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.