May Lake Hike – Yosemite NP

Lee Vining, CA

The eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park is only about thirteen miles from Lee Vining.  So on Friday we headed into the park for a little hiking.

Heading toward Yosemite

Rte-120 goes right next to a number of beautiful lakes as it goes up and over Tioga Pass at 10,000 feet of elevation.

Ellery Lake

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake

About twenty miles from the entrance to the park we turned north on a narrow, but paved road and drove two miles to the May Lake trailhead.

Heading up the trail to May Lake

The tree equivalent of a U-turn

The trail to the lake is only a little over a mile, but it goes up all the way and is a bit rough in a few spots.

As we gained elevation the views began to get interesting.

At the end of the trail the view of May Lake is quite impressive.

May Lake

Looking up at Mt. Hoffman

May Lake was our original destination, but we knew if we could get a little higher we would be able to see Yosemite Valley and the famous Half Dome.  We knew the trail continued to the top of Mt. Hoffman so we decided to continue up a ways to see if we could find a good vista point.

We hiked up over the first rise and found the view to the south blocked by the mountain.  The trail in front of us was rocky and steep but we thought that if we could get up to the two pines pictured below we would have the view we were looking for, so up we went.

Where’s the trail?

We reached the pines and found that we still had no view to the south, but as we turned around we found the view of May Lake to the north to be spectacular.

OK, we came this far, we may as well keep going.  There has to be a southerly view somewhere up there!

Finally, we came to a flat area with the view we sought.  We could clearly see Clouds Rest Peak to the southeast and Half Dome to the south.

Clouds Rest

Half Dome

Lunch with a view

After enjoying the view at 9,700 feet we carefully made our way back down the trail.

Another great view of May Lake

We had another short hike planned, but the extra hiking up to the vista point was enough for one day.

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30 Responses to May Lake Hike – Yosemite NP

  1. pmbweaver says:

    Yosemite is my #1 park of all time!
    Looks like a gorgeous day for a hike. Going up looks a bit rough. It may have taken what seems forever to get up there but the view of Half Dome is awesome. I love the blue color of May Lake. Great hike!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Marsha! Yosemite is a beautiful place. We really enjoyed our climb. John commented that this was the first real challenging hike we’ve done since returning west. These are the type we really enjoy.

  2. anroworld says:

    Wonderful hiking and breathtaking pictures!

  3. Jim and Barb says:

    We have never been to Yosemite but it is definitely near the top of our list! Don’t you love this time of year when there are so many fewer campers you virtually have the place to yourself.

    • placestheygo says:

      It certainly is much nicer to have the schools open again and parents back to work:) But I am surprised at the number of people here along 395. But then this is the time of year to make this journey. We have had lots of “elbow room” during our visits to attractions and almost empty trail hiking.

  4. Lenore says:

    What beautiful weather you’re having! It looks just heavenly. So glad you aren’t having to cope with smoke. I knew you’d find some great hikes and I’m enjoying “being there” with you.
    On another note, I want to thank you for not cluttering up your blog with too many advertisements. Some of the blogs I read are now just littered with banners and side bars and flashing adds. It’s driving me crazy! I appreciate your more subtle approach. (I’m seeing one small add at the end of the post.)

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Lenore! I didn’t even realize there was an ad at the end of the post! It must be something Word Press does. We didn’t put any ads on our blog.

      I must thank you because your blog has been one of my travel guides for this journey:) I appreciate the preplanning…haha!

      Boy, we lucked out with weather! We are so glad we had a few cool wet days so we could have snow capped mountains for this trip. Our temperatures here in Lee Vining have been 15-20 degrees above normal:)

      • libertatemamo says:

        Yup, WordPress does this automatically if you are using their free platform. It’s one of the ways they recoup costs.

  5. Dave & Skruffy ( says:

    Yosemite is one of my most favorite places having been there so many times from my childhood days to present day. Thanks for rekindling the memories…..

  6. Such intrepid hikers! Looks like an absolutely gorgeous day on the trail!

  7. The May Lake trail is one we missed. Loved that you continued up off trail for the view! That is our favorite kind of hiking, too. Looks like you got your hiking legs back;-)

    • placestheygo says:

      When you return to eastern Yosemite, make sure you visit May Lake and higher!! Yes, we seem to be back in the swing of this hiking thing:) I’ve just been looking back at your posts for the Bishop area. Can’t wait to get out there and explore!!

  8. Jodee Gravel says:

    That view at the top is incredible – thanks for climbing all the way up there so we can enjoy it 🙂 High elevations have never been my friend, even in much younger years. Love the u-turn tree. It would be so fun to go back in time to see what caused it. Love that we’re finding water in the lakes around here :-))))

    • placestheygo says:

      John and I commented the same thing when we saw the tree and several others with the same bend. What was laying across that caused that!

      The view down into Yosemite Valley was neat. I was surprised at the smoke/smog that had settled in the valley. This was not a climb for those with a high elevation problem:)

  9. Laurel says:

    I’m embarrassed to admit that we’ve never been to Yosemite, even though we’ve lived for decades on the West coast. We always think it’s going to be overrun with tourists, so we avoid it. But it looks like you had the park to yourselves! Beautiful hike, and of course you needed to go to the top! No wonder you guys see so many bighorn sheep — they recognize you as kindred spirits! 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      I must say I am surprised that you haven’t been to Yosemite! Maybe on your way south you could stop in on the eastern side. It is only 12 miles to the gate from Lee Vinning. There is a hike to Gaylor Lakes that starts right there by the gate. It is only 3 miles round trip (Of course, it starts at 10,000′). We ran out of time:(

  10. Sherry says:

    Lisa beat me to it. Intrepid hikers was just what I was going to say. I have a bit of that “oh let’s just go a little further” thing myself. I’ve never been to Yosemite either but only because we just don’t seem to be able to get that far west no matter how many times we plan to do it. Three and counting now and every spring something always gets in the way. Looks like a beautiful drive in so glad to see water in the lakes in the west for a change. There’s way more water in the east than we want.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yosemite is a tough park to visit with its location. But entering from the east is not nearly as crowded as the main valley, and it is so close to Lee Vining and Mono Lake. The lakes we saw were interesting. Some were full and others were almost empty. All depends on the water source. Too bad you can’t send some of your water this way! Yes, Sherry, you certainly have some of that spirit to keep going just a little further:)

  11. Love all the pictures. It truly is a beautiful place. I have only been there once and would love to go back someday!

  12. libertatemamo says:

    Gorgeous, yet again! This is actually a hike we haven’t done in the area, so I’ve added it to my list now!

    • placestheygo says:

      May Lake is a perfect hike and a great location. Even if you don’t continue to venture on higher, the lake is beautiful and you can hike around it.

      We figured that was how Word Press got some revenue from those of us using the free version:)

  13. alicia says:

    Gorgeous! I loved Ellery Lake. I was also lucky enough to get Half Dome permits this summer. My friends and I were there over July 4th weekend. Yosemite is one of my favorite NPs! Looks like you are having a blast out West! Alicia

    • placestheygo says:

      Lucky you! I imagine it was quite crowded over the fourth. We were surprised there wasn’t anyone on top of Half Dome when we looked across with binoculars.

      We love the west! We certainly are enjoying this new adventure:)

  14. LuAnn says:

    This is one hike I will be adding to the list. When we came through earlier this year, there was too much snow on many of the trails.

    • placestheygo says:

      May Lake is just about the perfect hike with some easier ups, a few rocky areas, and a beautiful lake after 1.2 miles for a relaxing lunch. There is also the trail higher for more exercise, as well.

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