Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp

I’ve hiked the Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp Trail more than a dozen times and it remains one of my favorite hikes anywhere. To get to the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp via Tuolumne Meadows you’ll hike past Tuolumne River, Parson’s Lodge, and Soda Springs. Start at the free shuttle bus stop and walk across a meadow with 360° views of glacier-carved granite domes in all directions. One of the most panoramic views in the Sierra, historians say Tuolumne Meadows is the spot where John Muir dreamed up the national park system.

Something for the kids on the Glen Aulin hike

As a child, my family found the half-mile hike to the bridge over the Tuolumne River to be the perfect length. When the river is gentle, it’s fun to play on the sandy beaches or fish from the banks (fishing permit required). Continue to the wooden shed that protects Soda Springs, a naturally occuring sodium carbonate source that bubbles from the red earth. Nearby is Parson’s Lodge, a stone cabin built by the Sierra Club in 1915. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tuolumne Meadows is an alpine wonderland in summer and one of my favorite places to hike anywhere on the planet.

Hiking to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp — a challenging day hike or a more moderate overnighter

As an adult, I now continue past the wilderness signs to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. I’ve done it as a day hike and as a backpacking trip to the camp. While you’ll pass many trail junctions along the way to Glen Aulin, they’re all marked by rusty folksy-looking signs. Admittedly, the mileage on the signs is notoriously off. My GPS shows it’s 5.6 miles and about 800 feet of elevation loss to Glen Aulin (that means 800 feet gain on the return).

Where to camp on the Glen Aulin hike

Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp is part of a system of camps across the Sierra that can best be described as “glamping before it was cool.” It’s a car-free backcountry campground of canvas tents and cots, situated under a waterfall. I’ve been told that it’s serviced by a chef who will make you a steak if you have a reservation (though I’ve had no such luck myself!). For normal backpackers bringing in their own tent and food, the camp still offers potable water, a small store with lemonade and snacks, and clean outhouses.

Tuolumne meadows to glen aulin with views of Cathedral Peak

On the way to Glen Aulin, you’ll follow the Tuolumne River over the skirts of glacier-polished domes. The hike offers incredible views of the jagged Cathedral Peak, which rises so high that the glaciers couldn’t smooth its ragged edges. You may get your feet wet crossing a few creeks after the snowmelt, but there are often log “bridges.” As you descend the upper reaches of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, you reach roaring Tuolumne Falls tumbling down white granite. The last bridge over the Tuolumne River has you staring at White Cascade, a waterfall that tumbles into a chilly pool that’s swimmable for the brave.

About the author

Liz Thomas

Liz Thomas

Professional hiker and guidebook author

Liz Thomas is thru-hiker and guidebook author best known for breaking the women’s self-supported record on the Appalachian Trail. She’s the author of the National Outdoor Book Award winning Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-hike, which won the National Outdoor Book Award in 2017. When she’s not backpacking, Liz is a motivational speaker who has presented on Capitol Hill, corporate retreats, national non-profit donor events, and colleges and universities including Yale and MIT. You can find her at www.eathomas.com or @lizthomashiking and Facebook.

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