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May Lake is a 2.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back 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 May until October.

Length 2.8 mi Elevation gain 498 ft Route type Out & Back
Kid friendly Camping Hiking Nature trips Walking Bird watching Forest Lake Views Wild flowers Wildlife Rocky No dogs
Description
Waypoints (5)
Contact
Tips
Getting There

Yosemite National Park is open to those with reservations begining on Thursday, June 11. See the park website for more info: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/covid19.htm An easy day hike or overnighter to a popular and beautiful subalpine lake. The hike to May Lake is a bit of the essence of Yosemite -- expansive views over granite peaks, a sparkling blue lake set below 10,000' Mount Hoffmann, a subalpine forest, and, well, other people. This is not where you go for a solitary backcountry escape - but it is a delightful and beautiful place to take someone for their first backpacking trip or just an enjoyable day hike. This route, the shortest way to May Lake, starts at the Snow Flat trailhead which is reached via a rough, narrow, but paved road off the Tioga Road. There is a vault toilet and bear boxes here, but limited parking. The trail moves upwards, slowly at first, but with a steadily greater incline until you hit a few switchbacks. Stop on the way and make sure to check out the views - they're great! At the top of the hill - just off the trail is a ridge with an excellent view and a great place to stop for a snack - the trail levels out again and quickly reaches the May Lake Backpacking Camp. There are bear boxes, a water spigot, and a flush toilet (!) here, and campsites all along the southeastern shore. The May Lake High Sierra Camp is along the northern end of the lake. There is a good use trail following the southern shore that, if you follow it long enough and high enough, will take you to the summit of 10,850' Mount Hoffmann, near the geographic center of Yosemite and with great views in all directions.

California Travel and Tourism Commision, P.O. Box 1499 , Sacramento, CA, 95812-1499, Phone: 800-862-2543

The parking lot at the high trailhead fills quickly; on the bright side, most of these people are dayhikers, so early or late arrivals should give you plenty of parking. This is a great place to take your kids for their first backpacking trip: it's short, there's a pretty lake (with rocks to toss in) at the end, there are regular toilets for the potty-trained crowd, and there will likely be other little kids there too. There is running water and a bear locker at the campsite! Make sure everything is working before you go, though - you don't want a bear to eat your food. The Mount Hoffmann trail goes along the south shore of the lake and is said to be a great hike, although it's very strenuous, much more so than the hike to May Lake. On the way up don't forget to turn around and look behind you. The best views are to the south. (It's easy enough to blaze up the trail that you could forget. I nearly did.)There are 3 easily-reachable trailheads for May Lake. The shortest, from Snow Flat, requires a car and involves a narrow paved road off of Highway 120. You can also ride the Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle to the May Lake Trailhead (stop #11), which adds another 1.5 miles and 600' to your hike. There's a third trailhead near Porcupine Creek, reachable via the Tuolumne Meadows - Yosemite Valley Hikers' Bus, which is ~3 miles but only 700' of gain.

Directions from Arch Rock Entrance: Follow Highway 140 northward to Big Oak Flat Road. Turn left on to Big Oak Flat Road and follow it 9.5 miles to Tioga Road. Turn right on Tioga Road and follow it 26.5 miles to May Lake Road. Turn left on May Lake Road and follow it two miles to the trailhead.

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Reviews (156)
Photos (348)
Recordings (141)
Completed (478)
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Marvin Holmes
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Hiking
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Stone Conroy
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HikingGreat!

Stunning views

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Paul Remmenga
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HikingGreat!

Beautiful lake. A few people camping near by. I'm sure that it was a great experience. The trail wasn't difficult and the views were great!

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Suzanne Daunt
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Hiking
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Kim Howe
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Hiking

Easy hike to a lovely lake perfect for hammocking and fishing! A little family of grouse lives in and around a fallen tree 3/4 of the way to the top.

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Timothy Conaway
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HikingGreat!

