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Lyell Canyon - Vogelsang Loop - California, United States

by steverod  
with a Garmin Oregon 550t
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The Yosemite High Country in July... creeks full of snowmelt, meadows full of flowers, mosquitos full of blood.

This hike is remarkably gentle and relatively easy for all that it climbs high into the high country. Of course, the presence of one of the High Sierra Camps (hotels in the backcountry) should tell you that. It goes "up" Lyell Canyon (which is perhaps the flattest 6 miles I've hike anywhere), following the Tuolumne River. and the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trails south Lyell Canyon is delightful: it has a flat bottom with meadows and the Tuolumne River , surrounded by forest rising up the walls, and snowcapped peaks in the distance. You can't get much more idyllic. This portion of the hike was not only easy and beautiful, it was also almost mosquito-free.

At the Ireland Creek Trail junction, you leave the Muir Trail and start going up. Right near the trail junction are a number of very nice campsites. The trail then heads up at last . Most of this climb is through deep , viewless forest, alas. After climbing about 1200 feet, the forest begins to thin out a bit and you start getting spectacular views across Lyell Canyon.  This forest is also full of mosquitoes in season (which is actually true for the rest of the hike). After leaving Ireland Creek and heading north, the scenery opens up considerably and there are many campsites; while they superficially seem to be dry sites, in early season there are many creeklets with water. In retrospect this might have been a good area to camp.

When you reach the Ireland Lake trail junction, there's a good stream but you still have some up left. Supposedly, Ireland Lake is 2.5 miles and 300 feet of climbing away, just beneath Parsons Peak, but I didn't go there.  Continue heading west and up to the 10,580' summit of the ridge between Lyell Canyon and Rafferty Creek Valley. The views from up here are spectacular, as you would expect.

I followed the trail to Tarn 10,425, which is visible from the ridgetop. There are campsites on both sides of the lake, although right next to the lake is pretty boggy. When I was there, there were wldflowers and bugs in profusion -- at first there was a good wind to keep them off but that died off as the evening progressed and I had to resort to stronger measures - DEET and then physical layers.

A mile further on is Evelyn Lake, which is on an even more open plain . Both the tarn and Evelyn Lake have great views of the Cathedral Range to the west and a beautiful sunset.

Next morning, I got up bright and early but not early enough to beat the bugs, so moving quickly was the order of the day. You can drop straight from Evelyn Lake down to Tuolumne Pass or follow the trail into Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. This year, the camp hadn't even opened yet, so I wandered over there. The hike is beautiful, following grassy ramps between granite outcrops and cruising just below Fletcher Lake. The High Sierra Camp location is gorgeous, too, although I'm not sure what I'd think when the camp is in full swing.

From the High Sierra Camp, I headed down towards Tuolumne Pass and Rafferty Creek Valley.  Unlike the way up, this is a long, gentle incline all the way down, open for much of the way. It's not until the last mile before reaching the JMT/PCT that the angle is ever very bad; there's about 350-400 feet of elevantion change there, which probably isn't fun when you're climbing it. Soon enough, you reach the JMT/PCT and then are crossing the Tuolumne River and heading back into camp.

A cold beer and a dip in the Tuolumne River and all was right with the world. An excellent way to spend a summer weekend.
  • July bugs are bad everywhere. Physical protection (impermeable layers, like long-sleeve shirts and headnets) work better in these situations than DEET, in my experience -- there are just *so many* bugs that repelling doesn't really work.
  • The climb up Ireland Creek is really pretty blah for about 1300 feet, but there are some promising campsites up towards the top.

Yosemite, high sierra camp, Tuolumne Meadows
Photos: See all pictures and videos from Lyell Canyon - Vogelsang Loop
Trip Info
July 17, 2010
Trip Location: Yosemite National Park, California, United States
Length: 20 miles
Duration: 2 days
Activity: Backpacking
Trip viewed 4,938 times
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