Tenaya Lake with a thin layer of ice

Tenaya Lake

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Distance:  2.5 miles (4 km) loop around the lake

Elevation at trailhead:  8,150 feet (2,480 meters)
Elevation Gain:  none

Hiking Time:  1 - 2 hours

Why visit Tenaya Lake?  If your sweetheart refuses to consider any vacation that doesn't involve lying on a beach baking his or her brains out, promise them a day on the sand at the east end of Tenaya Lake, where they can destress with a cadre of fellow sun worshipers on most summer days.

Meanwhile, you can head to the west end of the lake, where the view back across the lake to the granite promontories that surround it is about as sure a postcard shot as you'll ever find.

Best Time to Visit:  Whenever the Tioga Road is open - June through October, most years

Crowd Factor:  Medium. Tenaya Lake is arguably as gorgeous as anything in Yosemite, but it's a long ways from Yosemite Valley, so it's not as crowded as other water attractions like Yosemite or Bridalveil Falls. Don't expect to have the place to yourself, though.

Scenery Factor:  Tenaya Lake may be the most beautiful of all Yosemite's lakes. It's a mile (1.6 km) long and bordered on three sides by granite peaks and domes. The only drawback is that Tioga Road passes along the lake's northern edge, but this is easily overlooked.

Difficulty:  Easy. Very little elevation gain (lakes are notoriously level). Fording the lake's outlet along the western shore may be challenging in the spring and early summer, though.

Parking:  Small lots at either end of the lake, plus wide shoulders along Tioga Road that are suitable for parking.

Nearest Bathrooms:  Pit toilets near Tioga Road on either end of the lake. There are bathrooms with plumbing at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, 9 miles (14 km) east.

Nearest Snacks:  At the eastern edge of the Tuolumne Meadows, 9 miles (14 km) east

Getting There:  From Yosemite Valley, take highway 120 ten miles (16.8 km) to the Crane Flat turnoff onto Tioga Road, then take Tioga Road 31 miles (50 km) east to reach the lake, which is right beside the road and impossible to miss. From Yosemite's east entrance at Tioga Pass, drive 15.5 miles (25 km) west to reach the lake.

Hazards:  The lake's outlet, at the west end of the lake, has no bridge. In late summer you can usually skip across on exposed rocks, but early in the season, it can be deep enough to make a man realize just how cold the water is.

It's not unusual to find mosquitoes here - the west and south banks of the lake seem particularly prone to this nuisance.

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Tenaya Lake Photos