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This is about a 9 mile round trip hike from the trailhead (9662’) located on Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120). The trailhead is on the south side of the road and has parking for several vehicles and a bathroom. It is about a mile before you leave the park at the east gate in Dana Meadows. You can see Mt. Dana to the north of the trail as you hike. There is about 1,500’ of altitude gain total. My total time out was about 5 hours. The trail is well marked and the climb fairly gradual. I have never found the rustic signage in Yosemite to be that accurate regarding distance.
I drove up early from Fresno and arrived at the trailhead at 9am. It seems like many of the wilderness trails were originally used by miners but this particular trail was originally used by Native Americans to cross the Sierra Nevada. This is what I would call a quick trans-Sierra hike. There is evidence along the way of humble cabins where the miners lived. There is even evidence of a mine at Mono Pass.
After reaching Mono Pass and Summit Lake, I dropped down to Upper Sardine Lake. I resisted the urge to go below Upper Sardine Lake to Lower Sardine Lake because of the climb back up to the pass. I could see Lower Sardine Lake from Upper Sardine Lake. It was quite windy but not uncomfortable in my long-sleeved wool shirt. On the return leg it initially looked like a storm was moving in but it was then obvious by the smell that it was smoke from a controlled burn in the park. That put a damper on most photos after that.
The first cutoff trail (to your right outbound) is unmarked and leads to Spillway Lake. The second cutoff trail is marked and leads to Parker Pass.
I used my Sony A7R2 with the 16-35 2.8 GM and my A6000 with the S/Z 16-70mm f4 lens. I also carried the Canon 400 f4 in my daypack in case I saw any Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep on Mount Gibbs (12,772’). I took one close-up shot of Mt. Gibbs and one shot of Lower Sardine Lake. Legend has it that a pack mule loaded with sardines fell off the trail into the lake. The cargo and mule were never seen again.
Upper Sardine Lake
Lower Sardine Lake 70mm
Lower Sardine Lake 400mm