, but shortly breaks off the route of the JMT by continuing up the Merced River Canyon to Merced Lake from Little Yosemite.


Golden Triangle Mileage
From Merced Lake we cross Voglesang Pass to reaccquire the Southbound JMT in Lyell Canyon about 5.6 miles South of Tuolumne Meadows, depending on which signs you trust.

The sign at the TM Visitor Center cites 20.9 miles to Yosemite Valley while I measure the distance from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley at 21.8 miles. It really depends on how, and from where, you measure it.


Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows via Vogeland
The old steel Yosemite miles signs at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp add up to 26.79 miles from Yosemite Valley to Lyell Canyon, and a total of 32.6 to Tuolumne Meadows from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows via Vogelsang to Lyell Canyon.

I measure the distance from Yosemite Valley to Lyell Canyon at 25.94 miles.


Total Miles
That puts the total mileage of the Golden Triangle somewhere between 50 and 54 miles, depending on which trail signs you believe, and if you close the triangle by returning to Tuolumne Meadows, or continue South on the John Muir Trail to exit Yosemite National Park over Donohue Pass.

 I will attempt to identify and resolve current contradictions between the Steel Yosemite Miles Signs and more contemporary figures while constructing the South guide, but until then I plan based on the higher numbers.


The Golden Triangle contains three backpacking sections:


Trail Guide Indexes

Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley to JMT in Lyell Canyon

Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadow and Mammoth Lakes

 The indexes have links to the guide pages, all the maps, and miles and elevations figures for the main trails into and out of Yosemite Valley.


Getting There

Public Transportation in the High Sierra


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Charle's Angels, Tuolumne Meadows