Category Archives: Hiking

Yosemite Hike: Gaylor Lakes

As we prepared for our summer trip to Yosemite, we planned on doing two hikes. The first hike would be the Panorama Trail with our friends Robyn and Jason. The second hike we intended to do was the hike to Cathedral Lakes.

Our Panorama Trail hike did a number on our out-of-shape legs. And although we had two full days to recover, we seriously doubted our ability to take on another “moderate” trail. So I pulled out our handy book – Yosemite National Park: A Complete Hiker’s Guide – and started browsing for alternatives in the high country.

The morning of our final day, we got going early to drive up to the Tuolumne Meadows area and check out the hike to Gaylor Lakes.

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What we gathered from our book was that the Gaylor Lakes hike was “easy” (a relative term for Yosemite hikes), offered beautiful scenery the likes of the Cathedral Lakes hike, and saw far fewer hikers. Winner!

The trailhead is located just inside the Tioga Pass entrance. It’s a pretty steep climb from there to the top of the ridge, but it’s not a long climb. Just as we were starting to regret our choice, the trail evened out and we were rewarded with glorious views of Dana Meadows and the surrounding mountains.

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While the views behind us were beautiful, they were nothing compared to what awaited us just beyond the ridge…

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The first lake you see is Middle Gaylor Lake. The lake is a good size and crystal clear. We made our way along the north side of the lake and then headed out towards Upper Gaylor Lake.

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At this point, we started to encounter larger patches of snow. The snow was quickly melting, and the trail was more of a stream than a walkable path. We made it to the south edge of Upper Gaylor Lake and hit our end point. We were hoping to make it a little farther and get to the Great Sierra Mine, but the snow cancelled those plans. So we turned around and found a nice spot to sit, eat our snacks, and take in the view.

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Seriously, I never wanted to leave. But eventually, it was time to start the hike out.

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And carefully make our way down the steep stretch we struggled to hike up.

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We absolutely loved the Gaylor Lakes hike in Yosemite National Park! It gave us just the right amount of challenge and rewarded us with amazing views. And our book was true to its word – There were barely any hikers out there. We encountered two guys headed out to fish, a dad and two boys heading back from fishing, and two other couples just hiking. For Yosemite, this is a rare occurrence. We soaked it up.

A beautiful day and a fun hike were the perfect endings to our time in Yosemite National Park and our summer vacation as a whole.

Panorama Trail in Yosemite National Park

Every time we visit Yosemite, we tackle a big hike. This year, we had a couple of awesome hiking buddies! One of Jason’s best friends from high school, Jason, and his wife, Robyn, moved from Wisconsin to the Los Angeles area a few years ago. We were so happy when our friends were able to spend our first day in Yosemite with us!

Since Robyn and Jason had never visited Yosemite before, they left the plans for the day up to us. We suggested a hike, and we set out to find a new-to-us trail that would also give them a good glimpse of the magnificence of Yosemite. After a little research, we chose the 8-mile Panorama Trail from Glacier Point to the Valley floor.

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The first highlight of the hike was coming upon a grouse. We assumed he was courting a lady (who we never saw), because he paid no attention to us. The Jasons were in awe of how close we could get to the bird, because they’re normally very flighty.

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The first two miles of the hike were absolutely incredible! There were great views all around us – I guess they don’t call it the Panorama Trail for nothing. I soaked it all in. It was one of those instances of being completely in the moment and appreciating being right were I was, being with great people, and doing something that I love to do.

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Eventually, we hit our first major landmark: Illilouette Fall. We didn’t get much of a look at the waterfall, but we enjoyed a short snack break along the banks of Illilouette Creek.

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Little did we know that the “easy” part of the hike was over. The hike had been all downhill up to this point, but you have to hike up out of the creek valley. A series of steep switchbacks take you up 800 feet again. They are no joke! I definitely struggled, and I felt like a total wuss when another hiker ran – yes, ran – past us to catch back up with his group. Of course, the group was full of super fit, built men.

The climb seemed to go on forever, but we finally made it to the top and started going downhill again. But now, the downhill was the problem. It wasn’t the smooth, easy downhill of the first part of the hike. Our legs took a beating on the final stretch.

Since it was our friends’ first time to the park, we added the short trip to the top of Nevada Fall. For as difficult as the hike is whether hiking up along the Mist Trail, like we did the first year, or hiking down from Glacier Point, I never thought I would find myself at the top of Nevada Fall again. I savored the whole thing.

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We hiked the John Muir Trail down to the Valley. I totally didn’t remember that stretch being so rough. Either I was way more fit three years ago (which isn’t out of the question) or it was so bad, I blocked it. That last couple of hours were excruciating.

Despite how bad my legs hurt, I loved every minute of it. I felt like I really accomplished something. And when you are surrounded by the beauty of Yosemite and you’re with people you love, it’s just the best thing ever.

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Spring Hike at Bald Bluff

At some point in early May, it occurred to me that Jason and I were less than a month away from our big summer vacation that would include major hikes and adventuring…and we had been doing nothing more than sitting on our butts for the last several months. Knowing our destination well at this point – Yosemite National Park – I didn’t think it was the best idea to head into this adventure having done no hiking beforehand. So I suggested a Saturday morning hike to Jason.

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We had hiked the Bald Bluff Nature Trail once before several years ago. The trail starts out with a series of switchbacks to get up to the overlook. And if you continue hiking along the intersecting Ice Age Trail, you’ll have to hike back up to the bluff once more to get back to the parking area. With more mountainous hikes in our near future, I thought this made a good choice for working our legs a little.

Bald Bluff isn’t necessarily the most scenic hike, but it is the highest point in the county. So it has that going for it.

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We decided to bring Bailey with us on our hike, which did not make Thea very happy. We have taken both dogs with us hiking a few times, and unfortunately it isn’t much fun. The two together get too excited and feed off of one another’s energy. They become hard to control, which takes the joy out of the whole hike. We were particularly happy we only had one dog with us when we came upon a family with little kids on the trail. Bailey alone was very calm. If we had both dogs, it would have been chaos.

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After reaching the overlook, we continued along the Ice Age Trail for another 15 minutes or so before heading back. This took us much farther into the woods around Bald Bluff than we had gone before. It’s quite pretty. Next time, we have to make sure to keep going all the way to the Stone Elephant (about 1.5 miles along the Ice Age Trail beyond the Bald Bluff overlook).

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Despite having to deal with a few ticks afterwards, we had a nice morning hike. We didn’t hike again until we were in Yosemite, so conditioning ourselves for our trip still didn’t happen (and we paid dearly for it). But at least I had good intentions, if only for a brief moment.

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