May Lake

MODERATE 76 reviews
#51 of 243 trails in

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.

Distance: 2.8 miles Elevation Gain: 498 feet Route Type: Out & Back

kid friendly

camping

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

no dogs

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.

hiking
8 hours ago

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.

hiking
7 days ago

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.

hiking
9 days ago

Very nice hike. The road to the trailhead is open. Even on a Monday there was only one parking spot open. You can do this hike in 2 hours and still have plenty of time at the lake for a lunch.

hiking
10 days ago

Great short hike to a beautiful lake. My fifth star goes to the extended hike to Mt Hoffman, which has mind-blowing views and and even bigger payoff.

hiking
1 month ago

A really nice hike....the valley was too busy. We are glad we came across this trail.

hiking
1 month ago

This is my favorite hike. This year the mosquitos are brutal once you get to lake. Easy day hike. Bathroom at lake is closed.

hiking
bugs
1 month ago

You park at the trailhead and there are bathrooms there. You start the hike and basically just climb up the whole way to the lake. The trail is pretty and the views from up high are lovely. Once you reach the lake there are mosquitos and honestly I didn’t find the lake to be THAT pretty

hiking
bugs
1 month ago

Good hike but I was swarmed with bugs and the trail is hard to follow once you get to the lake

hiking
1 month ago

Nice hike to a beautiful lake. The road that others have mentioned as closed is currently open.

hiking
1 month ago

as others have said, great views and not a lot of people. Went a couple days ago and the road was closed off so we added about 4 miles total walking from the parking lot up to the trailhead. Also, very close to the lake there's a great lookout point if you just scramble up the rocks - when you're almost there, the lake is off to the left and there's a rock face to the right where you get the lookout.

hiking
bugs
rocky
snow
2 months ago

Great trail to avoid crowds. We’ve started it at 10am and met maybe 8 people in total. Please note that you need to walk extra 2 miles one way to reach the trail head. There is a lot of mosquitos and even a tropical spray with Deet50% didn’t work. As long as we keep moving it was fine but the moment we stopped we were immediately surrounded by them (and we stopped quite a lot with the kids). At the moment the mosquitos have peak breeding season in standing water from the melted snow. I would go back but maybe later in the year when the water has dried and there is less mosquitos.

hiking
muddy
2 months ago

Beautiful trail, goes along a paved road. The road was closed to cars so was safe to walk and was easy to follow. Very not crowded, great place to get away. We went on the afternoon on a Monday afternoon and saw maybe 5 people total. Trail goes along a creek of melted snow (it snowed a lot this year so there was still snow around in July). There's a large parking lot across the street from the trail head. (It's not well signed as a parking lot but a passing ranger let us know it was there.)

hiking
snow
2 months ago

Had to walk a 2 mile road that was closed to get to the trailhead. My observation here is that, having walked the road up and down, there is no reason for that road to be closed. There's one significant pothole. And that was about a mile in. A sign advising those with low clearance vehicles not to drive up would have been enough. But having said that, it was a nice and enjoyable hike. A good portion of the lake had a thin layer of ice on it. A fair amount of snow around the lake. Only a couple of people were around. Great views, of course.

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike! Due to the amount of snow this year, you have to walk 2 miles to the trailhead from Tioga Rd and then start your hike. Steady incline up...don’t forget to climb up the small embankment on the right just before the lake to see spectacular views down to Tenaya Lake and beyond. The lake still has a lot of ice on it now and we had a picnic on the snow. Great views all around!

hiking
7 months ago

Absolutely one of my favorite hikes

backpacking
Saturday, August 05, 2017

such a memorable spot (mosquitos and all). time and weather permitting, we unfortunately didn't summit the top of mt. hoffmann so in lieu of, ended up rock scrambling which was super fun... like an adult playground!! lol

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The access road to the trail head is not open as of 25 July. Add 4.2 miles round-trip to this hike because you have to start down at Tioga Pass Road.

hiking
Thursday, July 21, 2016

Very beautiful lake. wanted to continue on to Mt Hoffman Summit but snow obscured the trail early on and wasn't sure conditions. but well worth the hike upto May Lake

hiking
Monday, July 11, 2016

Great trail to a beautiful alpine lake. It took us about an hour to complete. Not a difficult climb and not bad on the knees going down. Cool view of Half Dome as well. The 2 mile road that leads to the small parking lot has a lot of potholes. It's also a one lane road.

hiking
Saturday, September 26, 2015

Yosemite National Park is often called a hiker’s paradise as it features over 800 miles of hiking trails. Often the biggest challenge is figuring out which trail to explore. If you don’t have the time to take on one of the park’s longer hikes, but still want a moderately challenging day hike that showcases some of Yosemite’s unique beauty, this is an excellent choice. At 2.4 miles up-and-back, the May Lake trail is just the right length for those on a tighter schedule who only have a couple of hours set aside for a hike. And since it’s located off the Tioga Pass (in the general vicinity of Olmstead Point), it tends to be much less crowded than the trails originating in Yosemite Valley. The turnoff to the trailhead is well-marked and easy to see (as long as you’re not speeding along the Pass), and from the turnoff you will enter a one-lane road that will take you up to the May Lake trailhead. There are vault toilets located at the trailhead and there are flush toilets at May Lake. The trail itself is a steady 500-foot climb in the shadow of Mt. Hoffmann through that stunning combination of evergreen trees and granite that is Yosemite’s hallmark. There are several points where you will be walking on either granite or decomposed granite which can make for slippery footing, so proper hiking footwear is strongly recommended. Be sure to stop a couple of times to take it the beautiful vistas from the granite cliffs, including an interesting view of Half Dome. At this point you’ll probably want to stop anyway to gulp some air due to the elevation – the trailhead starts at just over 8,700 feet. May Lake itself is a fine payoff to the ascent; it’s a pristine mountain lake framed by evergreen trees and Mt. Hoffmann. From this point, the ambitious can continue and climb another 1,500 feet to ascend Mt. Hoffmann. Or, you can be like us and pause to enjoy the beauty and serenity of May Lake before venturing back down the trail to seek out yet another Yosemite adventure.

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2 days ago

recorded Recording - Sep 05, 2:56 PM

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