Lyell Canyon-Vogelsang Loop Trail

MODERATE 9 reviews
#50 of 213 trails in

Lyell Canyon-Vogelsang Loop Trail is a 34.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Mariposa, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October.

34.8 miles
4,337 feet





nature trips

rock climbing

trail running






wild flowers


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.

10 months ago

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.

1 month ago

recorded river

11 months ago

11 months ago

Monday, August 14, 2017

Thursday, September 11, 2014