May Lake / Mt. Hoffmann Trail Reviews

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Great Hike, Proper spelling
 ·  California ·  June 22, 2020

I never questioned the spelling of Mt Hoffmann. Of course it has two 'n's. Thanks for the info on the hike. Eventually, the whole Hoffmann clan will do it together.

Mt. Hoffmann trail disappears
 ·  Central Valley, CA ·  July 27, 2019

We attempted this hike in late July 2019. The trail to May Lake is well-maintained, popular, easy to follow, and well-traveled. The trail to Mt. Hoffmann from May Lake, on the other hand, is easy to lose and treacherous.

After climbing south out of May Lake and reaching a level rocky area, the trail simply disappears. It was extremely difficult to know where to go. With great difficulty, we finally were able to guess that the trail climbed southwest and somehow found it... Then, in the subsequent forested area, the trail became difficult to follow at times and we got off the trail numerous instances, sometimes due to huge faillen trees blocking the trail and other times due to the trail becoming extremely ambiguous. After turning back northwest and climbing towards the mountain, the trail became nonexistent, where you just seemingly have to choose your route up the mountain, and we ultimately had to abandon our ascent to the mountain top - which was VERY disappointing.

Overall, this was the most dangerous and most poorly-maintained trail we've ever been on in Yosemite, which is a shame since the views promised to be amazing at the destination. I feel this hike should not be recommended for anybody but the most experienced hiker, and only if you've done it before and know where to go.

I sincerely hope the trail becomes better maintained and easier to follow in the future - for now, steer clear.

Icy Surprise!
 ·  Houston, TX ·  June 17, 2018

We just returned from our 6th annual Yosemite hiking trip (May/June, 2018). We originally planned to hike to North Dome, but a thunderstorm was forecast for that afternoon, so we decided to give May Lake a go, as the hike is shorter and we would be done before the storms likely arrived.

I could not have been happier than the moment we arrived at May Lake. It was COMPLETELY FROZEN! (June 1). It was so pretty, and such a surprise, it was like God handed us a present. I had tears in my eyes. (In Houston, we were already experiencing 100+ heat each day.) I don't know why I was so surprised at this - we hiked over/through 5'-6' of snow getting there! We had the lake and snowy forest floor all to ourselves (and two marmots). This is my new favorite destination in Yosemite - I've climbed Yosemite Falls, Cathedral Peak, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and of course, the Mist Trail. All are beautiful, but May Lake was outstandingly serene and memorable. I will return to her.

Unfortunately, we saw the thunderstorm rolling in over Mt. Hoffmann, so our time in paradise was cut short. Also, this kept us from climbing Mt. Hoffmann.

If you're wondering about difficulty, here are some notes. By Yosemite standards, this is an "easy" hike. But Yosemite standards include steep climbing even at easy levels. Also, if you're a flatlander (our elevation in Houston is 26' above sea-level), the oxygen depletion will be noticeable, but not a big problem. We did this easy 2.5-ish round trip hike the day after climbing to the top of upper Yosemite Falls. It was a nice calf-stretcher, and reminded me of how much my thighs had burned the day before. But no rest-stops were necessary along the way. :)

May Lake, and probably the Mt. Hoffmann scramble, will be on our hiking list next year!

May Lake. I wish I had whole day for this trip
 ·  Washington State ·  August 14, 2017

Loved it! Not hard hike, not so many people (as on the Mist Trail for example) and breathtaking view all the way there and on the top of course. The weather was perfect (mid of August) and I wish I had at least several hours to stay there, relax, listen to those crazy beautiful birds, listen to the wild stream running near the lake and even take a nap, which is my childhood dream:). You'll enjoy this hike I'm sure!

Mt Hoffmann
 ·  The Womb, California ·  August 8, 2016

Loved the view from the top of Mt Hoffmann. I swear I could see Mt Diablo (east of the SF Bay Area) but I'm not sure that's what I was seeing.

June does not equal summer at May Lake
 ·  Kentucky ·  June 22, 2016

We did this hike as our first hike in Yosemite. It was a Sunday in June, so we were avoiding the valley that day. Forecast was for overcast, a little rain. Well, we forgot to consider the altitude and that light rain became mixed with snow. The road back to the trailhead was filled with potholes and there were places the snow had been removed and was over 6 feet deep.

We made it up to the trailhead, thankful we had rented a 4X4 SUV for the trip. It appeared the rain had stopped, so we started out. Then it started raining again, but just lightly. We continued on with ponchos on. There were multiple places the trail was covered in packed snow. And the temperature was never above 50F. But we continued on, thankful that a few (very few) people came down to tell us we were on the right trail and to keep going. Along the way there are some beautiful fallen trees that I will do my best to impersonate Ansel Adams with the photographs. One looks just like a Pegasus!

