Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

5:14 p.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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23 forum posts

Thought I would post this here as I'm tired of searching the internet for decent (and free) trail reports.

**note** This hike was done in August of 2007, so my memory is a little foggy. I'll do my best to conjure the important details:


Starting out at Tuolumne Meadows, a friend and I set out to hike the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne to the White Wolf campground. I think the hike added up to about 35-40 miles. Leaving the Lembert Dome parking lot in the late morning, we followed the crowded and hot PCT for maybe 6 miles to the Glen Aulin campground. This portion of the trek was all downhill, and we would continue to lose elevation for a few more miles before starting a series of ups and downs along the canyon walls of the Muir Gorge.


While ascending, the trail can be shockingly steep; for a few long ascents, I was able to use my hands to help the climb without stooping-if that gives you an idea. However, the scenery becomes really impressive-even by Yosemite standards-as the trial progresses. The canyon walls look to be a good 6000 feet high from the trail's low points, and the river is a pristine and torturous spectacle from the higher vantage points.


We did have a close encounter with a quite large bear on this first day. It was scurrying down a tree as we rounded a corner and beat a quick retreat into the alpine scrub with only a short glance back at us. Later, we met another bear at our campsite along side the river. This one was an adolescent, and both smaller and less intimidated. However, it shambled slowly down river with no regard for us. These were the only bears we saw for the duration of the hike.


The second day took us over a few more ridge climbs before dumping us into the wider Pate Valley. The weather had begun to turn and we waited out a thunderstorm beneath small trees. The chill inspired us to make camp, which was only accomplished after a mistaken detour through the sodden undergrowth. In the end, we camped in a thick pine forest a few miles shy of the ascent to White Wolf.


On the morning of the third day, I woke with a really stiff left knee. My shoe had been cutting (literally) across the top of my right foot since late on the first day, and I had been overburdening my left leg (where I had torn ligaments and tendons twice). here was really nothing to do about it so we set out.


The ascent from the valley to White Wolf is about 4000 feet. About two miles in my knee started to hurt. Bad. Real bad. So began a few hours of excruciating switchback hiking. I'm not sure how hot it was-maybe 80 degrees, maybe warmer-but it felt like 120 with white stars shooting through my eyes everytime I took a step with my left leg.


Climbing out of the canyon we encounted a small alpine lake and plenty of tourists. Then, a few more miles of gravel and paved roads and we reached the main highway. We tried hitching for over two hours before someone picked us up, dropping us back at Tuolumne Meadows a couple hours before sunset.


During the canyon portion of the hike, we encountered three people. The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne is seems astonishly remote, especially when one recalls that it is nestled in the heart of Yosemite National Park. The scenery is breath-taking, and the trail is challenging in terms of elevation change and rewarding for its views and swimming holes.


*35-40 miles, moderate to difficult

*1 full day, and two half-days of hiking

*A bear canister in mandatory and can be rented when one reports their itinerary to the rangers.

*Water is not as accessible as one might think, but if you fill up your quart-sized water bottle where you can, you'll be fine.

5:26 p.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
4,534 reviewer rep
6,031 forum posts


Thanks for the TR. (OTOH, you should not have published it, because too many people will now discover this wonderful "secret" part of the Sierra ;)). It has been many years since I was in this area (about 40!). I suspect the older bear you saw was one of the "transported" bears from the Valley - this area is "First Exile" for problem bears from the Valley ("Second Exile" is the Sonora Pass area, and "Third Exile" for the "3-Strikers" is the Kaiser Pass area).

Too bad you had the leg and foot problems. But still, the scenery makes up for it, doesn't it?

1:53 p.m. on April 2, 2009 (EDT)
77 reviewer rep
23 forum posts

That's intersting, about the bears. I wish I could put a curse on people who bring about situations in which bears get accustomed to getting food from humans/human activities.

The first encounter was my first and only close encounter with a large bear. During the few seconds of uncertainty, my only thought was to pick up a big rock in case I had to scrap with it. Afterwards though, I just felt bad for it, for intruding and scaring it while it was doing the hard work of getting by. It makes me feel worse that it was probably in an unfamiliar area. We were at a pretty high altitude and there wasn't a lot of horizontal ground...

December 10, 2019
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