Yosemite: Ten Lakes Basin

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Home Forums Campfire Member Trip Reports Yosemite: Ten Lakes Basin

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    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wine Country

    Since we only had a couple of days, we wanted to do a hike that delivered some great scenery, and lovely places to camp, in a relatively short time and space. And we were going to start hiking on Saturday morning, so we were a little worried about getting a permit.


    Ten Lakes Basin answered the call.

    Happily, it was not only M's birthday weekend, but it was also a free entrance day to Yosemite, so we went straight to the wilderness office to see what permits were available. We gave the ranger three choices, and he told us that all three were open—despite the beginning of what we thought would be a busy weekend at the park. Go figure.

    A quick drive to the Yosemite Creek trailhead, and we were on the trail by about 10:30 in the morning. The trail follows the west side of Yosemite Creek canyon (but not really the creek) up to Half Moon Meadow, with only a few sections that are steep. But from Half Moon Meadow to the Pass is about 3/4 mile of straight up. Make sure you bring along a large scale map of Yosemite for this trip, because once on top of the pass you will have most of the northern half of the park in view.


    We spent a happy half and hour identifying the various peaks and canyons that we could see—many of which we have hiked over the years: Virginia and Matterhorn Canyons were easy to spot, and so were Shepherd's Crest, Mt. Conness, Sheep's Peak, Virginia Peak, Matterhorn….you get the idea. Lots of fun.

    The photo above is only about 20% of the whole vista, but that is Conness on the right and Shepherd's Crest on the left.


    From there it is a steep but short drop down into Ten Lakes Basin ( there are really only seven lakes) and a myriad of spots to pitch your tent. Fishing can be good in the lakes, although the first lake is reported to have fewer and less hungry trout. That's one of the lakes below right…And the ridge above the lake even more dramatic.

    Because this is such a popular hike, we were a bit worried that we were going to meet a lot of people here, but in fact there was only one other group in the whole basin, and they were camped at one of the lower lakes.


    This was late September, after all, so it go dark fairly early, and it got cold about the same time. We were in the tent and in our sleeping bags by about 8 p.m.

    During the night the wind picked up considerably, and we slept in a bit more than usual the next morning. When we woke up, there were plenty of clouds in the sky, and it was decidedly cooler. We took our time getting packed up, and then hit the trail back up to the pass in a very stiff breeze.


    At the top of the pass, the clouds gave an even more spectacular cast to the massive view, and after snapping a few photos, we raced down the trail to get out of the cold. By the time we got back down to Half Moon Meadow, we were out of the wind, into the sun, and out of our jackets into shirtsleeves.

    On the drive back out of Yosemite, we were able to stop and take a few pictures of the damage done by the Rim Fire.

    Scott Bentz
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    One of my boys and I did the loop from Ten Lakes to May Lake a couple of years ago. The drop into the canyon after Ten Lakes is real beautiful and spectacular. I think it's only about a 22 mile loop.

    Nice pictures and report. Thanks.

    Andrew F


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Thanks for sharing Paul. That view from Ten Lakes Pass sure is nice, isn't it?

    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wine Country

    Simply amazing. And today I got to see it from an airplane en route to SFO…pretty great.

    BPL Member


    I've yet to do any backpacking in the Sierras but I hope to fix that in the next couple of years. Looks like a great weekend trip; thanks for sharing.

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