Trip Number: 12137A
Staff: David Reneau
- See the 4,000-foot-deep crack that's the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
and speculate about it just as John Muir did 150 years ago
- Hike without packs during two layover days
- Enjoy later season alpine meadows and timberline forests
- Two experienced volunteer leaders with extensive training and interest
in lightweight backpacking
- Diverse and delicious easily prepared meals, including happy hours
and trailhead dinner
- Carefully designed route, all permits, reserved trailhead campground
Glen Aulin means beautiful glen in Gaelic, John Muir's first language, and
no doubt he named both this green dell as well as the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
River. Magnificent Tuolumne Meadows and the Tuolumne River, just north of Yosemite
Valley, were central to his nascent love affair with the Sierra Nevada. Muir
descended the intimidating Muir Gorge of the Tuolumne during his eye-opening
first summer in the Sierra, being ever on the lookout for remote, untrampled,
and unspoiled nature, and it is thought he was also the first to climb Polly
Dome, one of our possible peak climbs. He certainly must have also curled up
on some pine boughs beside one of the seven lakes in Ten Lakes Basin for the
night, or at least sat on Ten Lakes Pass to enjoy the fantastic view of Yosemite's
domes and spires while munching on his luncheon of dry bread.
The main attractions of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, are, of course, the
falls: Tuolumne Falls, White Cascade, California Falls, Le Conte Falls, and,
most famous of all, Waterwheel Falls. We will likely miss the height of the
flow, right after the snow melts in June, but maybe the volume of visitors will
have also slowed by mid-August. Following the river below our second layover
camp we will enjoy not just the falls and the granite swimming pools between
them but also the changing vegetation as we descend from red firs and lodgepole
pines to white firs and sugar pines, then finally drop into the black oaks and
Like John Muir, Glen Aulin and the Tuolumne River falls were part of the trip
leader's first-ever Sierra Nevada backpack trip, now over forty years ago. He
remembers lots of marshy meadows, and sandy riverbanks, and smooth, glacier-polished
sunning rocks next to the thundering drone of the water. Nearly a half century
later, nothing will have changed: he will still be eleven and his love affair
with the Sierra will still be just beginning.
Day 1: On Thursday, August 16, we will have a reserved group
campground on the Tioga Pass Road and will meet there for happy hour and dinner
(both provided) in the afternoon. We will also need to shuttle most of our cars
over to our exit trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows.
Day 2: From the Yosemite Creek/Ten Lakes Trailhead (7,560
feet) we head up the well-used trail about five miles to Ten Lakes Pass (9,620
feet). Lunch may be there or at intriguingly named Half Moon Meadow just below
the pass. Views from the pass are reportedly spectacular. Then we switchback
down into Ten Lakes, probably not stopping to camp at the first big overused
lake, but seeking out a lake of our own.
Day 3: Layover! Colby Mountain, named for the third president
of the Sierra Club who served for some 50 years, is very close and an easy climb.
From the summit one looks straight down some 4,000 feet into the Grand Canyon
of the Tuolumne, from whence, a few days later, we will be looking back up.
There should still be time for some swimming and lake-bagging after our optional
Days 4-6: We will split the difference and camp somewhere
between Ten Lakes and Glen Aulin, maybe high on the headwaters of one of the
creeks flowing off the north side of Tuolumne Peak, near the highpoint of our
backpacking trip. Continuing down past Polly Dome Lakes and Cathedral Creek
we will climb over a gap past tiny McGee Lake and drop past the trailcamp at
Glen Aulin to a scenic spot somewhere near the falls along the Tuolumne River.
Total mileage will be about 18 miles for the three days.
Day 7: Layover day #2! Ditching our backpacks, we will dayhike
on down river probably as far as Muir Gorge. The gorge is too narrow and treacherous
for the trail, which climbs above it, but it should be fun to peer down in.
There are no more falls in this lower stretch of the Grand Canyon, but lots
more swimming holes.
Day 8: We climb up the Tuolumne River past Glen Aulin and
Tuolumne Falls to Tuolumne Meadows on the Pacific Crest Trail, about eight miles.
We should be out in midafternoon.
We will meet at a campground near our starting trailhead on the Tioga Pass
Road, State Route 120. The most convenient airports to fly into and rent a car
from are Sacramento, Reno, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. Plan driving
five hours to Yosemite from San Francisco, and four hours from Sacramento or
Reno. Participants sometimes like to come up early and visit nearby Yosemite
Valley or Tuolumne Meadows. A roster of trip members with accompanying travel
plans will be sent ahead of time to arrange ride-sharing. Please have
your ride to and from the trailhead arranged prior to leaving home. A
departure bulletin will be sent out in July with meeting place and time and
detailed driving instructions.
Accommodations and Food
The first trip meal is dinner on day one, Thursday, August 16, at a group campground
on the Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park. The last meal is lunch on the final
day, Thursday, August 23.
The Sierra Club will provide all meals and snacks. Vegetarians are welcome, but please let us know well in advance. Cooking and clean-up duties will be shared by all members of the group on a rotating basis. All of our food will be carried in bear-proof canisters. Please do not bring any extra food, such as snacks, as it will not fit in the stuffed-to-capacity canisters.
