Located a few miles north of Tioga Road near Olmstead Point, May Lake is one of the more popular high-country lakes to visit in Yosemite and it is also the site of one of the famous High Sierra Camps. A day hike to May Lake makes for a fun and fairly easy adventure thanks to the short trail with moderate elevation gain. But looming 1500 feet above the lake to the west is the impressive Mount Hoffmann. For those looking for a longer and more strenuous adventure, hiking up the southeast slope to the summit is a lung-busting undertaking that rewards hikers with top-of-the-world views of the surrounding area.
Driving along Tioga Road, look for the May Lake/Snow Creek access road roughly 2.4 miles west of Olmsted Point. Take the dirt road north roughly 1.7 miles to the parking area and trailhead. (Note: The road can get a little rough, but it is usually accessible by 2WD vehicles.)
|Rating:||Moderately strenuous hike to May Lake, strenuous hike to summit of Mount Hoffmann|
|Access:||May Lake Trailhead (at the end of the Snow Creek access road off of Tioga Road)|
|Time Required:||1-3 hours total for hike to May Lake, 4-7 hours total for hike to summit of Mount Hoffmann|
|Length:||2.6 miles total to May Lake and back, 7 miles total to summit of Mount Hoffmann and back.|
|Elevation Change:||470-ft ascent to May Lake, another 1530-ft ascent to summit of Mount Hoffmann.|
|May Lake Trailhead: 8860'|
May Lake: 9329'
Summit of Mount Hoffmann: 10856'
|Seasons:||Summer to autumn (whenever Tioga Road is open for the season and the route is not covered in snow)|
From the parking area, take the May Lake Trail heading due north. (Note: Several trails cross the parking area; do not accidentally take the trail down to Tenaya Lake or south to Snow Flat.) Hiking the trail up to May Lake is very straightforward and easy to follow. As you head north out of the forest up into the bare granite landscape, you will get some great teaser views of Polly Dome above Tenaya Lake to the east. Soon enough you will be standing by the tranquil shores of May Lake near the May Lake High Sierra Camp. If you're looking for a leisurely day, wandering around the lake offers many great spots to relax and have lunch.
If you are continuing up Mount Hoffmann, hike around the southern shore of May Lake to its southwest corner to catch the start of the trail that climbs up and away from the lake. Note: The hike up to the top of Mount Hoffmann isn't an official park trail, but most of the route has a very well-defined trail-of-use that has been around for decades. (If there is snow covering the mountain, do not continue up the mountain beyond your ability.) The trail crosses over a small boulderfield as it makes its way up to a small shoulder under Mount Hoffmann. Once beyond the shoulder, turn right and start the long ascent up the slope. (If you lose the trail here, do not worry, it is easy to find again once you are on the open slope.)
Continue hiking NNW up the steep and open slope, navigating your way around all of the loose slabs of granite that litter the peak. Just as you make your way to base of the prominent upper spires, you will see the actual summit block further off to the northeast. Continue following the trail up into the bowl until you reach the base of the summit block which is covered in broken slabs of rock. A bit of Class 2 scrambling up the large slabs will get you to the very top where great views can be seen in all directions! Of note are Half Dome and Clouds Rest to the south and Tuolumne Peak to the north. As you relax, keep and eye out for overly friendly marmots who will eat anything you own that is salty and left unattended. Return the way you came.
|Map: May Lake and Mount Hoffmann
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map to return to this page.
This is a very worthwhile hike to see two of Yosemite's famous landmarks in the high country, but note the high elevation of this hike--the trailhead is higher than the summit of Half Dome! If you are a lowlander (like me), give yourself plenty of time to do this hike and allow yourself breaks so you can catch your breath. If you're not up for Mount Hoffmann, relaxing along the banks of May Lake is time well spent.