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Young Lakes Hike

High mountain lakes that are as glassy as a mirror, reflecting Ragged Peak, the surrounding white, rocky ridges and an occasional cloud were the highlights of this hike. Of course, the close-up encounter with the Grouse family was pretty wonderful also.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 14.3 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevation Range: 8,594′ – 10,230′
Date: September 18, 2013
Maps: Falls Ridge

Highlights: I hadn’t been able to get into Tuolumne Meadows since the Rim Fire shut down Tioga Road’s access into there, so was excited to head to Young Lakes. Although this is a longer day hike at a smidge over 14 miles and 3,000′ elevation gain, it was just the workout I needed.

We usually do this hike in the spring and fight the mosquitoes, but this fall hike had no skeeters. Calm conditions in the morning gave us crystal clear lakes that were mirrors to the surrounding mountains and some fall color.

We drove through Tuolumne Meadows on Tioga Road, just east from where the Road crosses the Tuolumne River to the Dog Lake Parking Lot, then drove a little way down to where the bear boxes are and parked. After stashing our goodies in the bear box, we headed on the trail that starts right between the bear boxes.

We were expecting chilly weather to start our hike and when the outside temperature registered 28 degrees as we dipped into Tuolumne Meadows, we were glad we had our gloves handy to start this hike. When the trail descended into the crossing at Delaney Creek, we saw ice along the edge of the creek.

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Young Lakes 4We hadn’t headed too far down the trail from the creek when this perfect bear paw print was smack dab in the middle of the trail. I put my trekking pole next to it to give you an idea of the size of the print. That measures out to be a little over 6 inches in length. From an online calculator, that estimates the bear’s weight at 225-275 pound, a little bigger than an average size Black Bear.

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After crossing Delaney Creek, we hiked across wide open country that gave us great views of the surrounding mountains, including Lyle Glacier. Did you know that this glacier was discovered by John Muir in 1871 and is the largest glacier in Yosemite National Park? The glacier lies on the northern slopes of Mount Lyell.

Young Lakes 6The glacier has retreated up to 70% since 1883. During the mid-20th Century, the glacier split into two smaller glaciers occupying the high cirques of Mount Lyell.

Photo by Gail Gilbert

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After hiking about 6 miles, we arrived at Lower Young Lake at an elevation of 9,993 feet. The Young Lakes are named for General S M B Young (1840-1924), Acting Superintendent of Yosemite National Park in 1896, and a veteran of the Civil and Spanish American Wars.

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We hiked along the trail on the west side of the lake and hit a small patch of the trail where the short willows had turned a bright red.

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I spotted this well camoflaged Grouse that I believe is a Sooty Grouse but as I was taking pictures, I realized that there were a total of three in this group. They made a quiet kind of clucking cooing sound as they cautiously kept their distance from me, but they didn’t spook. Don’t they blend in well?

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At about a half mile, we reached Middle Young Lake. With drop dead gorgeous reflections.

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Gail and I admired the view and were entertained by a duck swimming and diving for its dinner.

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We made it to Upper Young late after hiking about 4/10th of a mile, climbing up along the creek through rocks and willows that enclosed the trail. Gail Gilbert snapped this picture of me settling in at a great lunch stop at this wonderful high lake.

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We took a few pictures of the mirror reflections on the lake and good thing that we did because the wind came up a little and by the time we left the reflections were not as nice.

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Gail Gilbert took this picture of me taking pictures of those reflections at Upper Young Lake.

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There is a great vantage point on the west side of Upper Young Lake where we captured pictures that included both Middle and Lower Young Lakes.

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We had the perfect day for this longer day hike. It wasn’t too warm, not too cold, and we didn’t have any bugs! We agreed that we need to try this hike in fall more often!

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  1. Candice, enjoy your blog. BTW, the duck in your photo appears to be an eared grebe. They molt by the 10,000 on Mono Lake. Susan

  2. Thank you Susan on the Grebe information!!

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