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Tioga Lake to Upper Dana Lakes and Dana Glacier Hike

Last week, we tried to make it up to see Dana Glacier but we were stopped short of our goal by snow and ice. We waited through a week of warmer temperature, hoping to give it another try and we lucked out! We reached upper Dana Lake, full of reflections plus I got to see my first glacier!!

Where: Ansel Adams Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 5.74 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevation Range: 9.649′ – 11.157
Date: October 21, 2013
Maps: Tioga Pass

Highlights: We visited 5 high mountain lakes, each one unique and full of colorful reflections of red mountains and ice. Views of Dana Glacier were a highlight for me. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one was a 10!!

We parked our vehicle at the Tioga Lake Overlook, where had parked last week and had seen some real evidence of the Federal Government’s shutdown when the garbage was overflowing and the bathrooms had not been cleaned. We saw quite an improvement this time. Thank you United States Forest Service.

We had tried to make it up to view Dana Glacier last week but there was just too much snow and ice for us to make it past the first lake but we were very motivated to return after some warmer weather had hopefully melted some of that snow and give it another try before Tioga Road closed for good for the winter.

We hiked past icy some edges on Tioga Lake into the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

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We moved fairly quickly up to the lower of the Dana Lakes.

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The snow and ice had mostly melted off of the north slope behind the lower Dana Lake and the middle lakes, making the hike up there a little easier this week but you still needed to pay close attention to your footing. I took this picture at the top of that slope, looking to the north with the lower Dana Lake in it.

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As we reached the first of the middle lakes, we were surprised at the greenish color. Beautiful!

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The other lake right next to it was a very different color and it’s rocky shore created nice reflections in the lake.

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As I climbed up the slope to the south of these middle lakes, I took in the view looking north of these middle Dana Lakes.

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I then topped over the hill to see the upper and largest of the Dana Lakes. Looking into the sun, I could also see the Dana Glacier!! Yippeee! Photo by Gail Gilbert.

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The lake was a little more than half iced over.

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Dana Lake had very cool swirling patterns on it where the ice started.

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Beautiful artful patterns of ice formed along the shore.

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We walked partially around the lake until we found a nice lunch spot!

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As I meandered up the western slope of the lake, I could see those swirling ice patterns even better. The contrast with the red and tan colors of the mountains made for a breathtaking view.

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The truth was that I was trying to get a better angle without that sun glare for a picture of Dana Glacier. And it worked!

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Return to Dana Lakes 26How amazing to be this close to a real glacier. But with our changing climate, it is rapidly shrinking. If you wish to view it in person, don’t wait too long.

It was time to strap our packs back on and head back. Photo by Debra Kincade.

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We headed down through the rocks and by the gorgeous lakes.

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It just may have been a little harder heading down the hill through those snow covered rocks than climbing up it.

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Sometimes, the snow would give way and you would fall waist deep into a hole between rocks. Or other times you would get your leg or poles stuck between rocks. It was lucky for my hiking buddies that I was ready to capture these pictures while they struggled out of these predictaments.

I later stumbled across the idea that these pictures might better show why I rated this hike difficult.

Rock hopping on this snow covered hill was tough. Without the snow, you would be able to pick your way through the rocks, taking advantage of intermitant trails that people and critters have made and it would be a little easier, not easy, but easier!

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Return to Dana Lakes 35One of my hiking buddies told me that she felt this hike was a 10 and I agree! We made it to several of the Dana Lakes but there were a couple that we didn’t reach. That sounds like a good reason to head back up this way next year.

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