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Mount Hoffman

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park Links:

July 29th, 1999

7.0 miles
2275 vertical feet
Total Time: 6:57

Rating: 8/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

Jennie and I hiked in Yosemite National Park.

We parked at the May Lake trailhead near Tioga Road. We started out around 10am. Bugs started flying around us as soon as we got out of the car, so we applied bug repellent immediately.

The trail starts rising gently immediately. There's a High Sierra Camp at May Lake; as such, the trail up to the lake is used by mules to bring up equipment and supplies. Of course they leave their mark on the trail.

Mount Hoffman is visible to the west while hiking on the trail. After just 1.2 miles, we were at the lake. There are several structures here, including drinking water and toilets. There's nothing too special about the lake, other than the sight of Mount Hoffman towering above its southwestern shore. To me, the lake seems less special than, say, Elizabeth Lake, because it lacks a feel of remoteness.

May Lake backed by Mount Hoffman

We skirted the southern end of the lake and started up the Mt. Hoffman trail. We walked up and around rocks as we passed by patches of snow. A short while later we reached a crest with a meadow and the sound of water tumbling down toward the lake.

May Lake as seen from further up the trail

The trail continues around the meadow and then starts switchbacking northwest up a rocky slope. Stacks of rocks showed the way. I saw one stack of 12 rocks -- the most I've ever seen on a trail. Hikers probably try to stack them higher just for fun. There are a few trees here and there, but they thin out after a while. Views started to open up. We could see Half Dome, Mount Dana, and most points east or south.

Half Dome as seen from the Mount Hoffman trail

There were a fair number of other hikers attempting the ascent. Most people probably just hike to May Lake, but there were at least 20-30 people who reached the summit that day.

Heading up the switchbacks

After the switchbacks the trail heads up to the summit plateau. We encountered a solo hiker who was coming down. I verified that there were several summits which were worth hiking up. He told us to avoid hiking up to the real summit, however -- the one with the antenna on top -- because he said the rocks were too dangerous and not worth it.

View looking south from near the summit plateau

The summit plateau is surprisingly flat, considering how steep the sides of the mountain are. Apparently it used to be a much larger plateau, but glaciers dug out the sides, making it steep. We started out for our first summit -- the most northeastern one. After a brief rock scramble we were on top, looking down at May Lake and across to Mount Dana and Gibbs. Marmots scurried about, hoping to find food.

The first summit we visited

Mounts Dana and Gibbs as seen from the first summit

We descended that summit and went to the slightly lower southeastern summit. Along the way we passed through a field strewn with grasshoppers. One grasshopper with a baby grasshopper attached itself to Jennie's trekking pole strap and wouldn't let go until she flung it off. The southeastern summit involved a bit more rock scrambling and the use of all four limbs. Soon, we were on top, with a similar view. If we'd been short on time, I would have chosen to climb only one of them (either one would do, but I'd probably just do the northeastern one).

As we crossed the summit plateau to another summit, I saw a marmot eating some grass. I tried to get close for a picture, but it slowly inched away from me, until it scampered underneath a bush to get away from me. I gave up and left him alone. He shortly came back out and started eating again.

The "true summit" as seen from the northernmost summit.

The northernmost summit is the easiest to attain. It's not visually much of a summit, but it is technically a high point. It also provides great views. Instead of May Lake, the views are of the Ten Lakes area, far below to the north. It also provides a nice view of the vertical face of the westernmost summit.

Close-up of the true summit

We walked down to the base of the western and highest summit. There was a large group of people at the top. After some discussion, we decided to go for it. As we clambered up the rocks, I decided the hiker we saw earlier must have taken a bad route -- it really wasn't too bad. Fifteen minutes later, we were on top. 10,845 feet above sea level. The views aren't that much different than the one on the northern summit. If you really didn't care about reaching the highest point, the other summits would suffice to provide the views.

The summit marker

After a brief stay, we started our descent. The trail down from the summit plateau is gravelly and easy to hike down quickly. Unfortunately, this turns into the rocky switchbacks which provide more ankle-twisting possibilities. Somewhere along the way we missed the trail we took. We ended up descending an extra 50 feet, then ascending back up to the meadow I mentioned earlier. The group in front of us made the same mistake.

After that, it's a pretty straightforward descent. We saw kids playing in the snow patches. A woman reading a book next to the lake. Backpackers camping next to the lake. Soon we were going back down the dusty trail, back to the parking lot.

Return to Mount Whitney trip report.

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