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Nelson Lake Trail is a 11.1 mile out and back trail located near Yosemite Valley, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, fishing, and backpacking and is best used from May until October.

Length 11.1 mi Elevation gain 2,565 ft Route type Out & Back

Backpacking

Camping

Fishing

Hiking

Forest

Lake

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Bugs

Snow

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (9)
Contact
Tips

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 Escape to a lake off the beaten path. Escape from the hustle and bustle of Tuolumne Meadows into the Cathedral Range! This route takes you a short distance but a long way away from the Yosemite's busy Tuolumne Meadows region and Tioga Road to a quiet subalpine lake surrounded by granite peaks. Nothing good comes without a cost, however, and the price you pay here is forsaking well-signed and well-graded trails. If navigation is not your strong point, this is not the trail for you. The hike starts by site B49 in the Tuolumne Meadows campground (there is parking and bear boxes by the trailhead), and climbs 1000 feet through the forest to Elizabeth Lake, where you are rewarded with a great view of Unicorn Peak and other parts of the Cathedral Range. Elizabeth Lake provides a wonderful place to stop, rest, catch your breath, and refill your water bottles. From here, the adventure begins as the Park Service trails fade out and well-worn use trails become your guide: continue south on a well-worn trail until it starts climbing up. The trails you'll be following from here on are generally easy to follow but not always. You break out of the trees at long last at 10,000 feet, just in time to crest the ridge and get beautiful views of Tuolumne Meadows and the high country north of there. Ahead of you is the long narrow valley of Echo Creek, with Cockscomb on the right (west). The trail then drops just as steeply as it climbed towards the bottom of Echo Creek Valley and wanders through two lovely meadows. Stay on the eastern side of the meadows, especially in the second meadow, as the trail to Nelson Lake will head east partway through the second meadow. Once you start climbing from this second meadow, the the use trail becomes trickier to follow and relies more on unreliable "ducks" (piles of stones left by previous hikers who might, or might not, have had an idea of where they were going). Continue heading east. Soon enough you begin to drop into the bowl of Nelson Lake -- there are campsites all around the lake and great places to watch the sunset on the ridge above. The open country around here has lots of possibilities for exploration. Retrace your way to the trailhead.

Yosemite National Park Main Page http://www.nps.gov/yose Yosemite Wilderness Permits main page. http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm

Permits are required, they can be obtained from the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Permit Station, the trailhead is "Elizabeth Lake" (and is NOT listed on the wilderness permit page). The hike up to the ridge from Tuolumne Meadows is mostly in the forest and south of Elizabeth Lake is a fairly steep use trail rather than an official Park Service trail. As use trails go, it's easy to follow but there are a few parts where it can get a little confusing. Don't do this if you're not comfortable not being on a trail.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (23)
Photos (249)
Recordings (20)
Completed (31)
James Thurlow
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Backpacking

We - five somewhat-fit middle-aged guys with packs ranging in the mid 30s to mid 40s - covered the hike in five hours. We used an AllTrails GPX file downloaded to a Garmin watch to assist with navigation, and it was very helpful in the last 3/4 of a mile to find our way to Nelson Lake coming out of Echo Creek valley. While the hike was a bit strenuous, recorded at 9 miles and 2K ft in climbing, the views and destination were worth it. We pretty much had the trails and the lake to ourselves. For the fishermen, one of our group brought a fishing rod and caught five trout over about a 90 minute period (using a small spinning lure). I highly recommend this trail. If you're traveling in the fall, be prepared for some changing weather. We experienced a couple of small snow flurries plus a night of howling wind.

trinity mcwilliams
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 15, 2018
Backpacking

We (four fit moms) covered this trail in 4.5 hours (one way) with one lunch break. It was beautiful and do-able. But wouldn’t recommend it without a strong sense of adventure and direction as the trail often disappears. This app was crucial in helping us find and stay on the trail. The trip can be two days easy with tons of down time. And if you love the quiet, wilderness and few to NO people this place is for you. We left on Friday and didn’t see anyone else til we headed back on Saturday - around Elizabeth Lake.

Greg Rice
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 14, 2017
Backpacking

Went late July 2017. A lot of snow just in areas near trail made route finding tricky. Mosquitos during the sunrise/sunset hours and near low lying areas-bring headset! Great views, lots of trout at Nelson.#14 black caddis worked well at sunset! Wish I had more time to cross country it to Reyman lake and up/over to Rafferty creek.

Jessica Drizin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 16, 2017

Absolutely stunning hike with meadows, streams, lakes, and incredible views of Yosemite Backcountry. Bring a map and compass because the last bit to the lake is off trail.

Robert Thille
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 25, 2014
First to Review

Planned a 4 day backpacking trip. Trail is beautiful. Ditto for the lake. The only negative was the mosquitoes. They turned our 4 day trip into a 3 day.

Alex Tirion
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Hiking
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Mikhail D
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Road biking
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Kim Cart
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Hiking
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Kevin Spach
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Hiking
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Martin Perry
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Hiking
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Chip Smith
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Hiking
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Chip Smith
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Hiking
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Chip Smith
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Hiking
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Chip Smith
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Hiking
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Andy Lietz
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Hiking
Andy Lietz
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Hiking
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Ark Rozycki
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Hiking
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Stuart Zimmerman
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Hiking
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Sean Lorimor
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Hiking
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Ant Nguyen
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Hiking
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Kevin Spach
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 25, 2019
Hiking
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James Thurlow
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Backpacking
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RamaKrishna Vuppaluru
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 26, 2017
Backpacking
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