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Hiking to Snowy Gaylor Basin

Tioga Road had closed due to a storm but would it reopen before an even bigger storm was due to dump serious snow? The short answer is yes it did, for about 2 1/2 days, and I couldn’t wait to get up there to see if those Gaylor Basin lakes were icing up.

Where: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 3.06 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 9,940′ – 10,544′
Elevation Gain: 923′
Date: October 20, 2021
Map: CALTOPO: Hiking to Snowy Gaylor Basin
Dog Hike? No

It was a mighty pretty drive over to Tioga Road. Driving up the Merced Canyon, fall color was showing off with dark red/orange poison oak, yellow willows and a tinge of yellow in the oaks. After I made it into Yosemite, the maples were about half turned with their bright yellow. On the drive across Big Oak Flat Road, I could see dots of brilliant yellow oak above the road. Then came the dogwoods, which were about 2/3’s turned, showing off their bright red colors in the early morning light. On Tioga Road, there was also some color along the way from the alders and willows but most everything else was sporting its winter tan colors. I made a quick stop at Olmsted Point to check out the wonderful view of Cloud’s Rest and Half Dome.

I parked my car at the Tioga Pass East Entrance Parking Lot to Yosemite and checked out the restrooms. I really wasn’t sure what the snow conditions would be on the trail so I brought my snowshoes and ice traction devices in the car. The trailhead is right off of the parking lot and based on what I saw at the beginning of the trail, I decided to throw my Kahtoola Microspikes in my pack. It was a bit icy but if I took my time, it was fine. I headed up the trail.

When I reached the saddle below Gaylor Peak, I took a look toward the Mono Pass Trail but the cloud deck obscured the view too far out.

I took a look toward Gaylor Peak (10,994′ elevation) but it was also hiding in the clouds. Gaylor Peak and Lakes were named after Park Ranger Andrew Jack Gaylor who served in Yosemite from 1907 to 1921, dying of a heart attack while on patrol at Merced Lake. You can read more about him in my blog. 

I was really curious whether Middle Gaylor Lake (10,335′ elevation) be starting to form ice and I got my first peek of it from Gaylor Saddle (10,527′ elevation).

As I wandered down, my footprints were the only human ones past the saddle. And no ice to be seen on this lake! I wandered along the lake’s edge up toward the inlet.

I walked by an area where I usually see or hear pika and marmots, but no sightings or calls from them on this day. I loved the way the dried vegetation contrasted with the snow.

The day was young so I thought I would try and head to Upper Gaylor Lake (10,512′ elevation). The snow was still icy but dirt patches offered easy going when I could find them.

I soon reached Upper Gaylor Lake and what a joy to see some ice forming on it.

The line of ice had covered about half of the lake!

The day was still young so I thought I would try and make it up to Dana City. When I reached the snow along the lake, it was still icy and since I was by myself, didn’t want to take a risk that I would slide into the lake. And yes, I still had my traction devices in my pack and not on my boots. I decided to head up above the snow and stay in the rocks but there was a thin coating of ice on them also.

I decided to head back the way that I had come in. I would have loved to have reached the old mining town that was known as Dana (10,769′ elevation) but it wasn’t in the cards for the day. That town wasn’t around for long, only about 4 years, but it was a bustling place back in 1880 when it received a post office and is said to have had up to 1,000 people living in it before the mining activity moved over to the growing town of Bennettville.

The ice was starting to melt as I worked my way back to Middle Gaylor Lake and I guess I could have waiting a bit, making it up to Dana City easily but that isn’t what I chose to do. Tioga Road closed again a couple of days after my visit and is still closed as of this writing but they haven’t called it a seasonal closure yet. So, I will be paying close attention to see if I can sneak up again.

Dog Hike?

No, dogs are not allowed on this trail in Yosemite National Park.


What is a Doarama?  It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Hiking to Snowy Gaylor Basin Doarama

Map and Profile:

CALTOPO has some free options for mapping and here is a link to my hike this week: CALTOPO: Hiking to Snowy Gaylor Basin

Snowy Gaylor Basin Topographic Map

Snowy Gaylor Basin Profile


Yosemite Conditions

Yosemite National Park How will COVID-19 affect my visit?

Tioga Road Opening and Closing Dates

Tioga Pass Resort

Saddlebag Lake Campground

Hoover Wilderness

Inyo National Forest Policies and Rules

Inyo National Forest Hiking and Camping with Dogs

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Tioga Road Has Reopened: Hiking to Gaylor, Granite Lakes & the Old Mining Town of Dana City May 27, 2021

Hiking From Tioga Road to Lower, Middle Gaylor and Granite Lakes September 25, 2020

First Day Tioga Road Reopened: Heading Across With Fannie and Sally, Hiking From Saddlebag To Lake Greenstone Lake June 15, 2020

Sneak Peek of Tioga Pass Frozen Lakes June 9, 2019

Tioga Pass is Open and the High Country is Breathtaking!! May 24, 2018

Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake and Beyond June 26, 2018

Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake August 17, 2017

Hiking with Sally from Saddlebag Lake through Twenty Lakes Basin August 15, 2017

Hiking with Sally in the 20 Lakes Basin July 12, 2016

Hiking with Sally up to the Hess Mine in the Tioga Pass Area October 26 2016

Hiking with Sally on the 20 Lakes Basin Loop August 22, 2013

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