Lyell Canyon and Vogelsang Loop Trail

HARD 26 reviews
#61 of 243 trails in

Lyell Canyon and Vogelsang Loop Trail is a 19.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Yosemite Valley, California that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October.

Distance: 19.6 miles Elevation Gain: 2,247 feet Route Type: Loop

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

bird watching

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no dogs

A tramp through the heart of Yosemite's Cathedral Range. This delightful trip takes you through some of the most accessible and spectacular parts of Yosemite's High Country and its glacier-carved landscapes. It can be done as either an "independent" backpacking trip or through Yosemite's High Sierra Camps, providing meals and shelter at the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in-season. You start out from the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Permit Station and head towards the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Shortly after crossing the river, head east (away from the campground), and you'll soon run into the return leg of the trip, coming down from Rafferty Creek/Vogelsang. Continue straight along the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail towards Lyell Canyon and Donohue Pass. The route continues through the remarkably flat and lovely Lyell Canyon until its junction with Ireland Creek. Enjoy the fields of wildflowers through the canyon, especially in early summer. Once you reach the Ireland Creek Junction, you leave the John Muir Trail and turn towards Vogelsang and Ireland Lake. You are soon reminded that you're in the mountains as the trail climbs up, up, up through the forest to the top of the ridge between Lyell Canyon and Rafferty Creek, gaining an expansive view of the Cathedral Range at the top of the ridge. Towards the top of the ridge there are numerous places for camping but there are only a few places with readily accessible water. From the top of the ridge, it's a slow drift downwards past a number of lakes to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp: both Lake 10,425 and Evelyn Lake offer nice, if windy, campsites and views towards the center of the Cathedral Range. After Evelyn Lake, you descend grassy benches on the way into Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Vogelsang Peak is a popular side excursion from here, although you should be comfortable going off-trail and doing some rock scrambling (the route starts by following the trail towards Vogelsang Pass). From the High Sierra Camp, the trail drops to Tuolumne Pass and then gently descends the valley of Rafferty Creek until a last drop to meet the Tuolumne River and the trail you started on. Cross the river and head back to the permit station to finish the hike.

hiking
10 days ago

Had a great trail run over Labor Day. Highly recommended loop. I did clockwise. The steep rocky part feels short in this direction (and is only at the end). Leave yourself some time to enjoy the meadows. This would be a great backpacking loop and I wish I’d had more time out there to enjoy some side lakes and peaks.

hiking
bugs
snow
1 month ago

We just finished this hike July 27th-30th. It was amazing. We spent the first night in Backpackers camp in TM. We then hit the trail at around 9:30am and hiked as this hike is laid out, clockwise, down Lyell Canyon. some fantastic swimming spots along the way. Once past the avalanche on the left side of the canyon, you can find a place to camp (past 4 miles in). We hiked all the way up to the trail to Evelyn lake which we would take the next morning. We found an incredible established site and just loved our camp. Took us some convincing to move out the next morning. Everyone in our party agrees that this is the way to go, contrary to some other reviews here. Yes the 3 mile hike from Lyell Canyon up to the junction trail to Ireland lake is BRUTAL with a heavy pack, it is also just 3 miles. If you take your time, it is actually quite enjoyable. There is a fantastic creek right at the junction and it is spring fed, so it is comfortable to cool off in year round. There are great places to camp right here, however, we continued on over the next couple of ridges to get all of the climbing behind us on this second day. As we dropped down from the TM pass, we encountered a small unnamed tarn in a large valley before dropping down to Evelyn lake. It was AMAZING. I agree with the other reviewer here, this tarn should be named. We found a great camp that had a circle of trees on the N/E side of the lake. The trees helped manage the wind and the site was perfect. We hiked around the tarn to collect some snow for cool drinks that night. And the stars were perfect. The next morning, the wind was gone, and unfortunately, that meant the Mosquitos came out with a vengeance. This encouraged us to pack quickly and hit the trail early. They were not bad when we hiked and really continued to dwindle as we finished our hike. We passed Evelyn lake and then dropped down to Vogelsang HSC. It is closed this year, but what a special place. We had a snack and then began our 7 mile hike out along the Rafferty creek. Here is where we disagree with some of the other posts suggesting to take the trail the opposite direction. Although our day 2 was a difficult day, it was also a short day with just 3 miles being a fairly brutal climb. I am not in good shape at all. Overweight and little aerobic stamina. I was able to take it real slow for the climb with my 40lb pack and do just fine. It was rewarding... The hike out of Rafferty creek trail on the other hand was fairly difficult even down hill. First of all, it is a pack trail, so much of it included the typical large granite steps that are typical of pack trails in the high Sierra. These bust your knees going down them and also are thigh burners going up. Also, this trail is definitely NOT mostly flat. I would say we were mostly going down hill all the way and several parts in the middle and at the end were worse than what we had done the day before. Overall, it was a great hike and I now have a new favorite part of Yosemite to continue to explore!

