Jim and I closed out our trip in Yosemite like we do on all of our National Park trips … with a surprising last hike that turned out to be our favorite! May Lake, located along the Tioga Pass, is a great six mile day hike, but it also makes a great overnight backpacking hike where you can spend the night next to a gigantic gorgeous lake. You can extend the hike a lot further, but we opted for the six mile version since we had to drive back to LA later that day. If you’re planning on backpacking the trail, make sure you obtain permits beforehand.
Tioga Pass is my favorite part of Yosemite because it’s not open year-round and it tends to be a lot less crowded than Yosemite Valley. I think a lot of the Park’s hidden gems are found in Tioga Pass.
Perhaps the most surprising part of our May Lake hike was the sheer amount of snow up there in the beginning of July! Here we were in shorts and t-shirts hiking through the snow to reach a completely frozen-over lake! We went into the hike kind of blindly, and so when we reached the lake itself, we were pretty blown away by it’s size and beauty. Backpacking this trail and spending the night next to the lake is definitely on my Yosemite Wish List !!
Another bonus we got from this hike was the fact that the first mile of it, where you would normally drive, was closed off due to snow, so we ended up tacking on an additional two miles to our hike, making it an 8 mile trek instead of 6. We saw this as a bonus because the little green valleys that pop up along the road on either side were really cool, and I don’t think we would have really taken the time to see them had we been driving through to the parking lot.
The views of the mountains set further back along this trail were really something else. Sometimes I look back at the photos and I kind of can’t believe that this is a real place. I would classify this trail as easy to moderate, but definitely more challenging if you’re carrying your 30+ lb. backpack with you, as we saw lots of people doing! We met one guy who was mountaineering up past the lake in the realllllyyyy deep snow parts — we wished him luck and definitely felt admiration for him as we watched him disappear into the trees all on his own. One of my favorite parts about hiking some of the lesser-known trails is the people that you meet on them. We’re all there for the same reasons.
Anyway, if you find yourself in Yosemite, I definitely recommend adding May Lake to your hiking list! Seeing it covered in snow and ice in July was the surprise of a lifetime and definitely the coolest thing we weren’t expecting to see, but I think seeing it in the dead of summer and maybe jumping into the water doesn’t sound so bad either 😉
happy hiking, friends!