Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne from White Wolf


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Distance Comments: 

Typically done in a 3 or 4 day trip but there are so many beautiful pools and side peaks to explore it could occupy a much longer trip too.
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Distance in Miles: 

30.50 miles
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Trip Type: 

Car Shuttle
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Either White Wolf Lodge or Lembert Dome Parking Lot
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Trailhead Elevation: 

WWL - 7758 ft. Lembert Dome ~8600 ft.
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Elevation Gain/Loss: 

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Elevation Min/Max: 

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Trails Illustrated Maps
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Heros only (5 out of 5)
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The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne is Yosemite's more wild, less crowded little sister. Because its amazing cliffs and beauty is less accessible, those willing to make the effort are rewarded with soaring granite cliffs comparable to Yosemite Valley, beautiful late summer swimming holes and amazing scenery stripped of the roads, cars, and tourist bustle.

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Which direction to go?

Either direction you go in involves starting near 8000 feet, descending to Pate Valley at roughly 4400 ft. and then climbing back out again. Many opt to start at the slightly higher elevation in Tuolumne Meadows (~8600 at Lembert Dome), hike downhill through most of the canyon to Pate Valley (~4400 ft) and then endure the steep, sun-drenched switch backs up to White Wolf (~7760 ft). Overall you're headed downhill, right? However, consider the reverse trip. If you start at White Wolf in the early part of the day, you can coast down the switch-backs (maybe difficult for sensitive knees) enjoying beautiful views down into Pate Valley, and then spread the return climb to elevation over the gentler and somewhat rolling terrain, and ending with the relatively flat ~6 miles from Glen Aulin to Lembert Dome parking. Either way, you'll enjoy spectacular scenery, and if you've left yourself enough time, multiple opportunities to stop and relax by the picturesque river.

Trail Description

From White Wolf Lodge, warm up during the first ~4 miles over gently descending forested terrain, then begin the steep descent down into Pate Valley. You can see the sharp switch-backs and incredible views in some of the gallery images. Pate Valley itself is reputed to harbor many rattlesnakes, but we didn't see any on our trip through. A short distance past the trail junction that leads to Rogers Canyon, the trail climbs up on the north side of the river to bypass Muir Gorge, and then descends gently back down to river level. All along the trail, you enjoy spectacular views of soaring granite cliffs. The steepest climbing, in this direction, is punctuated by the discovery of the successive named cascades - Waterwheel, LeConte and California Falls, finally emerging at Glen Aulin and then the relatively flat trip up to Lembert Dome parking.

How long to take?

Strong day hikers cover this trail in a single long day. We started at White Wolf and dropped down into Pate Valley on the first day, then hiked up to Glen Aulin and out on the second. However, if you're going to carry an overnight pack, we'd recommend taking more time. It would probably be easy to spend 10 days enjoying and exploring the canyon, and we often found ourselves wishing we could stop more often to take advantage of it. More typically, you see parties spending 3-4 days on this hike.

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Runner's Notes: 

This trail drops a lot from White Wolf and then ascends steadily, though rarely steeply, from Pate Valley to Tuolumne Meadows. You would need excellent endurance to cover the distance, but I bet a strong ultrarunner would have a fun time of it.

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The Loop

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Leaving mid July for a 4 day loop from White Wolf down to the river, up to GA and then to Ten Lakes. From there back to White Wolf. About 15 mi a day.

Sorry it took so long to get

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Sorry it took so long to get to this - it's been a crazy period. Anyway, sounds like a great loop. You'll wish you had more time, but four days will be nice. There is a lot of stunning country in there!

The Loop

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how many miles is the loop exactly I'm trying to push for going this july or august

The Loop

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Great hike, I did start at White Wolf, but started at 3 pm. it was very hot on the way down. Pate Valley the first night and the second night a t a campground just past the second footbridge. It was a great spot. Hiked out to GA and on to Tuolumne the next day. Didn't do the whole loop due to hiking partners injury. I think going this direction is much more difficult than coming down the valley. there are a lot of steep climbs. We only saw 6 hikers in the canyon and 4 dropping down into it from GA. Enjoy

Each direction has its challenges

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Each direction has its challenges. I have never climbed out of Pate Valley to White Wolf, but people tell me it is not fun. The advantage of the way you (Rick) did it is that at least you have amazing scenery to look at while you go up and the scenery generally just gets better.

But you're right for sure - if you go the way we did, you end higher than you started, so it's definitely more work!

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