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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Glen Aulin Falls, CA

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Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Sierra Nevada
5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 11 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,828 feet
Accumulated Gain 600 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6-8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 14
Interest Historic, Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
57  2016-07-22
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River
45  2016-07-22
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River
12  2013-06-01 lP14
Author lP14
author avatar Guides 4
Routes 0
Photos 436
Trips 46 map ( 253 miles )
Age 39 Female Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, Jun, May, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:41am - 6:03pm
2 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby

Likely In-Season!
The hike takes you from the seasonally crowded Tuolumne Meadows, along the Tuolumne River, to the beautiful and impressive Glen Aulin Falls. Walk a little further to the High Sierra Camp, with the option to continue to some additional falls (California, LeConte, Waterwheel) and views of the grand canyon of Yosemite. The trails are well marked and often quite wide, so route finding only becomes (somewhat but not really) tricky at water crossings.

You have the option of starting this hike from several trailheads, but we began at Soda Springs. We hiked early in the season in a low snowpack year, before the high elevation campgrounds were open, so we had options. During busier times, you might have to make do based on where you can find parking.

You begin by walking across Tuolumne Meadows and soon join up with the river. From that point, the trail generally keeps you within at least earshot of the river, while meandering through wooded areas, meadows, and granite expanses (which are marked by cairns and reflectors in trees). There were several unbridged water crossings within the first couple miles of the hike, which we were able to manage quite easily, though I imagine at different points in the season and rain/snowfall levels, this will vary.

The trail loses elevation gradually, most of the 600 feet of loss occurs alongside the falls and if you are worried about that, you can turn around before reaching the turnaround point at the camp. However, the trail was never steep in my opinion. I would suggest bringing bug spray as the mosquitoes are mighty and many, and make sure you have sunscreen because walking through meadows and across granite leaves you exposed to the bright California sun.

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2013-06-03 lP14
  • Yosemite Campgrounds
    area related
    Yosemite Campgrounds
  • Yosemite Park Map
    area related
    Yosemite Park Map
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Glen Aulin Falls
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HAZ Trivia says there are 30 Grand Canyons in the US or something like that. I forget the number. But 9L is on a mission to hike in all of them. (Is it a mapped area yet? :-k )

I knew nothing about this one so I wasn't particularly excited about it. Consider me converted! :y:

I'm happy to have posted a GPS track that lists many of the available sites for camping that I saw as we passed. This would have been useful information for us to have ahead of time, and I hope those who follow find it beneficial for them.

Not much to add to what 9L put in his triplog. It was a beautiful trip. Great trails, unbelievable views. Endless water. Basically an absolutely incredible top-10 backpacking trip.

Yosemite and the Sierra have yet to let me down. I might have to go back sometime! ;)
Glen Aulin Falls
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This hike has been on my radar for a few years now. The name alone, Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, brought joy to my heart and called to me. Two years ago while hiking in the Ten Lake Basin we had a dramatic view into this canyon. It never left my mind and became a high priority at the start of 2016. The planning began and the days and months flew by. Originally it was going to be Chumley, Kyle, Claire and myself but Kyle had to back out because his dog Lily needed surgery. This happened right before we left and we reached out to a few people but it was too late for them to join. So the three of us packed up and hit the road. We would spend our first day tramping around Mammoth Lakes followed by another day in Yosemite. We hit the trail starting Friday, July 22nd for three days of backpacking fun.

Day 1 July 22 11.25 miles -3,600 AEG
We got lucky and snagged a car camping spot at White Wolf the night before. Chumley volunteered to set the shuttle. He left camp at 7:45am and drove to our ending point off Soda Springs road. There is a YARTS shuttle at 10am but he was going to try to hitch hike. Claire & I chilled at camp and were delighted to see Chumley walk back into camp around 9:45am. Our shuttle was set and we were off on our adventure!

The first few miles are easy going and meander through the forest. It was really nice getting away from the crowded camp in White Wolf. After a few miles we hit the rim and started our descent. The going was fairly straightforward as the trail is in excellent condition as it switchbacks its way down. We didn’t have much of a view because of the thick forest. We continued down and made steady progress. A mile or two later we hit an overlook that had a breathtaking view of Hetch Hetchy. It reminds me of a typical Arizona Lake as it winds its way down canyon. We continued down…

Around the halfway point we hit a very steep section with tight switchbacks. We made good time again but the descent started to take its toll on our knees and ankles. Plus it was really warm with temps in the high 80’s. We continued on and the last couple of miles really dragged as we took a few breaks and finally reached Pate Valley. The valley had a lot of campsites and there was a huge camp occupied by the California Conservation Corps but it was mostly vacant. We found out later they were off for the weekend. We selected a campsite on the north side of the Tuolumne River and settled in. All three of us were beat and took a nap after getting camp set up. Our first day was over and we set our sights on the upcoming climb the next two days.

