Backpack to Johnson Lake

Rate this Adventure Yosemite Chilnualna Falls Trailhead

Added by Josh Currie

Johnson Lake is an incredible destination for the Yosemite backpacker looking to get away for a few days. 

Your trek begins at the Chilnualna Falls trailhead in Wawona near the South Gate in Yosemite. The first suggestion I have is to check the weather in the area to make sure you won't be slowed down by rain or snow. It's about 12 miles from the trailhead to the lake and if you are a swift hiker and take few breaks, it should take you anywhere from 7-8 hours to make it to the lake. 

The trail from the head to the top of Chilnualna Falls is always in good condition and decently foot trafficked, but continuing a long the trail beyond the falls it becomes less marked. Given what the weather looks like, it will be pretty simple to keep on track though. We encountered a lot of snow starting at about 6,500 feet which made the trail difficult to find at times but if you pay attention you'll be able to keep track of it. 

There are two different forks a long the trail, one after the Falls and another about 2.5 miles later. The first sign you want to head in the direction of Royal Arch Lake and the second in the direction of Johnson Lake. If you have a trail map of the area you should have no problem directing yourself. Other than that, if you can continue a long the single track trail, given any weather hazards, you will have no problem getting there! 

If you don't have the opportunity to start your hike in the morning in order to make it to Johnson Lake before sun down, there will be plenty of spots to pull off the trail and rest for the night before continuing on in the morning. 

Johnson lake sits at about 8700 feet and has this small island closer to the far end of the lake that if you're willing to tramp through the shallow water a bit you can camp right out on the island with water surrounding you. It truly is one of the more beautiful, private lakes in the area!

Pack List

  • Food
  • Water
  • Tent/Shelter
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Permit
  • Camera
  • Jacket
  • Sunscreen
  • Fishing Rod
  • Swimsuit 

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Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



24 Miles

Elev. Gain:

4500 Feet



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Added by Josh Currie

Christ | Country | Family | Filmmaker at GoPro

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