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Buena Vista Crest Trail to Royal Arch Lake

MODERATE 6 reviews
#151 of 244 trails in

Buena Vista Crest Trail to Royal Arch Lake is a 30 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Yosemite Valley, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 30.0 miles Elevation Gain: 4,074 feet Route Type: Loop




horseback riding

nature trips


bird watching



wild flowers


no dogs

18 days ago

My brother and I did this loop 10am 10/4/19 - 11am 10/6/19. Great 2.5 day/2 night trip. Camped night 0 at Hodgdon Meadow campsite, picked up permits at the station, and drove in from there Friday morning. Not particularly scenic compared to other Yosemite trails (grand canyon of the tuolumne, etc) but a beautiful forest route nonetheless. The gem of this loop is Buena Vista lake. We made it up there (9,300' elevation) late morning of day 2. Jumped in the (freezing) water and had lunch in peace. Night one camped on the north side of the trail just after passing the first of the Chilnualna lakes. GREAT campsite, the sky was clear and fantastic view of the stars. We bushwhacked our way to the other two Chilnualna lakes to see if there were campsites and there WERE NOT so don't spend your time trying :) . Lunch time day 2 we were at Royal Arch lake and a group of guys were fishing. They must have pulled 20 fish out (probably not legally) so if you're into backcountry fishing this lake is your spot. Night 2 we stayed on the west side of the trail about a mile up from where the loop splits. Impacted campsite that looked like it was regularly used for groups hiking in on mules (there was mule poop all around the periphery of the site). Temps dropped to high 20s both nights at elevation (we heard it was substantially colder than that the night before we started) but no snow or rain. I can't imagine doing this trail in the spring as it seems like it would be a complete swamp but in October it was 100% navigable. We never carried more than 1L of water with us as we were consistently within reasonable distance of water we could filter. We did 13 miles day 1, 13 miles day 2, and 7 miles day 3 (easy out by 11am). Would definitely recommend!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Beautiful lakes at Royal Arch and Buena Vista. Pleasant scenery along the way

Friday, June 30, 2017

Awesome trail, lots of streams and waterfalls. We couldn't finish the whole loop due to high water levels from all the snow melt, but had a great time and clocked in about 33 miles in 4 days.

Friday, August 16, 2013


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