Gaylor Lakes Trail is a 3.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite National Park, CA that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running, and backpacking and is accessible from May until October.
Gaylor Lakes hike offers some of the most spectacular high-country views off of Tioga Road. Climb steadily to a ridge with views of the high Sierra including Mt. Dana and Dana Meadows with its scattered ponds. At the ridge crest, the trail drops 200 feet to Middle Gaylor Lake. Gaylor Peak, at an elevation of 11,004 feet, straddles the boundary of Yosemite National Park and Inyo National Forest. This route combines both on-trail and cross-country travel. You will see sweeping views back to Dana Meadows and to the mountains beyond it - Dana, Mammoth, and Gibbs, among others. The top of the pass has awesome views to the mountains east of Yosemite, and to the high Gaylor Lakes valley carved by glaciers. The trail takes you to Middle Gaylor Lake. The valley contains five lakes. There is an abandoned 1870's mine above upper Gaylor Lake. The official trail takes you to the far side of Middle Gaylor Lake at the 1 mile mark, but you can take the paths and explore other areas. A great hike for exploring, be prepared for the altitude. It is an excellent warm up hike for some of these bigger climbs. For a beginner hiker this hike will present a fun challenge in itself, mostly due to the steep initial segment and high altitude - this hike starts at 10,000 feet.
I planned this hike last for a trip I was taking with some friends, and I am so glad I did, for it was easily my favorite spot that I visited in Yosemite. The initial trek up is a bit of a challenge, but it's a short one and the reward at the end is incredible. We got to the trailhead early (around 8ish after a more than two hour drive), and I recommend this approach. I did not have as much trouble climbing in the high altitude as my companion hikers did, so I barreled up the trail ahead of everyone. This means I was essentially alone when I started the descent toward the lake, and man-oh-man was it worth the effort. I'm not going to lie: I had a bit of an emotional moment. Just me and the fish and the birds and that other animal I think might have been a pika.
This is a hike where you can do some exploring. Take a nice little walk around the lakes. Follow the trail further north to an old abandoned silver mine. You can make it last as long or as short as you want. If you trek up toward Gaylor Peak, you can get a great view. I was there in mid-September, so it kind of looked like Rohan if Rohan had lakes.
As you've read, this is a short but steep hike that starts right at the Tioga entrance. Great hike with great views. Also, there's a side hike I highly recommend. It's up Gaylor Peak. There's no trail per se but you're just walking to the top of the peak, for a really great view. If I recall correctly, there's a saddle at about 1/2 - 3/4 mile into the hike. Going in, the peak is on your right. When returning to the trail head, if you still have some energy, try hiking up to the top of the peak on your way back. Just go off trail. It's all broken rock but just take it slow. I've put a panoramic photo here.
I really like this hike. It is brief and can be done as you enter Yosemite from Tioga pass. Simply park near the east gate, and start heading up the trail. I did this in spring with some snow but not much. After about a mile you reach Gaylor pass. Mount Gaylor is quite close and one day I think I'll have to climb it. Descending the other side you find yourself at lower Gaylor lake, which was frozen when I was there. It is above 10000 feet so the air is thin and if you have trouble with elevations, don't come here. There is a small plateau and nearby a small stream that leads up to upper Gaylor lake where there is the remains of the Great Sierra Mine nearby. Take a map to be sure.
This is a beautiful little hike with big reward for the effort. It's not very long, but it starts climbing almost immediately and being that it starts at about 10,000 ft in elevation - you feel it right away. We drove straight from LA the day we did the hike and were sucking wind on the way up. The lake is gorgeous and truly has subalpine lake feel.
I really enjoyed this hike. The initial climb is very steep but it's over rather quickly and then you descend down into a basin where all of the lakes are. It's very relaxing and quiet down in the basin. This place is a very good spot to stay the whole day exploring around.
Drove from Death Valley and this was our first hike in Yosemite this year. From 282 below sea level in Death Valley to 10,000 feet in one day was quite an elevation change, but we relished the change in temperature from 129 degrees the day before to 75 degrees at the start of the hike. We climbed steadily for the first half mile through a pine forest and grassy meadows to an alpine ridge that offers fantastic views of the surrounding mountains like Dana and Mammoth (we stopped by Mammoth on the way up). We could see the lakes over both sides of the ridge and enjoyed a nice cool breeze at the top. We then hiked down toward Middle Gaylor Lake and took in the views. You could hike further beyond the lake to others in the glacier carved valley and explore as much as you like. Really nice hike right next to the entrance station and gets your blood pumping. Highly recommend this for those who want a short hike with a lot of bang for your effort!