Home » 2020 Eastern Sierra During Covid

Tenaya Lake (Yosemite), CA

Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 6:00pm by Lolo
240 miles and 5 hours from our last stop


Herb setting out on the Tenaya Lake LoopHerb setting out on the Tenaya Lake LoopThere are many routes over the Sierra to Bishop, each of them steep, winding, and beautiful, but my favorite is the drive along Route 120 through the Tuolumne. Tuolumne is very different from Yosemite Valley, and usually much less crowded. At an altitude of 8,600 feet, it is high country and therefore, considerably cooler and wetter, resulting in it only being open generally from May through early-November, as the rest of the year it is covered in unplowed snow. It is also usually much less crowded.

We were fortunate to get one of the newly required day permits to drive through the park, a policy implemented during Covid to restrict the number of people visiting the park each day. Despite the restrictions, It still seemed pretty crowded. The pass does not allow you to stay overnight in the park, so we were just passing through on our way to Mono Lake.

Lolo navigating the Lake Tenaya outletLolo navigating the Lake Tenaya outletThere are so many beautiful stops along the drive through Tuolumne, but our plan for the day was to hike around Tenaya Lake, an absolutely stunning glacial sapphire-blue lake, surrounded by glacially-carved granite domes, giving it the honor of being referred to as the “Jewel of the High Country.”

We have kayaked this lake many times, but had never in all our years hiked around it. Well, it was about time.

There is always a crowd here and the parking lots fill up early. However, we managed to find a parking spot along 120 at the eastern end of the lake.

The trail around the lake is an easy 2.5-mile hike, especially by Yosemite standards, in that it is flat. Almost every other hike requires some significant elevation gain. This one started at an elevation of 8,150 feet and didn’t get much higher. That’s the nice thing about lake hikes.

Lovely Tenaya LakeLovely Tenaya LakeThe only possible challenge on this hike is during spring and early summer when the water in the lake’s outlet on the western end might be high enough to require some fording. This was July, so we would probably not have a problem.

The hike was fun and uneventful and the water in the outlet was low enough to just require some rock hopping. Our feet didn’t even get wet.

Having knocked that hike off our bucket list we continued on towards Mono Lake, regretfully having to just drive by lovely Tuolumne Meadows without time to stop. The drive down the steep and windy section of 120 out of the park and down to Lee Vining was as scenic and dramatic as always.

Tenaya Lake (Yosemite) location map in "high definition"

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