Mount Dana Trail
Michael Routh/Alamy

Mount Dana Trail

Mount Dana Trail
Escape to a cloud-scraping stunner in Yosemite National Park

Mount Dana’s 13,057-foot summit is the second highest point in Yosemite, granting mind-boggling views with a mere three-mile climb. But don’t let the distance fool you; that short mileage comes with a butt-kicking 3,100-foot elevation gain. Fortunately, the rewards begin in the first and easiest mile. “Even before the trail starts to ascend, you’ll see a wealth of wildflowers such as large-leaf lupine, alpine paintbrush, and alpine goldenrod in the meadow,” says local botanist Karen Wiese. The last two weeks of July are typically peak blooming time.

Many hikers turn around after reaching the broad plateau about halfway up the mountain, where a five-foot-tall rock cairn marks a good spot to eat a sandwich and call it a day. But determined peak-baggers (and savvy wildflower seekers) keep on slogging to the tippy-top. You’d expect nothing could grow among this rocky scree, but instead, Mount Dana’s summit is festooned with bouquets of blue-lavender sky pilot, its blossoms brightening the gray talus. And the view? It's a knockout, spanning more than 100 miles of Yosemite backcountry, the eastern desert, and Mono Lake, the remnant of a once-massive inland sea.

DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD: The trail begins at Yosemite National Park’s Tioga Pass entrance station on State Highway 120 (12½ miles west of Lee Vining and 7 miles east of Tuolumne Meadows). Park in the Gaylor Lakes lot; the trailhead is on the north side of the road, across from the lot.

Mount Dana Trail VCW_D_HS_Hero_packtrip_Sunset-TS_1280x642_sized
Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Discover the High Sierra

Mount Dana Trail vca_maps_highsierra
30
December
Average (°F)
Dec - Feb
39°
High
21°
Low
Mar - May
55°
High
23°
Low
June - Aug
72°
High
41°
Low
Sept - Nov
66°
High
26°
Low

Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower meadows and glistening lakes in summer, vibrant colors in fall—this is a land of dramatic and wild beauty. World-class mountain resorts circling turquoise-blue Lake Tahoe, and at Mammoth Lakes cater to all, with scenic ski trails in winter and trails and vistas in summer.

Yosemite Valley…is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and gold and wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”  --photographer Ansel Adams

Yosemite National Park, a World Heritage Site, is here, roughly 3½ hours east of San Francisco. Whether you hike a mountain, ski the steeps, or lounge in a hot tub beneath a canopy of stars, you’ll find your perfect getaway. 

Mount Dana Trail VC_Questionnaire_AlexHonnold_ED_29790110_1280x640
John Dickey/TandemStock.com

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Alex Honnold

The El Capitan free-solo rock climber explains his love for Yosemite and more California favorites

On June 3, 2017, Honnold became the first person to ever ascend El Capitan, the 3,000-foot granite wall in...

Mount Dana Trail VC_LonePine_ST_RF_722224619_1280x640
Room/Getty Images

Lone Pine

Discover the natural beauty and another side of California in a historic Owens Valley small town

Head to Lone Pine to see a different side of California—one that is less connected to...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Find whitewater rafting fun for all—from newbies to nerves-of-steel experts

Think of a river, and chances are you’ve got your own daydream. Maybe you want to float on inner tubes, or maybe your style is to careen through raucous rapids in an eight-person inflatable raft....

Mount Dana Trail VC_RiverRafting_Preview_Stock_RM_172652806_686x885
Groveb/Getty Images
Mount Dana Trail VC_YosemiteInWinter_Supplied_Winter-Tunnel-View---Chris-Falkenstein_1280x640
Chris Falkenstein

Yosemite in Winter

Mount Dana Trail vca_maps_highsierra
Visit during the park’s quietest season for unforgettable snowy beauty

With its iconic granite domes and spires etched in snow, and a hushed beauty that’s both intimate and wild, Yosemite National Park makes a magical...

Mount Dana Trail VC_Questionnaire_JeremyJones_Mason-Mashon-Photo_California-Day-Dream-LR-177_1280x640
CLIF Bar/Mason Mashon

The California Questionnaire: Jeremy Jones

The professional snowboarder’s biggest conundrum is deciding which Sierra Nevada adventure to tackle next

As a pioneer of big mountain snowboarding, professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones has climbed treacherous backcountry peaks all over the world just...

Mount Dana Trail IMG_3821[1]
At 14,505 ft. above sea level, Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States.
Mount Dana Trail VCW_Laketahoe_T9_Pour_house -IMG_0045_1_1280x642
Toni Zernik

Truckee

Mount Dana Trail vca_maps_highsierra
This charming mountain town is the central hub for North Shore destinations

Up and over the hill from Lake Tahoe’s north shore, Truckee offers an easy base that’s away from the hubbub. Historically a logging town, Truckee...

SPECIAL FEATURE
family-friendly resorts, snowy escapes

High Sierra peaks, deep drifts on a Mammoth volcano, family-friendly resorts, snowy escapes on the edge of Yosemite and more—California has enough alpine destinations to keep any skier or boarder...