hiking
2 months ago

Only had time to do a short section after the split down Lyell canyon.

11 months ago

I enjoyed the views ... but it is nowhere near 34 miles. It is closer to 20 miles. I went counterclockwise and found it moderate only because I was carrying a pack. It could easily be done as a day hike.

backpacking
Sunday, September 17, 2017

My wife and I just did this hike over the labor day weekend 2017. We parked and started hiking from the Dog Lake parking area though. Plenty of bear boxes at that car park too. We did this the opposite way than what this review spells out. And in my opinion, going up Rafferty Creek and down into the Lyell Fork is the way to go. The first 3/4 of a mile or so up Rafferty is the only section that involves any real climbing. Beyond that, it is the nicest gradual ascending trail I've been on in a while. Literally almost flat. And from what I had read about going up out of the Lyell Fork prior, was absolutely correct. That route is steep, for a long ways!!! Was glad we were going down that, not up. So the hike up Rafferty Creek was right at 7 miles to the backpackers campground at Vogelsang. It took us 5 hours but we were in no hurry. The scenery doesn't really unfold until you can start to see Fletcher and Vogelsang peaks. Once you get to Tuolumne pass, you are within a mile of the High Sierra camp. We lucked out with a cloudy hiking day, so that was a bonus. We camped out for 2 nights and did day hikes around the area. Up to Vogelsang Pass one day and up to Townsley lake the next. We were going to spend one more night, but smoke from the fires down by Glacier point changed direction, and changed our plans too. We left in the middle of the afternoon for the PCT along the Lyell Fork. A little disappointed, but we had done all we wanted to do anyway, and had 2 really nice days up there. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the scenery along the stretch from Vogelsang down to the Lyell Fork due to all the smoke. Oh well. We set up camp that evening right before it got dark at the junction of the PCT and the trail to Vogelsang. Pretty tired after an unexpected 6.3 mile hike. And we had already hiked over 4 miles earlier that day up by Townsley Lake. Hiked out the next morning back to Tuolumne meadow a day early but no regrets. This is a great loop, and a fairly easy one going the direction we did. One cool surprise we weren't expecting, was that you can see Half Dome from the trail up to Vogelsang Pass, right before Vogelsang lake. Clouds Rest is visible to the right too. Pretty awesome!! If you haven't been up here, put it on the list!!

Monday, September 19, 2016

This hike was amazing. My boyfriend and I did it over 3 days, our favorite camp being under Fletcher peak near Vogelsang. The trek out of the meadow after Ireland Creek junction is definitely a lung-buster but so very worth the effort. When you come up and over the mountain there is a small unnamed lake before Evelyn which we loved!! This lake deserves a proper name! October was a great time to hike, the days were cool enough and with enough layers the nights weren't too bad. Plenty of green left and some beautiful changing colors. Would do it again in a heart beat.

hiking
6 days ago

hiking
20 days ago

recorded Recording - Jul 27, 06:16 PM

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

hiking
Monday, July 30, 2018

hiking
Monday, July 30, 2018

hiking
Friday, June 29, 2018

hiking
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

hiking
Friday, June 22, 2018

recorded river

hiking
Tuesday, September 05, 2017

hiking
Monday, August 14, 2017

backpacking
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Featured Trails