The sign reads "Warning: This is not a trail. Travel beyond this point is dangerous without climbing equipment. Return to Tioga Road." which might not be bad advice if you just happen to come across it while you are wandering around. However, you can hike a few more miles into Tenaya Canyon before climbing equipment becomes a necessity. Or so I thought.

I planned this hike based on some other trip reports and I basically thought we were just going to follow a creek the whole way which would be easy because, it's like, a creek, and it flows in a line. I can follow a line. However, Tenaya creek is more like a pile of spaghetti thrown onto a pile of rocks. When the snow is melting it would be very wide and roaring with water (not a good time to try this hike), winding around cliffs and between boulders. As the snow disappears, the flow of the creek fizzles out and many areas become dry or turn into standing pools of water. The previous winter had been pretty dry and thus Tenaya Creek was very low when we did this hike, just barely trickling along in most places.

So, rather than following a well defined creek, we were following a myraid of dry creek beds wandering every which way and sometimes squeezing us into places where we had to climb over boulders or along semi-steep slabs of rock. I'm not saying there is no easy way through it all, but it's hard to find the path of least resistance when you are only 6 feet tall. It's easy to forget that we are really, really small. Obstacles that do not register on a topo map or Google Maps can still be really hard to traverse.

None of this would really have been an issue except that I was carrying our three year old son on my back, so it was. But not really. Unless you ask Megan. For some reason, I like hikes like this, whereas some people (Megan) just worry that they will be eaten by a bear when they are not following a trail. We did actually see bears in Yosemite, but not on this hike, 3 adorable bear cubs crossed in front of our car on Glacier Point Road.

Anyway, our destination was this viewpoint of Yosemite Valley from the top of Pywiack Cascade.

Our hike started at Tenaya Lake.

Shortly after getting on the trail to Sunset Lakes we had to get off the trail and follow Tenaya Creek...which is...where exaclty?

Hey, this kind of looks like a creek!...and then it goes...where?

After climbing over a bunch of rocks I could see what appeared to be the top of a known landmark (granite bowl). All we had to do was...climb over a bunch of rocks. I think I could just copy and paste the last line a few times for the rest of this trip report.

Yep, definitely the granite bowl coming up, just a few more rocks.

This would be more awesome if the creek were flowing. Still awesome.


Looking back at the granite bowl, I believe this is a 350 foot drop.

Megan's ankles did not like walking on slopes like this.

Half Dome becomes visible.

Rock that looks like it was patched up by some road crew from Michigan.

Did these rocks roll down from above or were they placed here by the glacier that formed this whole valley? I don't know, but I think it was aliens.

"Oh cool, more steep slabs, I hate you" -Megan's ankles. Oh no wait, actually I think that was something Megan said directly to me, multiple times.

These slabs got a little steep so we had to back track and climb down to the creek (over some large boulders).

At this point, the creek was pretty easy to follow.

Just about there.


Mt. Watkins.

Half Dome.

Watkins again.

Half Dome.

Bjorn was great the whole way, chattering most of the time to keep the bears away (Photo by Megan).

Megan and Bjorn hung out up there while I wandered around a bit. I was hoping to get a view of Pywiack Cascade but it looked like I would have to down climb quite a ways and there wasn't much water anyway. So, oh well. Who wants to go back again next year? Megan? Megan, where did you go? Bjorn, you're with me right? Yes, I know you like trains.

If I had worn my swimsuit I would have been jumping into that small pool there. Basically a natural Infinity Pool.

At least one of us got to enjoy the water.

This is more how I had envisioned this hike. Maybe with a little more water. And butterflies, I think there were butterflies.

On the way back, armed with experience and a GPS, we were able to pick a gentler path through the terrain.

Explosive clouds.

Walking a ledge.

These are our GPS tracks (note that it took awhile for my GPS to calibrate so the tracks at the start of the hike are inaccurate). Distance was between 7 and 8 miles with about 600 feet of elevation loss/gain in about 5.5 hours at a leisurely pace.


< Back to Photos & Trip Reports

» all photo reports from the eastern sierra
Duck Lake, California
July 2018
A quick hike in the Sierras, near Mammoth Lakes.
Lake Tahoe, California
August 17 - 19, 2012
Hiking Maggies Peaks near Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe.
Around California
August 11 - 26, 2012
From San Diego to Yosemite to Lake Tahoe.
Mono Lake, California
August 5, 2010
Checking out the south side of Mono Lake.
Thousand Island Lake, California
September 3, 2006
Hiking to Thousand Island and Garnet Lakes in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, starting from Agnew Meadows.
Eastern Sierra, California
July 24, 2006
Hiking to Treasure Lakes in the Little Lakes Valley near Bishop/Mammoth Lakes, and driving south along the Eastern Sierra.
Mammoth Mountain, California
March 21 - 23, 2006
Skiing Mammoth Mountain and driving Highway 395 back to San Diego.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California
January 24 - 29, 2006
Skiing some of the resorts around Lake Tahoe (Heavenly, Squaw Valley, Diamond Peak).
Yosemite, California
July 2018
A day in Yosemite, mostly the high country.
Tenaya Canyon, California
August 16, 2012
Hiking from Tenaya Lake to the top of Pywiack Cascade in Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite, California
August 5, 2010
Passing through Yosemite and enjoying some sights along the way.
Little Lakes Valley, California
August 4, 2010
Hiking through Little Lakes Valley in the Eastern Sierra.
Mount Agassiz, California
September 2, 2006
Hiking to the summit of Mount Agassiz in the Bishop Creek area, starting from the South Lake trailhead.
Yosemite, California
July 23, 2006
Checking out Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, and driving over Tioga Pass.
Yosemite, California
March 18 - 20, 2006
Camping in Yosemite, skiing to Glacier Point, and exploring the valley.