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Pothole Dome

Yosemite National Park

August 5th, 2010

1.5 miles
230 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:22

Starting elevation
8590 feet
Max elevation
8809 feet

Rating: 8/10

Directions: From Tuolumne Meadows campground, drive west along Tioga Road. Park in the last turnout on the right just before leaving the Tuolumne Meadows area. Pothole Dome will be clearly visible on your right, across a small section of the meadow.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

The small gravel pullout, with space for about a dozen cars, was almost full as we parked in the late afternoon. Pothole Dome was clearly visible across a small section of meadow. It looks similar to but smaller than Lembert Dome, which sits next to Tioga Road just a mile or two down the road.

At the parking lot there's a fence warning hikers to stay off the meadow, and to walk on the trail which starts on the left side of the parking area. We did just that, but we noticed lots of other people cutting through the meadow on the right, instead. It really doesn't take much extra effort to stay on the trail. It's such a short detour.

Pothole Dome from the trailhead

Starting off on the trail

The trail curves around the edge of the meadow, then follows the base of the dome, next to some trees in front of it. The trail continues east, past a small stream and then providing better views of Tuolumne Meadows and the mountains beyond it, including clearly visible Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs.

Tuolumne Meadows (Mount Dana, Lembert Dome, and Mount Gibbs in the background)

Cathedral Peak

We stayed on the trail as it curved left around the dome, finally turning around when the trail started to enter the forest. We backtracked a short distance, then turned right to head up onto the dome itself. There's no trail or set path up the dome. There doesn't need to be. From the eastern side of the dome, it's a very gradual walk up easy granite. A 4 year old could do it (and did).

Hiking up Pothole Dome

As we hiked up the dome, the views behind us got even better. We got great views of the meadow, Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs, Lembert Dome, and Cathedral Peak. When we reached the top (which is large and relatively level), we could see that the granite stretches out to the north, as well. It looks like you could keep walking on top of relatively level granite for miles.

View of Cathedral Peak from halfway up Pothole Dome

Mount Dana, Lembert Dome, and Mount Gibbs from halfway up Pothole Dome

Panoramic view from halfway up Pothole Dome
(Click image to view full size)

While there were about 10 people on top when we arrived, they all left and we didn't see anyone else while we enjoyed the view. After a snack and a short break, we headed back down, sort of the way we came up. At the bottom, we turned right back onto the trail, and returned to the parking lot. Along the way, we saw some other people trying to hike straight up the steep face. While you can probably do this, it's much more difficult and dangerous than it needs to be. Hiking around and starting up the eastern side is easy, much safer, and not much longer.

Cathedral Peak from top of Pothole Dome

Stream in meadow near trailhead

Pothole Dome provides views that rival that of Lembert Dome, but for much less effort. You should certainly do one or the other if you haven't done them. You could even do both in the same day, if you wanted.

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