Mount Dana Trail MammothMountain_1251_preview_686x885
SPECIAL FEATURE
Relax after a day on the slopes

Kicking back after you kick off your boots is a snow-country tradition, and there’s plenty of post-slopes fun at California’s top alpine resorts. Have a beer or warm up with an Irish coffee, dance...

Mount Dana Trail KTBaseBar_JeffEnegerbretson_SquawValley_preview_686x885
Jeff Enegerbretson
Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.
Ansel Adams
Mount Dana Trail VCW_D_Yosemite_Hero_20140503_Yosemite_hero_1280x642

Trip 6-7 days 10 stops

Sierra Adventure

Granite peaks, alpine valleys, towering trees-the High Sierra is nature's playground all year-round
Mount Dana Trail VCW_D_HS_T3_Tahoe_Swim_Farnum_0

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with...

Mount Dana Trail CalaverasBTSP_sized

On your way to this park, save time to visit the charming Gold Country town of Murphys (a great place for wine tasting and innovative dining along the town’s main street). Then continue north and east to discover peaceful groves of giant sequoias at this under-the-radar park. Established in 1931...

Mount Dana Trail VC_Spotlight_LakeTahoe_Stock_RF_4223000027_1280x640_0
Rachid Dahnoun/Aurora Photos

Spotlight: Lake Tahoe

Mount Dana Trail vca_maps_highsierra
Majestic peaks encircle a turquoise-blue, year-round playground

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list essential. Where else...

Mount Dana Trail VCW_D_MammothLakes_Hero_Horseback_1280x642_0
Rebecca Garrett

Spotlight: Mammoth Lakes

Mount Dana Trail vca_maps_highsierra
Snowy winters, wildflower summers

Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the west, folks in this laid-back mountain town know they’ve got a good thing going. It’s a land of...

As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.
Mark Twain (recalling his first sighting of Lake Tahoe)
July - August

With a pine-and-peak alpine setting and a relaxed and friendly ambiance, this appealing event in Bear Valley, roughly halfway between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, includes performances by outstanding...

Mount Dana Trail BearValleyMusic_preview_686x885
Courtesy of Bear Valley Music Festival
Mount Dana Trail vca_maps_highsierra
Mount Dana Trail VCW_D_HS_T5_Mono Lake_VCL_HS_Mono_Kayakers_KG
Kodiak Greenwood

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Visit bizarre formations, cinder cones, and a super-salty lake

There are few places in California—and maybe on the planet—that can make you think you might just be on Mars. This is one of them. At this high-...

Mount Dana Trail VCW_D_HS_T6_Bodie cars_VCL_HS_Bodie_KG-sized
Kodiak Greenwood

Bodie

Tour the eerie remnants of a former boomtown

There's something eerily appropriate about bumping down the dusty desert road that winds the final few miles into Bodie State Historic Park. Round...

November - December

As autumn gives way to winter, slip away to this signature event, presented at the Majestic Yosemite (formerly Ahwahnee) in incomparable Yosemite Valley. Leading winemakers celebrate the fall...

Mount Dana Trail Ahwahnee_GalaDinner_DiningRoom_preview_686x885
Courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite
Mount Dana Trail vca_maps_highsierra
Mount Dana Trail Bishop_HighSierra_1280x642_downsized

Bishop

Explore an outdoorsy adventure town with an artistic side

Bishop brims with outdoor activities. Situated at the north end of the Owens Valley, with close access to some of the Sierra’s most dramatic high...

Mount Dana Trail VCW_D_HS_T7_Tahoe_MtnBike_Farnum
Alex Farnum

Guided Adventures

Learn to climb, join a pack trip, and more

While there are plenty of ways to play on your own in the High Sierra, there’s a whole host of ways to learn a new activity, like how to catch and...

Mount Dana Trail CalaverasBTSP_sized
Lucas Himovitz

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Look up at (and learn about) amazing giant sequoias

Established in 1931 to preserve a stunning stand of giant sequoias, this park offers one of the easiest places to see these towering trees. Head 4...

SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

Mount Dana Trail McWayFalls_JPB_SP_preview_686x885
Amy Meredith/Flickr
Mount Dana Trail High_Sierra_Trees
The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the largest (by volume) tree in the world.
SPECIAL FEATURE
Gold Rush history, epic high-country landscapes, hidden wine country, and charming country towns

Granite monoliths, waterfalls, alpine meadows—it’s no secret that Yosemite delivery some seriously big wow moments. But what is a secret is the bounty of awesome things you can see and do on your...

Mount Dana Trail VCW_SI_Hero_HS_Yosemite_UpperFalls_KG_preview_686x885
Kodiak Greenwood
Mount Dana Trail Manzanar_sized
Courtesy of Mammoth Chambers of Commerce

Manzanar National Historic Site

Learn about a sobering time in U.S. history

During World War II, thousands of Japanese-Americans were moved from their homes throughout the West and brought to internment camps like Manzanar...

Mount Dana Trail BassLake_AmyMeredith_flickr_1280x642
Amy Meredith/Flickr

Bass Lake

Visit a mini Tahoe south of Yosemite

Some think of Bass Lake, the pine-trimmed reservoir about a half-hour’s drive south of Yosemite National Park’s south entrance, as a smaller...