Day 2 July 23 12 miles, 3,900 AEG
We took our time on day two as we had breakfast and coffee and then slowly tore down camp. We hit the trail around mid-morning and began our trek. The first five miles were easy going with a modest elevation gain. The views of the Tuolumne River and the surrounding mountains were just breathtaking and never got old. We continued on and then began a healthy climb around the Muir Gorge. We took our time through this section and took a break around the halfway point of the climb. While resting by a waterfall off Register Creek I was stung by a bumble bee for no reason. I was a little worried about a reaction but I’ve been stung a lot in my lifetime and never had an issue and wouldn’t this time either.

After the Muir Gorge it was more of the same. The trail is in excellent condition as it slowly gains elevation. We kept at it and took breaks as needed. Our goal was Return Creek and we arrived there around mid-afternoon. We hoped for a variety of campsites but there were only a few poor sites and one group was already there. We continued on another half mile and found a crappy site near the bottom of Waterwheel. We talked about camping here but didn’t like it so Chumley volunteered to hike up to the top of Waterwheel where he found a sweet site with plenty of room & a fire ring. He returned and the three of hiked that final mile to the top and were delighted with our camp choice!

Another day was complete. We settled into camp and did our camp chores like setting up the tents, filtering water and gathering fire wood. We are camping at just over 7,000 ft and fires are allowed. Yosemite was in Stage 1 restrictions and that means no backcountry campfires below 6,000 ft. After everything was set up we walked over to the top of Waterwheel and admired this amazing waterfall! The Tuolumne River tumbles over the falls and is thrown up into the air in multiple sections of the drop. It’s an amazing sight! Once we had our fill we returned to camp and settled in for dinner and a campfire. Life was good!

Day 3 July 24 9.75 miles, 2,350 AEG
Our final day in Yosemite included another chill morning. We enjoyed a fire as we ate breakfast and packed up camp. We hit the trail around mid-morning and took our time on the hike out. The trail gains more elevation as we approached Le Conte Falls and California Falls. Both of them are magnificent and we left the trail several times to enjoy a close up view. The three waterfalls, including Waterwheel, are long as they stretch for a ways. You could easily spend hours hiking up and down exploring these falls. There were so many mini waterfalls it started to get silly. I had no idea it was like this I was in heaven!

The trail levels off after you reach the top of California Falls and the next mile to Glen Aulin is easy going. We took a break near Glen Aulin by another spectacular waterfall and then started the push for Tuolumne Meadows and our end. We still have five miles to go and just under a thousand AEG to ascend. This final stretch took its toll on us and we thought it would never end. Finally we reached Parsons Cabin and the final half mile to the car was simple. From there we packed up and headed for Tonopah NV where we would spend another night in a hotel before returning to Phoenix.

Final Thoughts:
This was a spectacular hike! The Tuolumne River was flowing strong and the waterfalls were gushing! It seemed like every turn brought on another spectacular sight. This hike never got old but the climbs did. On our last day Chumley coined the term “waterclimb”. It was very fitting because every time we saw a waterfall meant another climb.

Speaking of climbs Chumley and I disagreed on which direction to go. Both directions have their advantages. Chumley wanted to start in Tuolumne and head west. This direction starts at higher elevation and heads down canyon roughly 20 miles then there’s a huge climb out of Pate Valley returning to White Wolf. Most of the AEG is on the last day with less weight in the pack. I chose starting at White Wolf because it was easier to set up logistics ending in Tuolumne. This meant over 1,000 additional AEG but I wanted to head up canyon seeing each waterfall from the bottom thus earning each one with the climb up. It was a lot of work but I would go this way again. You can’t go wrong with either direction.

This canyon has plenty of camping options and water is almost always available. We weren’t sure on when camping would be available. There turned out to be a lot of great choices. I wish we had another day or two. It would be time well spent especially for fishing.

I would highly recommend this hike. The Tuolumne River is a gem and hiking parallel to it is heaven on earth. The waterfalls are world class and every turns brings a new delightful sight.

Permit $$

Yosemite National Park
Entrance Fees
Wilderness Permit
Half Dome Permit - Currently required 7 days a week. Check the link for the most up to date information.

2014 - 300 permits issued daily, 225 for dayhikers.
2013 - 400 permits issued daily, 300 for dayhikers.

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From the East Entrance/Tioga Pass: Enter park on Tioga road and follow it for 8 miles west. Soda Springs Trailhead will be on the right, parking available off the side of the road.

From Yosemite Valley: Take CA-120 west until Crane Flat. Turn right onto Tioga Road and follow for 38 miles to Tuolumne Meadows. Soda Springs Trailhead will be on the left, parking available off the side of the road.

From CA-120 East: Enter the park on CA-120 and head east until Crane Flat. Turn left onto Tioga Road. Follow for 38 miles until you reach Tuolumne Meadows. Soda Springs Trailhead will be on the left, parking available off the side of the road.
page created by lP14 on Jun 02 2013 7:00 am
3 pack - loud whistle
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