You end the journey up with some switchbacks and a trek across an open area (which had about 3 feet of packed snow at the time) to the lake and the camp. It IS beautiful up there, it felt very isolated at the time as we were the ONLY people at the lake (the FROZEN lake.) Snow melt was running off Mt. Hoffmann, and it was absolutely quiet. We would have stayed a little longer, but clouds, rain, and a couple claps of thunder told us to get back to our SUV with the heater and roof. We made our way back a little more quickly, and were glad we had had the adventure that day. It was a great welcome to Yosemite. We were initiated into two important aspects of Yosemite - be prepared, and there are no level hikes.

Mt. Hoffmann/May Lake
 ·  North America ·  April 5, 2016

An easy hike worth taking. You can watch the moon rise over Cathedral. Sleep soundly under the stars. Enjoy an early morning chili with a cup of coffee as a marmot sniffs your boot. Take in beautiful scenery. Enjoy the company of your younger brother. I did. What a wonderful memory!

The Best!
 ·  Twain Harte, CA ·  October 9, 2015

I am relatively new to hiking and backpacking, and this is my absolute favorite so far. Looking forward to doing it again. Also, thanks for this great website, it provides such helpful info and some comic relief!

Great hike
 ·  Racine, WI ·  October 4, 2015

The hike to Mr Hoffmann was magnificent. My main purpose for writing this is to mention that once you get to Lake May it is not very clear which way to go to get to Mt Hoffmann. Take a left turn at the lake.

Crazy views all the way
 ·  Emeryville, CA ·  August 22, 2015

I hiked up to Mt. Hoffman from May Lake on day 3 of my backpacking trip. Yes the climb was steep, but the views were astounding all the way. I can't believe I didn't do this sooner. You can get up to the saddle and see great views, but if you scramble up the crazy rock pile to the antenna at the apex of Mt. Hoffman, you're awarded with 360 degree views. You get to see almost a full frontal view of Half Dome from the north, I almost didn't recognize it. When you're hiking through the saddle, you're so high above tree line that you feel like you're on another planet. The shrubs are reddish brown, contrasted against a horizon of blue and silver. It's so astoundingly beautiful that I'm surprised there weren't more people on the trail.

Thank you Russ for including this amazing hike!

May Lake / Mt Hoffmann: A very nice day hike!
 ·  Clovis ·  July 17, 2014

This is an excellent day hike, especially for a group with varying ability. The hike from the trail head to May Lake can be challenging (up hill!) for some, but it has a big "reward" when you get to the lake - it is BEAUTIFUL. Some can stay and walk around the lake, while others with more strength and energy can attempt Mt Hoffmann. The down hill back to the trail head makes the later part of the day enjoyable. For the experienced hiker, this is an easy few hours, but with enough challenging options to make it a fun day.

A Must-Do!
 ·  California ·  June 30, 2014

I'm pretty new to hiking, but this was completely amazing and my more "seasoned" hiking pals thought so as well. I made it all the way to the summit and I am looking forward to doing it again. Great "Terms & Conditions" to this site, by the way.

wonderful hike!
 ·  dominican republic ·  October 22, 2013

Great hike! May Lake is beautiful, however when you get to the top of Hoffmann, it's amazing, breathtaking; you are at almost 11,000 feet elevation, and the view is unbelievable. Totally worth doing this hike, and not very crowded after May Lake.

Mount Hoffmann in October - spectacular!
 ·  Modesto, CA ·  October 20, 2013

I have been working my way through the Tioga Rd day hikes over the past few years, and decided to give Mount Hoffmann a go. I was not disappointed!

The trail to May Lake is easy and well-marked. Upon arriving at about 9:30am I was surprised to find I had the lake to myself. The absence of even a faint puff of breeze made the lake a perfect mirror, and with Mount Hoffmann as a back-drop, the mirror-image was breath-taking.

Proceeding up the trail to Mount Hoffmann the going quickly got trickier as I ascended the boulder/scree field. Losing the official trail is very easy, but if you generally head toward the towering peak ahead of you the trail will reappear from time to time. Good boots are a must, as the quarter-size blister on my left heel will attest to. The final ascent to the peak was significantly more challenging than I had first assumed, requiring all 4 limbs to clamber up some of the bigger boulders. The view at the top makes the ascent completely worthwhile, but the sheer drop on the north side is not for the faint-hearted! Having recently completed Clouds Rest I can honestly say the view from Mount Hoffmann is better (and the hike takes a lot less time). I spent a good hour taking in the 360 degree views before gingerly descending. Highly recommended provided you can handle the vertigo-inducing drop-offs!

