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Hiking up to Dana Lakes

Beautiful high lakes in the shadow of Mount Dana brought us up to this country that looked baron from afar but when we looked closer, we discovered an explosion of wildflowers blooming. . . and a curious critter!

Where: Ansel Adams Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 5.24 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 9,655′ – 11,144′
Date: July 22, 2016
Maps: Falls Ridge and June Lake Topogs

This is not an easy hike by any stretch of the imagination. My friends have called it an ankle twister, not for sissies and other terms that I cannot repeat here. Much of the hike is off trail and through rocky, boulder strewn glacial remains. There are wobbly rocks and boulders that you need to use your body strength to lift you up or around. About half of the mileage is through these rockpiles, requiring balance and strength. If that part doesn’t sound right for you, the first part of the hike is on a trail that is very pretty along the Dana Fork and you don’t have to go the entire route that we did to enjoy this area and get some great exercise.

We parked our car at the parking area at Tioga Lake, just east of the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, then headed up on the Glacier Canyon Trail, also known as the Dana Lakes Trail, entering the Ansel Adams Wilderness. The trail crossed the inlet to Tioga Lake, which looked so peaceful.

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We headed up, following the wildflower lined Dana Fork. After topping out at our first rise, we looked to the north toward the Saddlebag Lake area and Mt. Conness.

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We saw the most diverse display of wildflowers that we had seen in years in this area.

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I think our favorites on this hike were the columbine.

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We headed up through the cast away rocks that the ancient glacier left as it retreated. It was not easy hiking, requiring us to climb up some loose and shifting rocks and around boulders. We reached our first lake.

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As we worked our away along the rocks, we spotted a curious Marmot. We froze and started clicking away with our cameras as this guy or gal seemed to pose for us.

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We headed up through the rocks, looking back at the first lake and a sneak peak of the fourth lake (to the right) that we would visit in the afternoon.

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Just before I reached the second lake, I turned around to look at the view to the north, then headed down to the lake.


We reached the third lake, which is the largest lake. It sits directly below Mount Dana, towering 13,061 feet tall, and the second highest mountain in Yosemite (after Mount Lyell). It is named after James Dwight Dana, who was a professor of geology at Yale College.


This lake also sits directly under the Dana Glacier. I imagined what this area must have looked like back when it was covered in glaciers, with just the tops of the highest peaks such as Mount Dana sticking up above it.

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Of course, this was a great spot to stop and eat our lunch.


We headed onward to our fourth lake.


Then our fifth lake.


Then up and over a rocky hill to a small tarn.

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We headed a smidge past that tarn, then worked our way up toward a saddle below Dana Plateau. This stretch has a bit of exposure to it on loose, rocky ground. There is a snaketrack of a trail that we caught glimpses of but basically, we just had to work our way up the best we could. Just in case you don’t know what I mean by exposure, that means it is a dropoff and a long way down to the bottom.


We met up with the trail that headed up to Dana Plateau, following it back down. We started spotting tons of columbine, along with other wildflowers. They were all nestled in and around the rocks and of course, we had to take pictures.


Photo by Gail Gilbert


Photo by Gail Gilbert

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What a wonderful adventure we had up to stunning country. It always amazes me how the color of these high lakes can change color from a bright turquoise to deep blues. The columbines don’t bloom for too long and was so happy to be able to see them in their prime.


Our Hiking Group (Photo by Debra Kincade)

Maps and Profile

Dana Lakes TopogDana Lakes Profile


Dana Glacier Wikipedia

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Hiking to Dana Lakes with Cloud Reflections and a Closer Look at Dana Glacier July 21 2014

Hiking Up To The Dana Lakes July 8, 2014

Tioga Lake to Upper Dana Lakes and Dana Glacier Hike October 21, 2013

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