• Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    12 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1800 Feet

Forest
Scenic
Wildflowers

When Yosemite feels too busy, this hike provides some much needed solitude, heather meadows, and surprisingly accessible views of the High Sierra. Camp overnight at the base of Tuolumne Peak or incorporate this route into a longer one-way trip to Ten Lakes.

The most direct route begins at Murphy Creek trailhead, on the north side of Tioga Road near Tenaya Lake. Walk north on Murphy Creek trail for 2.5 miles with minimal elevation gain. Polly Dome Lakes are a great side trip via the social trail on the right side of the trail before the first junction. (Camping there is allowed, with a wilderness permit.) The trail continues to Glen Aulin, but turn left at the junction towards Ten Lakes/May Lake. After only 0.4 miles, turn right at the next junction towards Ten Lakes.

From there, the trail lopes up gentle switchbacks on the forested east facing slope. The plateau is distinct: you'll top out after about 2.5 miles. It's a beautiful island of rock with sweeping northward views at the base of Tuolumne Peak... Which is oddly unimpressive from this angle despite standing at 10,845 ft. Luckily the surrounding peaks don't disappoint. Camping is permissible up here with a wilderness permit, but please no campfires because the elevation is above 9,600. It can be tough to find spots 100 ft from water or trail, but worth the effort for tucked away camping that doesn't disturb the fragile meadows. 

By descending the west side of the plateau to the South Fork of Cathedral Creek, the trip can continue to Ten Lakes Basin for a second or third night. Catch a shuttle or hitchhike back to the car at Murphy Creek. Otherwise, turn around after enjoying the plateau and exit via the same trail.

Pack List

  • Ten essentials
  • Sun protection: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
  • Water treatment (or at least 3 liters per person)
  • Hiking poles
  • Camera

If staying overnight:

  • Tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag
  • Bear canister
  • Wilderness permit
  • Stove and fuel
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Emily Noyd

Wilderness ranger in Yosemite National Park. Raised by Washington mountains and Puget Sound islands. I live for sunrise, backcountry cooking, climbing, roadtrips, and coffee.

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