Sam! · SF Bay Area · August 9, 2021
A really nice, accessible hike! The lake was gorgeous, and we didn't see many people on the trail.
Dog Lake, done as a loop trail (includes hiking on Tioga Road)
Marilyn · Saratoga, CA · October 16, 2017
I recently did the hike to Dog Lake (for the second time). I did this on an early October afternoon when it snowed, so I did not have time to go around the lake like I had planned. (I was worried about the snow getting worse (it did) and Tioga Pass closing (it did).) I did go a little ways up the lake trail, but I was squishing through mud from an earlier snowfall and decided I had better stop. (Apart from the mud, there were already stray snowflakes falling...)
I started at the Lembert Dome parking lot. The steepest part of the trail is the first 0.75 miles or so climb, after which the trail more or less evens out (it does roll a bit). While it is steep, it is nowhere near as steep as the first part of the Gaylor Lakes Trail.
The lake is pleasant, and if you can ignore having to stop multiple times to catch your breath on the way up, the hike is pleasant too. There are very few stairs on the trail up, but a couple of them were steep enough that I had to go off trail around them. (I am 5'3" and can't do tall steps.)
On the way down I got distracted (and thus confused) by another hiker, and so rather than retracing my steps (doh), I ended up taking the trail that leads to the Lembert Dome spur trail. (I did Lembert Dome on another hike.) That is a mostly level trail through woodland and I was enjoying it, but the increasing snow did give me a bit of anxiety. (When I realized I was not where I should be, I checked the GPS and decided (perhaps incorrectly) that it would be the same distance back to the parking lot either way (backtracking or going forward), so I just decided to continue on.) I decided to forego a side trip to "Dog Dome" (as it shows on some maps - this is a shelf or extrusion from Lembert Dome) and continue on down to Tioga Road, as the snow was seriously coming down when I reached that spur trail junction.
The trail descending to Tioga Road from the Lembert Dome spur trail junction has some cobble-like, waterfall-like placements of stones in 2-3 places that are a bit of a pain to descend (if you are worried about slipping on wet rock or twisting an ankle). Trekking poles are useful here (I had them). With a final rock waterfall, the trail abruptly dumps you out on Tioga Road (opposite a trail to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge), at which point you have to hoof it back to the parking lot. (You need to cross the road to do this; that is the only side of the road that has a walkable shoulder.)
I plan on doing this trail again someday, because overall it is a nice trail, once you get past the steep part. I do want to hike all the way around the lake. I do want to revisit Dog Dome. (I found being up on Lembert Dome just a little bit stressful, as it slopes down to doom and death, lol.) I do NOT plan on taking the trail down to Tioga Road and rehiking Tioga Road again - road hiking is not fun. (If, however, I were to do some sort of combination hike that included that Tuolumne Meadows Lodge trail...)
Weather observations... I had to pull on some gloves (I already had a wool hat and down vest on) when I departed Dog Lake, but despite getting covered with snow on my way down, I never really felt cold or in danger of hypothermia (unlike on another more exposed trail); the woods and the bulk of Lembert Dome and the topography make this a fairly sheltered trail, except up at the lake and on the domes themselves. (I did start getting cold once I was out on the more exposed Tioga Road. Back at the parking lot, my car told me that it was 36 F out, but given how the snow was sticking to everything, I have to doubt that.) I was right not to linger at or explore the lake, or to revisit Dog Dome, by the way... I had to drive out in the tracks of other cars (through the snow on the road), and mine was probably one of the last cars down before they closed Tioga Road on the east end (the bulldozer and another official car were already down at the gate there). Tioga Pass was closed through late morning of the next day.
Finally, per the USGS, the surface elevation of Dog Lake is 9180 ft (my GPS gave me a reading of 9183 ft, a little bit up the left hand trail from where you arrive at the lake). Alltrails.com told me that my elevation gain was 699 ft (the Lembert Dome parking lot is about 8600 ft), and the loop as I did it (up from the parking lot to Dog Lake, from Dog Lake down past the spur trail to Lembert Dome (not going on the spur trail) down to Tioga Road, Tioga Road back to the parking lot) was 4.0 miles.
a drought year bonus
Ashley Wolff · United States · May 11, 2014
The terrible California drought of 2014 had a small silver lining for me. Tioga Pass, normally closed until June, was open for Mother's Day weekend. I made the detour to Tuolumne Meadows and took a short hike to Dog Lake. It wasn't the hike I was hoping to take, and the initial climb at high altitude was brutal, but hiking through the snowy terrain was fun and the lake is plenty pretty.
Not sure we’ll do this one next time
Robert & Susan Dunn · Little Rock, Arkansas · September 27, 2012
We combined Dog Lake and Lembert Dome (in that order) into a single hike, starting and ending at the Dog Lake parking lot. The first section of this trail is moderately strenuous, but levels out past the spur to Lembert Dome.
Don’t be fooled by the small body of water you’ll pass along the trail – it isn’t Dog Lake. We dubbed it “Puppy Pond,” and it’s a nice spot to take a short rest break before heading on to the REAL Dog Lake. The numerous trail junctions are all clearly marked in both directions, so there’s little chance of taking a wrong turn along the trail.
Once we reached Dog Lake, we continued on the trail along the lake’s southern shore ‘til we reached a point where the bugs were getting really bad, then turned around and headed back to the main trail. We then headed back along the main trail, took the spur trail to Lembert Dome and back, then back down the rather steep and rocky section to the parking lot at the trailhead.
Although we didn’t regret doing this hike (and had to get to Lembert Dome one way or another), the payoff at Dog Lake itself wasn’t as spectacular as what we had come to expect. Wouldn’t say the trail was crowded, but we didn’t exactly have it to ourselves.
Glad we did it; not sure we’ll do it again next time.
Once you get there........
Chris · Los Angeles · August 10, 2011
The hike up was all uphill & I am out of shape, but I pressed on. It was well worth it. But, don't stop once you get there. There is a very easy trail around the entire lake - takes about 45 - 60 min. I didn't see anyone the whole time. The trail goes through a number of meadows but the trail is somewhat intuitive. If you go left when you meet the lake, the meadow can be a little wet or muddy for a very short distance - easily navigated. After that it's a no brainer. Lots of mosquitoes, so don't forget repellant.