A Hike to Hidden Lake

Earlier this summer, in Yosemite, I hiked to a place I hadn’t visited before—a place off the official trails, with the enticing name of “Hidden Lake”.

Keep this to yourself, but getting there is actually quite easy.  Park at Olmsted Point (elev 8,440 feet) on Highway 120 (the Tioga Road), about 29 miles east of Crane Flat (10 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows). Start by walking west on the shoulder of the Tioga Road, or go west on the portion of the Tenaya Lake Trail that passes below the parking area, to the low ridge about 0.2 mile west.  Follow the crest of this ridge (southwest) to its summit at 8,690 feet, an elevation gain of just 250 feet. Bits of unmaintained trail appear and disappear along this route, but with or without trails, it’s an easy stroll to the top of the ridge.

The ridge west of Olmsted Point. Hidden Lake is on the other side.

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Looking northeast from the summit of the ridge toward Tenaya Lake and Tenaya Peak.

At the summit, stop and enjoy the distant views toward Tenaya Lake, Tenaya Peak, Clouds Rest, and Half Dome. Continue southwest along the ridge top, looking for miniature acorns on the huckleberry oaks in the patches of montane chaparral along the ridge summit and southeast slope.

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Looking across Tenaya Canyon to Clouds Rest.

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A natural cairn stands near the west end of the ridge. Clouds rest and Half Dome in the distance.

Some distance along the ridge, an unusual natural cairn, or turret, of coarse, exfoliating granite stands beside a sandy flat.  From here, with binoculars, you may be able to see people climbing (very slowly) up and down the cables on the east side of Half Dome. Between here and Clouds rest is one of the deepest and most inaccessible canyons in Yosemite.  This middle section of Tenaya Canyon is protected by steep granite slopes and long boulder-strewn gullies.

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The east side of Half Dome. With binoculars you can make out the cables and people climbing to the summit.

Walk down the northwest side of the ridge, through a stand of red firs, and Hidden Lake will emerge through the trees. Across the lake, above the outlet, you will see Mount Hoffman, about 3 miles to the north.

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Hidden Lake can be seen only from Mt. Hoffman.

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Red firs, western white pines, and other conifers surround Hidden Lake.

Stroll around Hidden Lake and return to Olmsted Point by climbing up the open slope above the north shore of the lake, back toward the ridge top. The round trip distance is about 2 miles.  Enjoy your visit and keep this place clean.  But don’t tell anyone; help keep Hidden Lake a secret!.

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Copyright © 2010 Tim Messick. All rights reserved.

About Tim Messick

Photographer, cartographer, and botanist/naturalist. Home is in Davis, California. Home-away-from-home is the eastern Sierra Nevada. Compiling a flora of the Bodie Hills.
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