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John Muir Trail: Tuolumne to Reds Meadow

"Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue." - John Muir

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 34.2 miles
Duration: Multiple days

Overview :  So, you started off on the John Muir Trail in Yosemite Valley a few days ago and have spent some time replenishing your calories at... more »

Tips:  Bear canisters are required on the trail and bears are known to be very active throughout this stretch, especially in Lyell Canyon and... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Tuolumne Meadows Backpacker Camp

This waypoint is for the Backpacker Camp in the middle of the Tuolumne Meadows Campgroup. You can camp here for one night with your valid John Muir Trail permit. The camp area is shared with other backpackers and is surrounded by lots of people in RVs - not a place for solitude, but a good place to meet other through hikers and develop some trail ... More

2. Wilderness Permit Ranger Station

If you are skipping the first stretch and starting off on the John Muir from Tuolumne (not uncommon), this is where you will pick up your permit. It is also a valid location to leave a vehicle for the long-term. Make sure it is empty of all 'smellables' - I've seen broken windows from bears looking for a treat!

There are connector trails to the... More

3. Evelyn Lake Junction

After a few miles of hiking through the refreshingly flat Lyell Canyon you will reach this junction. It informally marks the area where camping is now allowed. You cannot camp within four miles of the trailhead and this junction approximately marks this distance.

Some claim that there are legal campsites before this junction, and if you carefully... More

4. Footbridge

This is where the trail crosses the Lyell Fork. There is a sturdy bridge, shade, and plenty of room to camp.

At this point, you've climbed about 1/3 of the elevation gain towards Donohue Pass from the end of Lyell Canyon.

5. Donohue Pass

Congratulations! At 11,056 you're at the first big pass of the John Muir Trail. During most of the year there is a tarn here with water - but later in the season or in a dry year don't necessarily count on it.

This waypoint also marks the border between Yosemite National Park and Ansel Adams Wilderness. Enjoy the view towards the Ritter Range... More

6. Island Pass

Island Pass is a gradual pass, and far less impressive than Donohue though still beautiful. Climbing from Rush Creek, the pass is never in sight and there is no dramatic break in the granite or sign to indicate that you have made it.

There are a couple of beautiful small lakes and an excellent view towards Banner and Ritter, the two prominent... More

7. Campsites

Thousand Island Lake is a very popular destination and you will likely see a lot of people here. Fortunately it also has an enormous shoreline so the crowd spreads out and you can experience you own 'private' piece of the lake.

Because of its heavy use there are camping restrictions at this lake. If you were to continue on the JMT from Island... More

8. Garnet Lake

Like Thousand Island Lake, Garnet Lake has camping and fire restrictions that are signed at the outlet. this waypoint marks where legal campsites can be found. Review the information for POI 7 - is is nearly identical for Garnet Lake.

About half way down from the minor pass above Ruby Lake, look for a well-used side trail. It will lead you down... More

9. Camp at Red's Meadow

Congratulations, you've reached the next outpost of civilization and a chance to resupply! Red's Meadow is a friendly Pack Station with a campground, cafe, general store, and hot spring showers (free!)

A couple of campsites are reserved for through hikers. It is a tight fit with the large number of people that come through here, and the RV... More

10. Shadow Lake Junction

Shadow Lake is beautiful but due to years of overuse by backpackers and horsepackers it is now closed to camping. The JMT continues around the southern shore of the lake. If you are leaving the trail you can also continue on the north side of the lake to take a trail into Agnew Meadows.

11. Stream crossing

At this point you've emerged from the trees and you're enjoying the views of the high alpine meadows and Mt Lyell and Maclure towering far above.

This is one of the two biggest stream crossings between Lyell Canyon and Donohue Pass. Later in the season it is a simple rock hop, but earlier in the season the water can be high, cold, and dangerous.
... More

12. Thousand Island Lake Outlet

There is a lot of information in this area. Signs indicate legal camping (see POI 7) and fire restrictions. There is a trail junction and be careful to pay attention - this is a short section where the PCT and JMT diverge. The PCT heads east from here, but the JMT continues south past Emerald and Ruby lake. Make sure to stay on the JMT.

13. Junction of Trail to Wilderness Permit Station

This is where you will join the 'official' John Muir Trail if coming from the parking lots or Wilderness Permit Station.

Soon you will reach a beautiful set of bridges across the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Say hi to the Happy Rock!

14. Rainbow Falls Junction

Yet another nice side trip - Rainbow Falls. This is also about where you will join up with the JMT again if you followed the 'official' stock trail signage and passed through the Post Pile.

15. Marie Lakes Trail Junction

If you have time to explore, Marie Lakes is a worthy destination!

16. Lake Ediza junction

There is no camping along Shadow Creek or Shadow Lake along the JMT, so some people take this trail up towards Lake Ediza for legal camping.

17. Johnston Meadow

Between Shadow Lake and Johnston Meadow, the trail wanders through beautiful thick lodgepole forest. There are camping opportunities at the lakes along the way.

From Johnston Meadow you will start descending into Devil's Post Pile, passing Minaret Creek (and plenty of other hikers) along the way. There are some areas to camp along the trail here... More

18. Devils Post Pile Junction 1

As you descend into Devil's Post Pile there are a lot of junctions. Pay close attention, and don't take the 'Stock' route for the JMT or you will miss the impressive Post Pile and walk a couple of miles out of the way!

This is also the point where the PCT joins the JMT again.

19. Devils Postpile Junction 2

There is a network of trails through here, but they all eventually join back up. I recommend going through the interesting Post Pile on the way to Red's Meadow. To see the Devil's Post Pile, follow the alternate trail across the bridge and through the park.

20. And up we go!

The previous ~8 miles have lulled you into a state of comfort and overconfidence. You've likely been flying along the flat and open canyon. You're confidently convinced you are acclimated and you proudly begin to climb up the stone staircase you suddenly find in front of you.

And two minutes later you are wheezing. That's okay - it happens to... More

21. Second stream crossing

After ascending from the lower lake you will cross the outlet of the higher lake. Again, there are campsites through here as well as amazing views!

On the climb up from the lower lake the trail is often running with water and fresh snow melt. It is cold but beautiful - just watch your step and enjoy!

From here, you only have about 500 feet left ... More