Tales of Hoffmann
 ·  Michigan ·  August 17, 2013

You don't have to be a peak bagger to get a kick from this hike. For most of the way you're accompanied by jaw-dropping views over Tenaya Canyon and the Valley. Half Dome looks like a pipsqueak. What standing on the summit adds is a frisson of vertigo. If you like that sort of thing.

What we didn't appreciate when we left May Lake was the relation of the Mt Hoffmann summit to the two protruberances that loom over the lake. It is neither of them, but a third outcropping, to their left as you head up, only visible near the end, and separated from the initially-visible two by a long sandy saddle where the trail comes together again after dispersing to cross the slippery boulder field, and before dispersing for the summit scramble. (I mention this because knowing it would have spared me speculation about how I was going to safely ascend either of the initially visible protruberances.)

May Lake
 ·  Lafayette, CA ·  June 27, 2013

If you hike up to May Lake there is a wall of rocks behind the High Sierra Tents and to your right as you approach the tents/bathroom ... walk up them, the views are amazing! You can see from Half Dome to Mount Dana to Hoover Wilderness to TM and more. Once when staying here a group of us sat on top with the full moon setting. Any time of day it's an amazing view. The trail going out of the right of HSC eventually goes along a ridge and serves equally amazing views.

Hoffmann is worth it too. It's a great, quick workout with a good pay off - views. It's fun to make your own trail and boulder around.

Worth the extra walk
 ·  Virginia ·  June 3, 2013

Awesome scenery and sounds, not too many people, I only went as far as Lake May but well worth the trek. It was further than planned because the road up to the trail head was closed (the blue line on trail map) had to park at the bottom near Tioga Road. Take a camera and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature, with no crowds, noise or banter.

PS This is a great WEB site for hiking resources. Thanks!

Incredible View Well Worth the Rough Trail
 ·  Portland, OR ·  September 19, 2012

The trail from May Lake to the top of Mt. Hoffmann is rough, slippery and steep. The last 200 feet or so, there is no trail at all; you have to boulder up to the top. But it is well worth it to see a 360 degree panorama of Half Dome, Cloud's Rest, Lake Tenaya and the Tuolomne River. Half Dome looks positively wimpy surrounded by the larger peaks. The back side of Mt. Hoffmann drops straight down for at least 2000 feet and will give you a great rush of vertigo!

Friday Morning's Stroll (9.14.12)
 ·  Mariposa, CA ·  September 17, 2012

As morning light approached I hit the trailhead from the 'May Lake' parking lot. (As you enter the lot it will be ahead, on your left). An easy hike with gentle ascent to the high camp. Breakfast there is a whooping $16 so I decided the granola bar and almonds in my pack were perfectly adequate for the next few hours.

The mirror quality of morning on the lake was breathtaking, the number of 'campers' few.

As I hiked around the south of the lake I caught the very prominent and well maintained trail that leads you around rock and meadow and through the pines to the base of Hoffman. The trail can become a bit oblivious there (it is medium acsent switchbacks of DG over granite so watch your step) and I don't care for scree on granite so up the rocks I went on my own. A very enjoyable climb to an open alpine meadow capped by Hoffmann's peak with its dastardly antenna at the top. There is many a path to the top so pick your way and enjoy the view all the way. The reward is magnificent as you summit! I would say this is an easy to medium hike/climb. I was there for an hour and a half, easily, before I saw another soul. A great morning! About 4 hours of hike/climb, plus however much you wish to enjoy at the top! Live long and prosper. I'm off to capture the next USGS marker in my lens.

Spectacular Views
 ·  Oakdale, CA ·  July 9, 2012

Decided to try this hike after reading about it on this website, and glad I did. It's a relatively short hike to Lake May from the trailhead parking area, which was surprisingly well developed with toilets, food lockers, and trash bins.

Another set of toilets is found just before you get to Lake May, along with what looks to be a spigot for potable water (consider topping off if hiking in the warmer months, I went July 9th and 2L wasn't enough, drank my CamelBack dry).

Bear to the left as you approach the lake, following the well worn trail, and this will take you toward Mt. Hoffmann.

There weren't more than a few other hikers encountered during my early-ish ascent, but many more were met on their way up as I descended in the afternoon (if possible, do yourself a favor and hike up in the cool morning. There is little to no shade on the final and steepest section of the hike, everyone hiking up this part in the afternoon looked smoked from the combination of altitude, heat, and exertion).

Awesome views from the top, it feels kind of ridiculous to be looking DOWN at Half Dome! On the way back down to the car, you will get to enjoy some great views of May Lake framed in granite as well. Overall a great day hike, with an excellent difficulty-to-scenery payoff factor. Would love to do this one at dawn some day to catch the sunrise from the summit.