- Lyell Canyon in Yosemite National Park provides visitors with wonderful views
- Access the canyon from Tuolumne Meadows Lodge off of Tioga Road
- Best times to visit are from mid-June to mid-July
- Take a side-trip to Ireland Lake for some fishing
- Continue all the way to Donohue Pass on the trail
If you are planning a trip to Yosemite National Park, consider making a stop at Lyell Canyon for a hike. The terrain you’ll experience in the surrounding backcountry is certainly representative of the overall beauty of Yosemite.
Location & Information
To get to the trail that takes you through Lyell Canyon, from Yosemite Valley drive 10 miles up Highway 120 to Tioga Road. Head east for 40 miles to the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge turnoff. From the park’s eastern entrance, it is 7 miles west on Tioga Road. The trailhead is close to the southwest corner of the main parking lot for the Lodge.
Tioga Road is closed in winter, and the best time to visit the canyon is mid-June to mid-July when the river flows are highest and the meadows are greenest.
Yosemite National Park
P.O. Box 577
Yosemite, CA 95389
The best way to experience Lyell Canyon is through an extensive hike in the area. You will move through the canyon from Tuolumne Meadows, along the John Muir Trail.
Lyell Canyon hiking can consist of short treks of a little over a mile to longer backpacking adventures of 24 miles roundtrip. The first 8 miles of the trail is easy, with only a 100-foot elevation gain. If you go the entire length to Donohue Pass, it gets more difficult, with an elevation gain of 2,500 feet. Not far from the beginning of the trailhead, you’ll find a fork. Take the left fork across the bridge over the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River and you’ll be on the correct trail.
- Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River
Enjoy the scenic meadows and lots of birds singing when you come to the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, as it snakes its way through the canyon. This is a wonderful place to stop for a picnic.
- Ireland Lake
Five miles into the hike, a side-trip to Ireland Lake might be just the thing, particularly if you like to fish. Stay to the right on the trail to get there. It’s a 4.3-mile hike one-way.
- Kuna Falls
From Tuolumne Meadows, after eight miles of wonderful hiking, you’ll come to Kuna Falls, where Kuna Creek cascades over the east wall at the head of the canyon.
- Donohue Pass
If you are a hardy hiker, you may want to continue your hike to the southern end of Lyell Canyon and the border of Yosemite. As you move towards Donohue Pass summit, you should glance back over your shoulder now and then to see some incredible views, including that of Mammoth Mountain at a height of 12,106 feet.
Mount Lyell is the highest elevation within Yosemite, at 13,120 feet above sea level. The most common approach to climbing this challenging peak is from Tuolumne Meadows on the John Muir Trail. It’s not easy! The hike is about 25 miles roundtrip and tests you with 4,500 feet of elevation gain.