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JMT: Segment 1 - Happy Isles to Tuolomne Meadows

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.9 (12)

A glorious hike through the high sierra in Yosemite Wilderness with a breathtaking waterfall finale.


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Map Key

22.5

Miles

36.2

KM

Point to Point

9,915' 3,022 m

High

4,055' 1,236 m

Low

6,717' 2,047 m

Up

2,052' 626 m

Down

7%

Avg Grade (4°)

46%

Max Grade (24°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Geological Significance · Lake · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers

Yosemite is on a permit only system currently. Check with the park to see what you need when you are looking at using this.

This is a one way hike. During normal times you should be able to take the park bus. During covid times, have a shuttle set up.

Section Of

Description

This description is from Toulomne Meadows to Happy Isles, as I prefer a 6,700 foot drop with a 2,000 foot climb to the opposite.

This trail starts in Toulomne Meadows. If you want to cut a little distance off the hike, and avoid some of the chaos of the area, you can start at Cathedral Lakes TH. This first stretch of trail is a gentle uphill through the forest. The path is wide and there are bound to be plenty of people on their way to or from Cathedral Lakes (usually Lower Cathedral Lake).

About 2.5 miles from the Cathedral Lakes TH the trail to Lower Cathedral Lake splits off to the right. It is a worthy side trip and particularly worth adding those miles when you've shaved the miles starting at the Cathedral Lakes TH. The lake can be busy but offers a lovely alpine lake in a short distance. If you don't want to add the mileage however, I don't think you are missing much. Upper Cathedral Lakes is just up the trail, and viewable from the trail, and it is almost as scenic and without the crowds.

Once past the lakes, you'll mostly only see backpackers. Though we saw enough people to remind us we weren't alone, we only ran into a few people or groups until we got to the falls at the top of the valley.

Anyway, past the lakes you'll begin another gentle climb through woods with Cathedral Peak providing the main backdrop. About 5 miles after the Cathedral Lakes TH you'll reach a ridge and drop into a meadow. Crossing it you'll find a trail to Sunrise High Sierra Campsite and the Sunrise Lakes Trail to the right, with a backcountry bathroom in case you feel the need. From this point the trail begins to climb again, gently, for about 1.5 miles to the high point of this hike. This is where the downhill splendor begins.

Enjoy the views of the mountains in the distance as you drop down a rocky series of moderately steep switchbacks through the forest, quickly meeting up with a stream. It doesn't take long for the trail to begin to moderate and for a soft singletrack to wind its way before you. Absolutely effortless running. After maybe 3-4 miles of this you'll reach a burn area. This doesn't start out badly and there is a lovely creek to stop at for water or relaxing. However, once you move on past the creek, with half dome coming into view and the valley around the corner, the thorny overgrowth does get annoying. It doesn't last too long. Maybe a mile. Then, it is blissful running to the falls. Enjoy the views. Ignore the crowds. Three miles to go.

Shared By:

Jason Doedderlein

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 12 votes

#238

Overall
  4.9 from 12 votes
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Trail Rankings

#25

in California

#238

Overall
20 Views Last Month
5,175 Since Aug 12, 2020
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

The top of Nevada Falls is the best place on earth.
Mar 31, 2017 near Yosemit…, CA
John Muir Trail Vista, Yosemite National Park
May 7, 2015 near Yosemit…, CA
Evening brings a sublime sunset at Upper Cathedral Lake on the John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park.
Jan 25, 2017 near Yosemit…, CA
July 2018 JMT thru hike. Cathedral Peak
Nov 26, 2019 near Yosemit…, CA
Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap and the back of Half Dome pose for a photo from the John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park.
Jan 25, 2017 near Yosemit…, CA
The ice-cut, running under Panorama Cliffs, is part of the Muir Trail that closes in the winter due to ice and other hazardous winter conditions.  This was after a snow fall in early November that blanketed the valley.
Mar 8, 2016 near Yosemit…, CA

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Check-Ins

Jun 24, 2022
Brynna cadman
Only TM to Sunrise Junction. Camped at Upper Cathedral Lake.
Jun 2, 2022
Cy Cy
Oct 8, 2021
Scott S
To cathedral lake trail. The lake at the end was spectacular 6mi
Sep 4, 2021
Marc Corona
Aug 9, 2021
Jake Swisher
Sep 11, 2020
Don Childrey
2.2mi
Jun 28, 2020
Nicolas Caramp
Segment to Lower Cathedral Lake 2.6mi
Oct 21, 2019
GLEN NICOL
Hopped on a segment to connect back to clouds rest trail after sumitting Half Dome.