Home Yosemite National Park Tioga Road Lyell Canyon YNP1322

Lyell Canyon

Why We Love This

  • Distance: anywhere from 1.4 miles (2.2 km) to 24 miles (38 km) round trip, depending on how ambitious you are.
  • Elevation at trailhead: 8,600 feet (2,620 meters).
  • Elevation Gain: Less than 100 feet (30 meters) for the first 8 miles (13 km); 2,500 feet (760 meters) if you actually go all the way to Donohue Pass.

Experience Snapshot


Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California


1 hours

Specific Time For Activity

Start Time: Any

Days Available:

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What you'll do

Why hike Lyell Canyon? Maybe you're a descendant of the eminent English geologist Charles Lyell, who lived long enough to have a canyon named after him and make all those years of looking at rocks worthwhile. Maybe you'd like to mingle with through-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, of which the Lyell Canyon trail is a part, and find out whether you really can smell them before you see them. Or maybe you'd just like a pleasant, if unspectacular, hike through the woods, with a few bridges and river crossings (which may sound redundant, but the latter don't always come with the former in Yosemite). Best Time to Visit: There's not a definite bad time, as long as the Tioga Road is open (see its historical opening & closing dates), though there may be snow on the trail for the first few weeks after the road opens. The second half of June and the first half of July, roughly when the meadows will be greenest and the rivers at their most watery, may have an edge over other times of year. Crowd Factor: It's not too crowded to begin with, but it grows rapidly more secluded once you've crossed the bridges in the first mile and a half of the hike. Difficulty: Easy. You can make this a very short hike if you want, the trail is generally smooth, and you'll have to hike for several hours to find much elevation gain. However, the starting elevation of 8,500 feet bumps the difficulty up a notch, so it ranks a 2 out of 10. Getting There: The trailhead is just east of Tuolumne Meadows, in the parking lot of the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. From Yosemite Valley, it's a 10-mile (16-km) drive up highway 120 to the Tioga Road junction at Crane Flat, and then another 40 miles (64 km) east to the the Lodge turnoff. From Yosemite's eastern entrance at Tioga Pass, it's 7 miles (12 km) west. Take the turnoff to the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, which is just east of Tuolume Meadows itself. Once on the lodge road, pull in at the Dog Lake parking lot (there's another lot for Dog Lake on Tioga Road itself, but that's not the one you're after now). From here, hike a few hundred meters farther up the road to the main parking lot for the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. You'll find the trailhead near the southwest corner of this parking lot. Here's a Google Street View panorama of the parking lot with the trailhead sign visible, although it's a bit blurry, and here's another panorama showing the turnoff to the Lodge road.

What's Included

  • Nearest Bathrooms: At the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, in the brown building (does this seem disturbingly appropriate to you?) just uphill from the lodge itself.
  • Nearest Snacks: Basics at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, just off the trailhead. You can get a wider variety of food at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill & Cafeteria roughly a mile west.
  • Parking: There's a large lot just west of the trailhead. There's also a large lot at the trailhead, but it's reserved for guests of the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. See the

Your Journey

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