Hike to the snowy Gaylor basin

Tioga Road had closed due to a storm, but would it reopen before an even larger storm dumped significant snow? The short answer is yes, for about 2.5 days, and I couldn’t wait to get up there to see if those Gaylor Basin lakes are freezing over.

Where: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 3.06 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation range: 9,940 ′ – 10,544 ′
Elevation: 923 ′
Date: October 20, 2021
Map: CALTOPO: Hike to the snowy Gaylor basin
Canine hiking? No

It was a very nice drive to Tioga Road. Heading up Merced Canyon, the fall color showed itself with dark red / orange poison oak, yellow willows, and a tinge of yellow in the oaks. After I entered Yosemite, the maples were about half turned with their bright yellow. As I crossed Big Oak Flat Road, I could see dots of shiny yellow oak above the road. Then came the dogwoods, which were turned about 2/3, showing off their bright red colors in the early morning light. On Tioga Road there was some color on the alder and willow path as well, but almost everything else sported its winter tan colors. I made a quick stop at Olmsted Point to take in the great views of Cloud’s Rest and Half Dome.

I parked my car at the east entrance parking lot of Tioga Pass in Yosemite and checked the restrooms. I was really not sure about the snow conditions on the trail so I brought my snowshoes and ice traction devices into the car. The trailhead is right next to the parking lot and based on what I saw at the trailhead I decided to throw my Kahtoola Microspikes in my bag. It was a bit icy but if I took my time it was fine. I headed for the trail.

When I reached the saddle under Gaylor Peak I glanced towards the Mono Pass trail but the cloudy bridge obscured the view too far.

I took a look at Gaylor Peak (elevation 10,994 ′), but it was also hiding in the clouds. Gaylor Peak and Lakes was named after Ranger Andrew Jack Gaylor who served in Yosemite from 1907 to 1921, dying of a heart attack while patrolling Merced Lake. You can read more about him in my blog.

I was really curious if Middle Gaylor Lake (10,335 ′ elevation) was starting to form ice and got my first glimpse of it from Gaylor Saddle (10,527 ′ elevation).

As I descended, my footprints were the only human ones behind the saddle. And no ice to see on this lake! I wandered along the lakeside to the creek.

I passed an area where I usually see or hear pikas and groundhogs, but no sightings or calls from them that day. I loved how the dried vegetation contrasted with the snow.

It was a young day so I thought I would try to get to Upper Gaylor Lake (10,512 ′ above sea level). The snow was still icy, but the patches of land offered ease of access when I could find them.

I quickly reached Upper Gaylor Lake and what a joy to see ice forming on it.

The ice line had covered about half of the lake!

The day was still young so I thought I would try to get to Dana City. When I hit the snow along the lake it was still icy and since I was alone I didn’t want to risk slipping into the lake. And yes, I still had my traction devices in my bag and not on my boots. I decided to head over the snow and stay in the rocks, but there was also a thin layer of ice on them.

I decided to take the path by which I had entered. I would have loved to reach the old mining town known as Dana (10,769 ′ above sea level) but it wasn’t in the maps for the day. This town didn’t exist for long, only about 4 years, but it was a bustling place in 1880 when it received a post office and is said to have had up to 1,000 people living there before mining activity. does move to the growing town of Bennettville.

The ice was starting to melt as I made my way back to Middle Gaylor Lake and guess I could have waited a bit, making it easy to Dana City, but that’s not what I chose to do. Tioga Road closed again a few days after my visit and is still closed as of this writing, but they have yet to call it a seasonal closure. So, I’m going to be very careful to see if I can squeeze in again.

Canine hiking?

No, dogs are not allowed on this Yosemite National Park trail.


What is a doarama? This is a video playback of the GPS track superimposed on an interactive 3-dimensional map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt or rotate it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Hike to the snowy basin of Gaylor Doarama

Card and profile:

CALTOPO has free options for mapping and here’s a link to my hike this week: CALTOPO: Hike to Snowy Gaylor Basin

Topographic map of the snow-covered Gaylor basin

Profile of the snowy Gaylor basin


Yosemite Conditions

Yosemite National Park How will COVID-19 affect my visit?

Tioga road opening and closing dates

Tioga Pass Resort

Saddlebag Lake Campground

Hoover Wilderness

Inyo national forest policies and rules

Hike Inyo National Forest and Camping with Dogs

Previous blogs in the region:

Tioga Road Reopened: Hike to Gaylor, Granite Lakes, and the Old Mining Town of Dana City May 27, 2021

Hike from Tioga Road to Lower, Middle Gaylor and Granite Lakes September 25, 2020

Tioga Road Reopen Day 1: Crossing with Fannie and Sally, Saddlebag Hike at Greenstone Lake June 15, 2020

Overview of the frozen lakes of Tioga Pass June 9, 2019

Tioga Pass is open and the High Country is breathtaking !! May 24, 2018

Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake and Beyond June 26, 2018

Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake August 17, 2017

Hike with Sally from Saddlebag Lake to the Twenty Lakes Basin August 15, 2017

Hike with Sally in the 20 Lakes Basin July 12, 2016

Hiked with Sally to the Hess Mine in the Tioga Pass area October 26, 2016

Hiked with Sally on the 20 lakes basin loop August 22, 2013

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