(Pictures of this hike,
TL to ML in the Yosemite hiking map)
The trailhead is 32 kms outside the Valley on hwy 120 going east (Tioga Rd).
It is marked T15. If you are heading east, it is located right before the
Yosemite Creek picnic area (after the White Wold campground).
If you are heading west, it is located after the Porcupine Flat campground.
The trail heads north, so it is on the left-hand side of the road if you are
The elevation at the trailhead is about 2500 meters.
The Ten Lakes trail heads mostly north. After 3kms it intersects with the
trail coming from White Wolf. After another hour of walking, the trail enters
a meadow. Bear left in the meadow. Then the trail climbs up very steeply,
coasting the waterfalls.
after about one hour, the trail forks: right for
Grant's Lake, left for Ten Lakes. At this point you have hiked about 8kms
and you have two more to go.
This is the highest point of the Ten Lake hike and it is above 3000 meters.
Then the trail plunges down into the valley of the lakes, an almost vertical
This trail is still covered with snow at the beginning of June.
The snow makes it very difficult to find the trail.
May Lake to Ten Lakes
This hike requires dropping one car at the Ten-Lake trailhead (T15) and
driving on a second car to the May Lake trailhead
(about 13kms east of the Ten-Lake trailhead, past the
Porcupine Flat campground if you are driving east).
Note that the May Lake road is usually closed till june because of snow.
(You can also start this hike at Tanaya Lake, but you'll miss May Lake).
The total distance is about 38 kms.
In september 2002 it took us 11h35' to hike it. In june 2004, it tooks us
10h50' hours. In september 2005 it took us 10h30'.
The trail from May Lake reaches the
Ten Lake area after circling around Mt Hoffmann and Toulomne Peak.
Three steep climbs (three passes) are involved.
The main attractions are the views from these passes (the third one is the
classic ten-lake view) and the lakes themselves. The landscape changes
dramatically between one pass and the next one. The price you pay is a long,
tough hike because you go up and down three times, and the last one (if you
go from May Lake towards the Ten Lakes) is the steepest.
(In [parenthesis], our 2005 times, including stops).
- May Lake (2826m) trailhead to May Lake (2kms) [20']
- The trail coasts May Lake, then turns east, goes up and then eventually
climbs to the eastern side to the edge of a canyon [1h 10']
- The trail winds down into the canyon, with impressive views of the wilderness, and connects to the trail coming from Tenaya Lake [1h 40']
- After a meadow, the trail begins to go up. Long switchbacks lead to the top of the first major pass (2830m) [3h]
- The trail now descends the canyon on the other side, heading west and
crossing many little creeks (all will be dry after july). When the switchbacks
end (3h 45'), the trail first heads south for a long time and then north for a long time along the creek.
- The trail coasts the creek for about 6 kms (this stretch ends when the mountain on your left ends).
- The trail crosses the creek and turns sharply west [5h]
- The trail starts climbing up the mountain (these are probably the steepest
switchbacks of the hike) and goes around its northern side. Then the trail
coasts a creek and the grade gets much much milder. After a few minutes from
a meadow, you reach the second pass (2904m). [6h20']
- From the second pass to the first lake on your left-hand side (2750m) it is only 15-20' [6h30']
- This is where you are likely to first meet other hikers. The trail winds its way down through a couple more lower lakes, heading towards the mountain across the valley. After the meadow [7h10'], coast the western edge of the lake for a few minutes. After crossing the creek, follow it upstream (west). After about 100m, you
should see the sign pointing to May Lake and Tioga Rd. [7h30']
You have hiked about 26kms from May Lake (28kms from the trailhead) and you are about 10kms from the end.
- The trail now climbs the mountain to the west. Very steep switchbacks lead to the third pass, a Tibetan-style plateau (2943m). [8h]
Along the switchbacks you get the best overview of the Ten-Lake area.
For a postcard-ready panoramic picture, when you are at the top of the third pass, head left and coast the ridge until you find a cliff that is right on top of the lakes. You should be able to see three lakes very clearly and a fourth one in the distance.
- The trail crosses the plateau. From the fork to Grant Lake (stay on the trail for Tioga Rd), it is 8kms to the Ten-Lake trailhead (the end).
- Steep switchbacks downhill lead to a meadow. [8h30']
- The trail flattens out to the Wolf Trail fork. [9h30']
- From the Wolf trail to the end (follow the sign for "Ten-Lake parking lot") is another 3.2 kms (2300m). [10h30']