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Exploring High Lakes Above the Mono Pass Trail

We headed off trail to check out some unnamed lakes above the Mono Pass Trail. Those views! Those wildflowers! Of course I was curious how the fishing was and I was not disappointed!

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 10.65 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 9,596′ – 11,328′
Date: July 28, 2016
Maps: Tioga Pass, Mount Dana, Koip Peak

We parked our car at the Mono Pass Trailhead, about 5.6 miles east of the Tuolumne Meadows Campground and 1.4 miles south of Tioga Pass. After using the restrooms there and stowing our stuff in the bear box, we headed up this historic trail. The Mono Pass Trail is an old Indian trail that was “discovered” by Americans around 1852 when Army Lieutenant Tredwell Moore pursued Yosemite’s Chief Tenaya’s band through Tuolumne Meadows and over Mono Pass. The Army did not catch up with him that day.

The National Weather Service had bumped their forecast in the morning up to a 40% chance of rain with possibilities of thunder and lightening after 11 am. We tend to steer away from being on really high places when the forecast is that high but came up with a game plan to keep a close eye on the clouds and get down as soon as we started seeing buildups get closer. As we started out, the cloud cover looking friendly, but the day was still early.

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We stayed on the Mono Pass Trail for a little over 2 miles, then headed cross country in search of high lakes. We had a few creek crossings.

P1190561rThe larkspur was going crazy wild. They were the deepest purple that I had ever seen and so there were many other wildflowers all over. Every once in a while we would get a whiff of something very fragrant. I’m not sure if it was lupine or another flower but it was really nice.

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We followed along small streams, with wide and calm areas in them.

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We visited beautiful high lakes, each one right at or above timberline. Our first one was at 10,794′ elevation.

As we climbed, we kept an eye on those clouds.


As we moved to the next lake, we couldn’t help but check out the wildflowers.

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Oh, and those views of the surrounding mountains were gorgeous.


Our next lake, at 11,240′ elevation wasn’t a large one, but it was very pretty one, nestled against the snow streaked mountain.

P1190589 (2)rAs we headed to our next lake, we could see a few more clouds, casting their shadows on the reddish mountains.

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We arrived at our next lake at 11,302′ elevation.

P1190593 (2)rWe started heading down to our next lake.


!cid_E8242B16-E07C-449B-A50D-A72B06A012B5@Homer Panorama Looking Toward Mount Gibbs 12,772′ elevation (Photo by Gail Gilbert)

Then we came across this rocky, reflective tarn and had to take some pictures and admire the views.

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Then our last lake at 11,160′ elevation.


It was getting late in the afternoon and it was time to start heading down.


As we headed down, we waded though fields of wildflowers.

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I forgot to mention that I did some fishing and did quite well, catching 9 to 10 inch Brook and German Browns at the lakes deep enough to support fish. I released all that I caught on this day.


Fishing (Photo by Gail Gilbert)

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One of Catches (Photo by Gail Gilbert)

We had a great hike and didn’t get any thunderstorms near us but as we looked in the rear view mirror as we drove home, we could see serious buildups. I love it when those clouds add a little something extra to the views up in this country. We were surprised at the vigorous wildflowers blooming and that was quite the treat. There were a few mosquitos and flies out but we had a nice breeze most of the day and they weren’t too much of an issue. I sprayed down when we left the car in the morning but I am sure most of that had worn off by the afternoon when I started noticing them more.

I want to share something special that Gail did on this hike that was really wonderful and you can steal that idea to be your very own. I am sure she won’t mind. She had packed two wet washclothes in a ziplock bag in her ice chest and when we got back to the car and retrieved the ice chest from the bear box, boy did that feel good. We had set a pretty good pace back to the car and were pretty hot when we finished up. I can’t explain how the cool wetness felt. Best thing ever!! Thank you Gail!

I didn’t include a specific track on the Topog Map this week for a couple of reasons. First, we wandered around, checking out pretty flowers, reflections in lakes and gorgeous clouds casting their shadows on the mountains. The second reason is because this week’s adventure was off trail and unless you are comfortable reading a map, route finding, and prepared for emergencies off trail where there is no cell coverage, this isn’t the adventure for you and I would hate to advertise this hike inappropriately. If you are comfortable with the skills mentioned you will be able to Google this area and find some of them on sites such as AllTrails.com.

I wanted to share some tips related to viewing my blog. I know some probably have figured these out for themselves but just in case you didn’t know, I didn’t want to keep them a secret.

  • You can click on any of the pictures, which will let you view them larger and you can click forward on the pictures to view them.
  • While you are viewing the entire blog, you can right click on any image and save that image to your computer then print that image out if you wish. There are other options on that right click such as emailing the image. Of course, this will depend on which web browser you are using to view the image. This option will work well if you want to save the Topographic Maps for hiking down the road or print them out.
  • You can print the entire blog out if you wish. At the bottom of the blog, after the Sources, there is a link “Print This Article” and if you click on this, following your computer’s prompts, you can print it.
  • You can save the Blog by right clicking, “Save Page As.”
  • If you want to find one of my prior blogs, you can go to Adventures With Candace. You can then scroll down to see if you can find it, but there is an easier way.  If you can remember a key word of the hike or its location, you can search for it by typing in the upper right top search bar on SNO’s Home Page.

Topographic Map:

Kuna Bingaman Topog

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Hiking and Fishing High Lakes along the Mono Pass Trail August 14, 2013

Hiking up to Spillway and Helen Lakes June 29, 2016

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