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Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
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David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne on 06/30/2012 18:12:56 MDT Print View

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, returning through 10 Lakes Basin
4 Days & 50 miles (approx)Loop
June 22 through June 25
Trailhead - White Wolf
Temperatures: 80-70 degrees F Day, 55-40 degrees F Night, No rain.

The trip included five BPLers: Andrew, Chris, James, Elen and myself. After meeting up at my place of residence in Modesto Thursday evening, we headed up CA120 to find a camping spot just outside the park. On Friday morning, we picked up our permit and were at the White Wolf trailhead by 10:00.


Pate Valley was destination for the first night. It was about 12 miles in distance and 3500 feet of elevation loss. There are some great views of Hetch Hetchy on the trail down into the canyon.



We made it to our destination for the day by 2:00 PM. The water was tempting and a few of us took a nice swim in Tuolumne River, which is the source of drinking water for many cities in the Valley and the Bay Area. For some reasons people are not allowed to get near the water at Hetch Hetchy but swimming upriver is just fine.


It was warm that night in Pate Valley since it is down near 4,500 feet. There were very few mosquitos but there was at least one scorpion spotted a few inches from where I was enjoying my dinner. Andrew and Elen were bold enough to cowboy camp that evening.

Our destination for day two was Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp at 8,000 feet. Fortunately the weather was mild. I can imagine the river canyon get darn hot in the summer. The hike was a climb taking us closer to the headwaters of the Tuolumne River. The climbing was mostly gentle but there were a few sections where the gain was steep enough to take my breath away and prompt me to pause momentarily. The highlight of the day and overall trip for me was all the views westward down the canyon from Waterwheel falls and all the other vantage points to near the Glen Aulin Area.
7 Inviting waterfall along the way.

8 The scale of the canyon was very impressive to me.

77James and Chris tackling one of the longer climbs of the day up to Waterwheel Falls.

89Chris enjoying the incredible view of the canyon looking west from Waterwheel Falls.


6 Waterwheel Falls

We made it to Glen Aulin around 7:00 PM and found a great spot that was secluded from the high camp and other backpackers. The food in the mess tent sure did smell good as I walked through the camp. I had a great dinner of pesto pasta with sardines but I would have gladly eaten at the camp if I could have. We were back on the trail the next morning and ready to make some progress towards our next destination of Ten Lakes Basin.
5 The team taking a look at the map before setting off for the day.

5The climb out of Glen Aulin afforded us some great views of the high country to the east.


pikaWe encountered a social Pika while tanking up on water near Tuolumne Peak.

55We had to descend into and climb out of the canyon where the South Fork of Cathedral Creek flows to reach our destination for the day.

We reached the most easterly of the lakes in the basin around 7:00 PM and searched for a place to camp. It was quite windy making it difficult to pitch some shelters. The wind kept a few of us most of the night. I was also bothered by a deer who kept creeping close to my bivy throughout the night. I kept having visions of the deer running off with my shoes as a salty snack.

We got up in the morning and decided to hike to the next lake to enjoy breakfast there. Forgoing breakfast to start hiking is not in my typical routine but I found it was a very nice way to spend time enjoying some new scenery.


9 Our breakfast spot on Monday morning.

After breakfast we hoofed over Ten Lakes Pass. There were some more great views of the high country to the east but the climb was tame after all we had already done.4

We completed the ten miles back through the forest to White Wolf.3

I had great time hiking with this group and I look forward to the next trip.

Edited by Davidpcvsamoa on 07/01/2012 10:29:16 MDT.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: GCT loop on 07/02/2012 22:29:04 MDT Print View

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. I expected the Grand Canyon to be spectacular which it was but I particularly enjoyed a few of the spots that I figured would be less interesting. The switchbacks going down to Pate Valley with all the great wildflowers were beautiful, and then the lush meadows on the way back to White Wolf. I sat staring at the meadow shown in your last photo for a few minutes waiting for Ellen to catch up and it was truly relaxing.

Obligatory gear commentary- I think this was our best trip yet in terms of bringing as little as we needed and nothing more. Cutting the floor out of my new Squall Classic worked perfectly. The only gear I brought that I didn't need or use were a few pieces of warm clothing (gloves, balaclava), some extra TP, and my first aid/repair kit. Those seem like pretty good items to be a little precautionary about! In terms of food, I ended up eating about 1.7 lbs/day and I had a little over a pound left over when we got home.

I'm looking forward to the next one.


James Winstead

Locale: CA
Re: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne on 07/03/2012 01:07:08 MDT Print View

Had a blast on this one! I highly recommend this route to anyone looking for a good yosemite trip Such a great combo of expansive views and great lakes and smaller moments, meadows and such. The Grand Canyon has almost all the awe of the valley, except nobody there! The vista from waterwheel falls stands out as a highlight.

I'm gone this week, but I'll get my photos up soon.

Thanks David for getting this started.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: Tahoe
Re: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne on 07/09/2012 21:33:04 MDT Print View

Thanks for putting the report together, David. I had been eying his trip for a few years now and it turned out to be even better than I had hoped. I second James' recommendation to anyone looking for a yosemite trip around this length. Crowds weren't too bad for the most part. There were a few parties that we passed on the way down to Pate Valley, where there were a few other tents set up on the south side of the river. Avoiding them all was as simple as crossing the footbridge to the north side and having the whole place to ourselves.


Scrambling up to the top of the mini dome off to the right in the previous picture provided some nice views of what we had to look forward to on the following day when hiking up the canyon.



Here's a shot the scorpion David mentioned we saw that evening in camp....


...which we relocated.


Hiking up the canyon was stellar, with the trail hugging the river for the majority of the day.






David even got a little fishing in during one of our breaks.



Andrew getting a closer look at Waterwheel Falls.


The area around Glen Aulin was by far the most crowded section of the trip, but as David mentioned, we were able to find a nice secluded spot with minimal effort. The hike out of Glen Aulin the follow morning was also a bit busy, but after the junction with the trail to May Lake, the crowds all but disappeared. The hike up to 10 Lakes was a nice complement to the hike up the canyon the previous day.






The 10 Lakes Basin was beautiful as well. It got quite windy that evening and it was nice having a little help while setting up my SpinnTwinn.



Having camped at the first lake we saw in the basin, we had a few more to look forward during the hike out on the final day. Getting up and going first thing the next morning so we could stop for breakfast at a different lake was an excellent idea. A quick bite to eat at camp and then a little more substantial breakfast and coffee an hour or two later is my usual routine, so it didn't take a lot of convincing when Ellen mentioned it the night before.



On the way up to 10 Lakes Pass we got a some more views back towards the canyon and some views up toward the pass.




After crossing over the pass, we hustled back down to the car with the post hike meal and beer on my mind. The goblets of beer we had at Buck Meadows definitely hit the spot.

The scenery and the company were both outstanding on this trip. I can't wait for the next one!

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne on 07/09/2012 21:46:32 MDT Print View

Sweet trip and report guys.

David. What's up with you and deer? You're a magnet for them. Mr. Salty.

David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
Re: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne on 07/09/2012 22:30:49 MDT Print View

Ken, those deer at Morris Meadow got my favorite hiking shirt. Never again! Mr. Salty chased them off with rocks and stayed awake most of the night making sure they did not enjoy snack at my expense.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne on 07/09/2012 22:39:43 MDT Print View

Great pictures and trip report plus that's a awesome area! Jealous...