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John Muir Trail: Tuolumne Meadows to Devils Postpile

Score some of the John Muir Trail's most classic views on this 31-mile section hike in Yosemite National Park that starts less than two hours from Bishop.

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This three-day, 31-mile point-to-point runs south across two passes, rambles along tear-drop alpine tarns, and passes campsites framed by classic High Sierra vistas. The route starts out at the flattest section of the trail, but soon charges toward the higher elevations of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Finish at Devils Postpile National Monument, where frozen columns of lava pierce the sky around the volcanic shoulders of Mammoth Mountain.
Shutterbugs: At mile 18.5, snap your own version of the scene shown below. (Ansel Adams’s classic photo of Banner Peak and Thousand Island Lake was also shot near here.) Get the best light in early morning and late afternoon.
-Mapped by Andrew Matranga

TO TRAILHEAD: Start: CA 120 E to Big Oak Flat Road. Follow to Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station for parking and wilderness permits. Best to reserve in advance:

Stop: There is a shuttle bus from Devils Postpile National Monument to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area during summer months: Mammoth Town has a shuttle that stops at the Ski Area for local access.


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 50.1



Location: 37.872139, -119.353203

Backpacker’s Camp. Spend the night here if heading S. If not, head to parking lot @ Ranger Station to pick up car.


Location: 37.876202, -119.354698

Tuolumne Store. Good place to resupply if continuing S to Reds Meadow. YARTS bus departs from this parking lot and returns to The Valley if you want to take mass transit back to Happy Isles


Location: 37.876869, -119.343903

Parking lot at Tuolumne Ranger Station; best place for long-term parking. Head S on John Muir Trail section of Pacific Crest Trail; follow JMT signs throughout this hike


Location: 37.82478, -119.277802

Small creek spills into Lyell Fork


Location: 37.797173, -119.262825

Campsite along Lyell Fork. Be on lookout for the local bear at night; proper food storage required. Waterfalls spill off Kuna Creek to the SE. In the southern horizon, gaze at Yosemite’s highest peak Mount Lyell (13,144 ft).and Lyell Glacier–the largest in the Sierras. To continue, head S for the 2,000 ft. climb to Donohue Pass–the first real, high pass of the trip. Good camp sites on the ascent.


Location: 37.760961, -119.24876

Donohue Pass (11,056 ft.: Peer into the heart of the Range of Light. Smooth, scultped canyons and towering snowcapped peaks. Looking N see Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River snaking through the deep groove of Lyell Canyon. Looking S into Ansel Adams Wilderness, is even more superlative Sierra scenery to come. Continue over the pass for a steep drop into the Inyo National Forest.


Location: 37.735779, -119.192802

Campsite near Island Pass; many small tarns in this area


Location: 37.728519, -119.171303

Thousand Island Lake; good camping up on N shores. Continue S on JMT. PCT ascends to L. Absolutely classic spot to view Banner Peak and Mount Ritter, the crown black volcanic rock of the Ritter Range.


Location: 37.72504, -119.166791

Emerald Lake


Location: 37.712978, -119.151604

Garnet Lake


Location: 37.706996, -119.150977

Small crest near Garnet Lake


Location: 37.692107, -119.130957

Shadow Lake


Location: 37.688235, -119.12173

Sweet lakeside campsite at Rosalie Lake; great swimming


Location: 37.678997, -119.118276

Overlook of Mammoth Mountain and the scorched forest around Devils Postpile; head down through thick forests and get slight views over the sharp teeth of the Minarets to the W


Location: 37.633946, -119.089909

Enter Devils Postpile from Inyo National Forest


Location: 37.632688, -119.08875

PCT and JMT rejoin


Location: 37.629799, -119.084823

Devils Postpile National Monument Ranger Station

Along Lyell Fork

Location: 37.797204, -119.262385

Andrew Matranga sits and strums along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. In the background looms Donohue Pass and the exit from Yosemite National Park. The large snowfield below Mount Lyell is the Lyell Glacier, one of the largest remaining glaciers in the Sierra. © Tim O’Shea

Tarn below Donohue Pass

Location: 37.761283, -119.249232

© Tim O’Shea

Above Lyell Canyon

Location: 37.760961, -119.248331

Andrew Matranga surveys wide contours of Lyell Canyon, where the meandering course of Lyell Fork cutting through the large canyon floor in the distance.

© Tim O’Shea

Climbing out of Thousand Island Lake

Location: 37.729283, -119.172714

David Taus ascends to Island Pass, with Banner Peak in the rearview.

© Andrew Matranga

Banner Peak

Location: 37.728231, -119.171019

An iconic, if not classic, Sierra peak, Banner Peak juts high above the broad, island-dotted waters of Thousand Island Lake.

© Andrew Matranga

Camping sign around Shadow Lake

Location: 37.713277, -119.154582

Restrictions abound near the shores of popular Shadow Lake. Take note when planning your sites.

© Andrew Matranga

Mammoth Mountain

Location: 37.640913, -119.095273

The cinder-strewn slopes of Mammoth Mountain (note the ski lifts crowning the summit) come into view far before you make into Devils Postpile National Monument.

© Andrew Matranga

The Minarets

Location: 37.6385, -119.091496

The tall, craggy spires of the Minarets near Devils Postpile NM.

© Andrew Matranga

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