Gaylor Lakes are a short hike from Tioga Pass in the High Sierra of Yosemite National Park, California, USA.
Rising early and checking out at Twin Falls, Idaho, a hearty breakfast at nearby Perkins Restaurant for a hearty 6:00 AM breakfast precedes continuance of the drive south on Hwy 93.
Idaho leads to entry into Nevada at Jackpot and gains an hour at the border as time changes from Mountain to Pacific Time. In mid afternoon the arrival in Lee Vining, California completes an amazing drive through mountains and desert.
Lee Vining will be our staging location for the East Entrance to the High Sierra in Yosemite National Park.
The first hike to Gaylor Lakes begins early the following morning.
The short, easy 2 mile (3.2 KM) hike, with 500 ft (152 m) of elevation, begins near and past the Tioga Pass Entrance Station to Yosemite National Park in California.
An annual pass for all US National Parks and Monuments will save substantial expense. Parking for the Gaylor Lakes trail head is about 50 yards (46 m) beyond the entrance.
The trail-head is near quaint stone public washrooms and, after a gentle introduction, the trail begins a fairly steep ascent through lodgepole pine forest on excellent path periodically interrupted by rock steps.
The Gaylor Lakes hike is the first inside the Tioga Pass Entrance to the Tuolumne (pronounced Two-All-Um-Nee) area of Yosemite National Park.
Given the hike begins at an elevation of 9,945 ft (3,031 m), the climb through the forest is short-lived and soon breaks into alpine ground with expansive views of surrounding valley and meadows.
This is the High Sierra and the vistas are incredibly beautiful.
The ascent continues over well-traveled trail to the top of the ridge. Directly across the valley is 13,057 ft (3,979 m) Mount Dana with a string of beautiful ponds at its base.
Surrounding, immaculate and pristine terrain seems too perfect to be real.
Gaylor Peak is on the right as the hike continues over the top of the ridge towards Middle Gaylor Lake.
Gaylor Peak at 11,004 ft (3,354 m) appears to be an easily achievable summit to be tackled another day.
There is a 200 ft (61 m) descent to Middle Gaylor Lake with a background of majestic peaks looming in the background.
The trail continues to the right along the shore of Middle Gaylor Lake and through the shadow of Gaylor Peak to Upper Gaylor Lake and beyond for a steep climb up to the Great Sierra Mine on Tioga Hill. Original buildings and a stone cabin remain there.
The entire hike is a total of 4 miles (6.4 KM) return with a net elevation gain of 800 ft (244 m). As enticing as that is, the decision will be to turn back from Middle Gaylor Lake and return via the same route.
In hindsight, the decision to pass on visiting the Great Sierra Mine was a mistake.
The return hike to the Gaylor Lakes trail-head reveals snippets of structural remains from the ill-fated town of Bennettville. The town, born from silver mining speculation, fizzled from gross exaggeration. Otherwise, it is unlikely Tioga Pass would have remained the same.
Although considerable discipline is exercised by passing on the extension hike from Middle Gaylor Lake to the Great Sierra Mine, the motivation is an exciting afternoon adventure outside Yosemite National Park in Bodie State Historic Park to the north of Lee Vining.