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One of the hiking gems in Yosemite’s high country is the Lyell Canyon Trail, which extends for almost eight miles from the Yosemite Valley Lodge to the base of Donohue Pass at the southeast border of the park. The most amazing aspect to this unique wilderness trail is that it’s almost completely flat, and is an easy trail to follow.
Several miles from the lodge, the trail begins to closely parallel the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Dramatic mountains appear on either side of the canyon, including Mammoth, Kuna, Blacktop, and Amelia Earhart Peak, as well as Potter Point, with Donohue Peak at the park border.
Long-distance hikers can continue on the trail, which also serves as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the John Muir Trail (JMT), and the Sierra High Route, for hundreds of further miles. The JMT extends 211 miles from Yosemite to the summit of Mt. Whitney, while the PCT is 2,653 miles long – spanning an astounding distance from near the Mexico border to southern British Columbia.
The Sierra High Route is a 195-mile trekking route that runs primarily to the east of the JMT. It was conceived as a more diehard alpine alternative to the JMT by outdoor adventurer, climber, and author Steve Roper in the 1990s. Only about one-third of the route involves the use of trails, while the rest requires cross-country navigation above the timberline (between 9,000′ and 11,500′ elevations.)
Significant restoration and improvements to this unique section of all four combined trails were made between 2012 and 2018, with extensive support from the Yosemite Conservancy.
©2020 Photography by Scott Highton.
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