Distance

17 Miles

Elevation Gain

1000 Feet

Activities

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

Skill

Advanced

Season

Summer

Type

Loop

Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Swimming Hole

Legendary off-trail backpacking in Yosemite without the crowds. Best kept secret for getting a permit in Tuolumne even during the busy season.

Head to any Yosemite wilderness station for a map, bear canister, and permit for Nelson Lake. The trail itself starts in the Tuolumne Campground at Elizabeth Lake trailhead. Follow the trail 2.2 miles up to Elizabeth Lake and remember the lake itself is in a no-camping zone, so you must continue before setting up camp. 

Continue off trail following Unicorn Creek south to a small pass between Johnson Peak and Cockscomb. Stay low and descend southwest along Echo Creek. After approximately 3 miles, veer east and uphill towards Nelson Lake. Sometimes there's cairns marking the path, but a map and navigation skills are crucial.

Nelson Lake is a beautiful spot to camp, with Rafferty Peak looming to the east. To continue the loop, follow the drainage north and northeast to Reymann Lake. Directly east of Reymann is a small pass between Rafferty Peak and Johnson Peak. Ascend for about a mile, then descend towards Rafferty Creek trail on the eastern side of the pass. Once you hit the well-worn trail, it's approximately 4 miles north to the junction with the JMT and an additional 2 easy miles back to the car.

Community Photos

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Nearby Lodging

From $143/night

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

Tioga Rd, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA 95389, USA

From $386/night

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel

Yosemite Valley, California

From $108/night

Housekeeping Camp

Yosemite Valley, California

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Distance

17 Miles

Elevation Gain

1000 Feet

Activities

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

Skill

Advanced

Season

Summer

Type

Loop

Nearby Adventures

Adventure

Camp at Tuolumne Meadows Campground

Adventure

Enjoy a Sunset at Tuolumne Meadows

Adventure

Summit Parsons, Vogelsang, and Rafferty Peaks

Adventure

Backpack to Fletcher Lake and Summit Vogelsang Peak

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