This trip is rated 3 (Moderate) and is intended for backpackers with moderate
experience. You must have the ability to hike up to eight miles a day at high
altitude, with a backpack weighing as much as 45 pounds. We may have to cross
snowfields that linger far into the summer and there will be stream crossings.
Daily mileages will usually range from four to eight miles. We will backpack
a total of 32 miles on trail for the trip, plus day hikes on layover days. Many
days will be moderate hiking, while some other days will be strenuous, with
elevation gains and losses of up to 2,100 feet. Most days we will be hiking
for 5-6 hours, including breaks, but some days could run longer if unforeseen
difficulties arise. Our campsites will be between 6,500 and 9,600 feet. The
highest point of the trip will be at 9,800 feet, below Tuolumne Peak.
Participants must be in good physical condition and have previous backpacking experience. Hiking, running, and cycling are good training activities. Lack of adequate preparation not only affects your enjoyment of the trip, but reduces the enjoyment of other trip members as well. At least one previous overnight backpack is a must before participating in this outing. We are hoping for a diverse group of age and experience.
Leader approval is required. Please complete and return the questionnaire included in your confirmation packet to the trip leader.
The High Sierra is renowned for its excellent summer weather; however, extended
storms can occur at any time of the year. Afternoon thunderstorms, with sudden
cloudbursts of wind, rain, hail, and even snow are not uncommon. Be prepared
for extremes: high temperatures during the day can exceed 80 degrees and fall
into the low 20s at night.
Note that depending on snow pack in August we could encounter high water at stream crossings and snowfields on passes. Be prepared to be flexible as the itinerary may change due to unforeseen conditions and circumstances.
Equipment and Clothing
A basic equipment list will be sent when you are accepted for the trip. Trip participants will need to furnish their own backpack and personal gear including eating utensils. The club will provide food and commissary equipment including pots, cooking utensils, and stoves and fuel. Each person should keep the weight of personal gear under 25 pounds so that, with the addition of approximately 14 to 18 pounds of commissary equipment and food, total pack weight will be less than 40 to 45 pounds at the start of the trip.
Your pack should have room for commissary equipment, as well as your personal gear. Each participant's commissary load will likely include one food canister, plus an additional non-food item such as a stove, fuel bottle, tarp, rope, pot set, etc. This is roughly equal to the size of a full grocery sack.
In August, weather is usually mild, but storms are possible, so bring cold-weather
clothing, raingear (rain jacket and rain pants), and a tent. Boots must be waterproof,
be broken in (but not broken) before the trip, and have good Vibram soles. If
you are in doubt about your boots or they require repair, consider buying new
boots before this trip and early enough so they will be broken in for this trip.
Your personal first-aid kit should include a roll of cloth-bound, two-inch athletic
adhesive tape. When preparing your backpack, you might want to consider Thoreau's
words: "A man is rich in proportion to what he can do without."
A comprehensive listing of equipment and our philosophy can be found at http://www.knapsack.org/basic_equipment.html.
Please plan on carrying either the two USGS topo maps or one of the larger area maps such as the Tom Harrison or Trails Illustrated map.
- U.S.G.S. 7.5-minute topographic maps: The "Ten Lakes" and "Falls Ridge" quads cover most of the trip.
- "Yosemite High Country Trail Map" Tom Harrison Maps (www.tomharrisonmaps.com
) covers all of the trip.
- "Yosemite National Park" Trails Illustrated - National Geographic Map (www.trailsillustrated.com) covers all of the trip.
- Laws, John M, The Laws Field Guide To The Sierra Nevada. An excellent
field guide to plants, animals, and more.
- Schaffer, Jeffrey P., Yosemite National Park, A Natural History Guide
to Yosemite and Its Trails. Wilderness Press. A reference to trails in
- Secor, R.J., The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails. The Mountaineers.
An excellent general reference to climbing routes, cross-country routes, and
trails in the Sierra Nevada.
- Storer, Tracy I., and Robert L. Usinger, The Sierra Nevada Natural History.
Gives more details on specific plants and animals.
- Whitney, Stephen, A Sierra Club Naturalist's Guide to the Sierra Nevada.
An excellent trip and/or pre-trip read to understand Sierra ecology.
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy and participation in the goals of the Club. Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Yosemite National Park.
We will be visiting the Yosemite National Park Wilderness area on the forty-eighth anniversary of the enactment of the Wilderness Act. Though this area is preserved, adjacent areas not in the National Park are still threatened by development, logging, and overgrazing. All of the Sierra Nevada is threatened by air pollution from the San Joaquin Valley below. The declining frog population of the Sierra Nevada will also be discussed by the leaders. For info go to www.mylfrog.info/.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
David Reneau has been backpacking in the coast ranges and the Sierra for 43 years, and has been leading backpack and camping trips for the Sierra Club for 31 years. His training and major interests are in botany and geology. He will be glad to discuss the area's natural history.
Frances Reneau has been backpacking for 37 years, and leading trips for the Sierra Club for 27 years.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips