Explore the most popular trails near Lee Vining with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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Lee Vining, California Map
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hiking
1 day ago

After a pretty grueling uphill for the first half of the hike, you will end up at a beautiful alpine meadow. My group took time to relax here before strolling up to the top of Tioga Peak. Once at the top you will find a registry and pretty views from all angles. Highly recommend for a physical but relaxing day hike!

hiking
1 day ago

Although the path itself is not very pretty, you will get an epic view of Mount Conness and North Peak. Highly recommend for a day long stroll. Bring supplies for a picnic and lots of sunscreen!

Wonderful hike back into small, beautiful lakes. recommend taking the southern side (on the right as you look at the lake from the trailhead parking lot) around Saddlebag lake as the northern side is very rocky and hard on dogs paws.

Very well maintained trail, breathtaking fall colors!

Pretty unique!

Nice pit stop. The tufa rocks were interesting to look at but the flies and smell was a little off putting. $3/person cash

Beautiful Terrain and crystal clear water. Loved every minute.

Beautiful! I was so stoked to be there I ran half way around the rim.

We (2 couples) hiked it in early October - it was cold (35F) and mostly windy - dress accordingly.

The way in/out is somewhat boring (Oct - no boat taxi) and long. The trail isn't well marked and it's relatively easy to lose your way (we didn't, thanks to the AllTrail app). The lakes are nice - but we've seen nicer in this area...

Gorgeous hike! Especially in the Fall. I was there today and noticed the rock slide cutting through the first part of the trail (I’ve hiked this before) but had no trouble at all keeping to the trail. No ribbons or cairns needed, IMO.
The first part is stupid easy. Almost anyone with working legs can do it. After getting to the rocky part, it does get slightly steep, but it is nowhere near “extremely difficult” (as others have rated it) provided you’re at least in decent shape. Past the Falls and the pond, keep going another mile or so until you get to the Cascades. Super beautiful.
Speaking of that, some hikers (myself included) completely missed the left turn across the logs (before the cascades) and assumed to the empty river bed to be the trail. Don’t be dopes like us. Lol. Right where the trail appears to go down into the empty river bed stop and look left. You’ll see two logs going across the river bed. Cross them and you’ll be back on the trail on the other side.

Great, fun hike! Pretty level throughout. Lots of rocks on the Western side, but the other side is a breeze! Will probably do it again sometime!

hiking
24 days ago

fantastic Trail, beautiful all the way around the rim. Great panoramic views of the lake. Two important words of caution. Number one be careful if you use Google Maps to navigate to the trailhead, it took us down a pretty narrow dirt road that scuffed sides of our vehicle, instead just watch for the signs pointing to the crater and take that road. Second, we didn't see any bugs at the trailhead so we full heartedly left our insect repellent behind, halfway through the hike at the best panoramic view of the lake we were besieged by flies.

hiking
24 days ago

RIM NOT RECOMMENDED FOR DOGS. We/I did the crater rim. Started with my three Whippets & my largest started limping & sitting a lot early on. Then we discovered that his paws had been cut by the obsidian on the trail, so the dogs returned to the car with my wife. The rim trail is very loose pea sand so its like walking on a beach. The views are amazing, this is one of the few places where you can see & photo all of Mono Lake. Best time to hike it is early morning when it is cool & few if any others are using the trail.

hiking
26 days ago

Beautiful uncrowded hike in the Eastern Sierra. Fall colors are amazing here and the canyon was a mix of green, yellow, and some orange. The 1st part of the trail is back to normal and easy to follow. The last section of the trail to the lake is still extremely difficult and we turned around as it went nearly straight up a chute that is all loose shale. The waterfalls and aspens are worth the trek

we hiked all the way to the summit...totally worth it! We went with our 11 and 16 year olds. Very diverse trail. There are about 5 lakes on the way up. Mostly shade and moderate climbs. Loved it!

Great views.

hiking
1 month ago

Certainly one of the finest trails in the Eastern Sierras - I agree with all the positive reviews.

Now, about that rock slide. It is VERY confusing and hikers look like an ant colony trying to find the trail. Cairns lead nowhere. Note that the All Trails download gets it perfect, so download the map. Also, someone has attached streamers to trees that mark the route but they are red and white - and faded. If you want to help your fellow hikers, take along some orange surveyor's tape and hang them next to the red and white. Once past the ordeal, all is well with the world.

walking
1 month ago

Nice, relatively easy hike for all ages. Easy access for parking and the visitor center is great too.

hiking
1 month ago

Great trail, after the first part it’s not bad at all. Took me about 40 minutes to get to the lake.

The name is not an exaggeration, so many lakes! I only saw about 7 people past Saddlebag Lake so the solitude was great. If I had more time it would've been enjoyable to fish some of those lakes.

backpacking
1 month ago

We did a three day/two night trip over Labor Day weekend, 9/1/18 - 9/3/18 with a dog. The drive up was slightly rough (the roughest was right at the beginning of the 2 mile dirt road) but not bad and we made it just fine in a small sedan. We started at Saddlebag Lake, taking the trail on the east side of the lake. We chose this trail after reading reviews on here stating that it is longer but easier on dog's feet and more shaded. I would agree with this, even after only taking this trail, and would recommend this side to anyone with a dog. As others have said, there is no boat running to get across this lake.

We got a free permit (required to camp) for Steelhead Lake. There wasn't much camping around this lake but we took the little trail off to the left to Towser Lake (very close to Steelhead) and camped there. Awesome spot to camp! It was a popular spot but there is a lot of area to spread out and be away from others.

The next day, we did the Twenty Lakes Basin loop, going clockwise. This was not a very tough hike but very rocky, we had doggie booties but Osker blew out two of them on the trail. We completed the trail fine, but we were worried that he was going to have pad issues; luckily he did not. The trail itself was ok, nothing too special; a lot of the lakes were not easily accessible, but were pretty scenic. Also, the trail is not well marked when doing this loop clockwise. Right after passing Lake Helen, keep your eyes out for the signpost to continue on the trail. It is across a small water crossing and down hill a little ways. It could easily be missed if not paying attention.

Overall, I would highly recommend hiking out to Towser Lake and camping there but would only recommend hiking the Twenty Lakes Basin loop trail to those that are looking to get some miles in with some good (but not great) views. Also, make sure to have doggie booties if you're doing the loop trail!

I walked this one mile totally flat loop in the second part of August. The sun was relentless; sun protection (sunscreen and hat) will help if you are spending a bit of time to visit the area (especially if you extend your stroll to Navy Beach).

The Tufa formations are very scenic and photogenic; the lake in the background and the Sierra Nevada on the horizon do not hurt either. This is a short detour (10 minute drive from 395 and anywhere betwen 30mn and a couple hours for the visit) from Lee Vining, or just from the Tioga Pass road if you go over the Sierras that way.

There was volunteer at the "beach" on that day showing us the single noticeable organism living in the very salty lake: the Brine Shrimp; hardly bigger than a horse hair...

The unusual / unique nature of the Tufa towers, the ease of access and the great photo opportunities make this a no-brainer to put on your list when nearby.

We did this trail on 9/2, as a group of 10 folks of varying fitness and ages. We also had a 15 month old puppy. I had read this page thoroughly, so I was prepared.

- Get AllTrails Pro, the trails are not marked. This saved us.
- For the puppy, we got booties and they kept coming off. Thanks to the kindness of strangers who were returning after backpacking, we had a pack of self adhesive tape that they used for their dog. This was a life saver.
- 4 out of the 8 miles is on scree and talus. I was afraid for the puppy, she did fine, but for one small cut in her paws, the booties helped. You have to watch each step you take.
- From the top of saddlebag lake, I highly recommend doing it the counter clockwise (see my track upload). The climb down to Lake Helen is hard and I was glad I was going down in that scree and not up. Further, you hike towards North Peak when you go counter clockwise and it is stunning.
- Yes, there is not much elevation gain, so our group was able to do it comfortably, but it did take us nearly 7 hours (4:30 moving), between the scree, the puppy and the elevation of this area (10,200 feet+).
- The views are astonishing. The teenagers in our group was awestruck. "Bob Ross painting in each turn" - one exclaimed.
- It is more or less completely exposed, so be prepared.
- We had plenty of company during labor day long weekend, but we didn't mind it. If we were a noisy bunch and ruined your day, we are sorry. We had 5 teens in the group :).

Highly recommend this trail. Highly recommend AllTrails pro.

I love this hike. It's fairly easy with a few tougher spots. The scenery is spectacular. We did a one night backpacking trip and camped in between Steelhead Lake and Cascade Lake. The trail splits in a lot of places so it is easy to get confused. Make sure you have a map to refer to or are using the app to track.

very beautiful

We did this hike on 8/30. We were excited based on the description and reviews. It is a great trail with amazing views. But we realized we didn't do enough homework before heading out. Here are my Cons and Pros

Cons
1. The water taxi (as someone mentions from July below) is not running. We have an old dog and a child and the extra miles and exposure weren't great.

2. Although dogs are allowed, the surface of the trail was tough on our dogs paws. It has taken him 3 days to recover from the experience.

3. You are exposed for 98% of the trail. We applied sun screen before we headed out, but you will need to reapply. Wearing a hat and pants and long sleeved shirt recommend. Also, bring more water than you thing you will need.

Pros
1. It is an easy hike - this is true as there isn't a lot of elevation change but I would rate it as moderate with the water taxi not running, the trail surfaces, exposure, etc. But it is doable.

2. There were just a few people on the trail.

3. The views.

The directions lead to private property, but if you head east for about 3 miles from the directions you can find a 4x4 trail that travels around mono lake. That was worth it.

hiking
1 month ago

This trail is best early in the morning so that shadows are cast between the inner and outer rings of the crater. You also get better visibility for Mono Lake. This is a fast, beautiful hike you should try to fit into any Mono Lake trip.

hiking
1 month ago

The first section of the trail has been wiped out by a rockslide. People have set up rock cairns to demarcate the trail, but it's still tough to follow. You should download the All Trails map since there's no phone reception and (attempting) to follow the trail can be frustrating. The last section of the trail has also been wiped out by a rockslide. I tried climbing up the shale to get to the alpine lake, but turned back once it got dangerous. Despite that, this was by far the pretties trail that I hiked in Mono Lake area.

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