Short and moderate hike - great for family also. Views from lake were amazing and I wish I had spent much more time there with the fam. Next time I will take the kids, a hammock, and my paddle board and enjoy at least a few hours if not a full day by the lake. There are many great spots along the rim to claim and relax.

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Mirjam Sax
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Hiking

Nice Easy trail. Mostly uphill, pretty exposed. Nice lunch spots at may lake

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Megan Zinck
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Hiking

Phenomenal views from the ridge near the top. Walk left around the lake to the granite outcropping and enjoy views of the lake and peaks in the distance. Great moderate hike up, easy going down!

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Tala Parker
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Hiking

amazing trail. to get to it, you’ll drive about 5 min on a roughly paved road. parking lot was pretty full but still manageable. heading up to the lake was almost entirely uphill but wasn’t ever too steep. altitude is noticeable. was just over a mile to the lake and took about 1, 1.5 hrs. GORGEOUS views once at the lake and many spots to sit down along the water. no mosquitos when we were there around 12-3pm. if you head right along the lake you’ll eventually get to a sandy shallow area where the water was pretty warm and nice to dip feet into. lake was cold but some people were brave and swimming. hike back was quick and easy, maybe 30 or 45 min. also great views of the sierras! could see half dome and tenaya lake. would recommend for beginners backpacking

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Eugen Kormuskins
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Hiking

Small little pond in the right of the lake that has tadpoles n frogs

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Ross Hutcheon
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Hiking

Awesome vistas

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Anthony LaPoint
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Great little side trail off Tioga Pass. Nice easy hike and you get amazing views of the park, you can even see half dome from it. The lake is also beautiful and filled with great backpacking campsites.

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Anthony Pham
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Hiking

The trailhead is about 2 miles from the road. You’ll need to drive on a dirt path to get there. The trail has great landscape and diversity. Our family loved it. Had a nice lunch at the lake.

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Michael Anderson
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HikingGreat!

Easy hike with a pretty lake at the end. We saw a couple marmots on the way up to the lake. If you want a serious challenge, continue around May Lake to the left and head to the top of Mount Hoffman.

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Mac McCarthy
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Hiking

A great hike with some fun places to swim.

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Kristy Moore
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Backpacking

Beautiful short hike. Great views going up. No swimming allowed at lake. Gets a bit steep and altitude + out-of-shape due to COVID, I hiked up with fully loaded backpack and realized I need to do more hiking with pack before I can manage a backpack trip in Yosemite.

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Mel Ha
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Hiking

Beautiful and relatively quiet lake with lots of shade.

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Christine Shipman
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Meggie Tomczyk
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Camping

Shared wine and Twizzlers around the camp fire with some cool stranger!

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Fin Debo
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Love it

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Fin Debo
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Love it

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Ron Ritz
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Hiking

Beautiful Lake. Butterflies everywhere.

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Patrick Bills
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Hiking

Nice easy to moderate hike depending on fitness level and ability to deal with altitude

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Matthew Summerville
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Hiking

Great Sierra trail with some uphill trees dirt rocks and a beautiful lake. May Lake would be a nice backpacking location because it has facilities water and bear enclosures

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Laura Chereau
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 12, 2019
Hiking

Jolie randonnée assez facile, monte tranquillement donc est accessible à tous. Chien interdit, le notre à donc attendu dans la voiture sans soucis. Joli point de vue en haut et joli lac

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Lisa Jabusch
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Hiking

Very pretty and relatively easy hike, with a beautiful payoff of the lake. We walked a short way past the lake and found an awesome place to sit and have lunch and look over the dropoff. We then walked on to the next little lake pictured, and found another nice perch over it, for a total out and back hike of 4.0 miles.

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Dale D'Alessandro
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Hiking

This is a great trail to break in your Yosemite hiking experience. It’s well marked. I hiked in after dark. I awoke to a beautiful view of May Lake.

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Oscar Sanchez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 11, 2019
Hiking

overall a great hike. I saw groups of people of all ages and athletic types doing this hike. I hike a lot, and took two friends who never hike. it was a fun day for all three of us. I would recommend walking around the lake for additional exploration.

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