- Type: Hiking
NileGuide Expert Says:
The Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River runs crystal-clear down the valley from the snow and glaciers around Yosemite's highest point --- Mt. Lyell. Far up the valley you'll find beautiful subalpine meadows and great campsites. Consider taking the spur to camp at Ireland Lake, a deep blue lake at the head of a huge alpine plateau and surrounded by an amphitheater of peaks. Or, continue up to the meadows below Mt. Lyell or Mt. McClure for the ultimate Yosemite backcountry experience.
NileGuide Expert tip:
Miles of flat travel; unusual amidst all this alpine relief. No camping until you're at least 4 miles upcanyon.
- Begin this hike through Lyell Canyon at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. The trail leads 12 miles southeastward to the park boundary at Donohue Pass. From the parking area cross the access road to a trail that crosses the Dana Fork. After crossing the Dana Fork the trail leads south approximately one half mile to another junction. This is the JMT leading eastward along the Lyell Fork from Tuolumne Meadows Campground. Turn left on this trail and follow it one half mile to the next junction. At this junction follow the left fork along the Lyell Fork. The right side of this fork follows Rafferty Creek. From this trail junction the path crosses two branches of Rafferty Creek before entering Lyell Canyon. Views along the path include the Kuna Crest which rises above the eastern wall of Lyell Canyon. After four miles of hiking through flood plain meadows and conifer forests the trail reaches a junction. The left fork leads southward to the head of Lyell Fork. Follow the left fork, which will bring you to some excellent riverside campsites. These sites are best for camping in late July through mid September after the mosquito population diminishes. Within a half mile the trail crosses Ireland Creek as it follows the western bank of Lyell Fork. Approximately three miles from the trail junction the JMT reaches an excellent camping site shortly beyond the mouth of Kuna Creek. This is the last resting area before ascending the southern canyon wall of Lyell Canyon and a good place to camp. Beyond this flat area the trail climbs 2,000 feet in the next three miles. It winds its way up the canyon crossing the headwaters of the Lyell Fork. Close to the summit of Donohue Pass hikers will enjoy views of nearby glaciers among other natural features.
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