A Yosemite National Park Tuolumne Meadow Day Hike
Are you seeking a moderate to easy day hike experience in Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park? The Tuolumne meadow to Dog Lake to Lembert Dome Loop is a great half day hiking experience that gives you opportunities to see wildlife, a scenic seldom visited lake and one of the best views of Tuolumne Meadows from atop Lembert Dome.
This loop also has little traffic which gives many visitors a great solitude hike in the high country of Yosemite National Park. This approx. 3 mile round trip will take 1.5 to 3 hours depending on your pace and willingness to sit and be still in the wilderness. Dog lake will beacon you to explore the shores or pack a lunch for a quiet picnic. Lembert Dome, can be a bit challenging for some, you will be climbing a bare faces granite dome, picking your route to a scenic view looking west over the meadow.
We prefer doing this route from the Westside and around to the North of the dome stopping at Dog lake first then heading to the dome. However you can also travel around back coming up from the East side of the dome in a steeper switch back section that gets you to the dome quickly and then a leisurely stroll mostly down hill to dog lake and the meadow.
The Lembert Dome Parking area is directly in front of the Dome, off HWY 120 just before crossing the Tuolumne river. Typically there is also parking along a dirt road right in front of Lembert dome that will give a you access to the Northern Route. But for either route we would actually suggest parking at the paved Dog Lake trailhead parking area just past the Wilderness Permit station and past the corrals. This has plenty of parking and bear boxes, as it is a backpackers lot. Gives you direct access to the Eastern side of the loop or you can grab the trail heading west into Tuolumne meadow and wrap around to the Northside through the meadow or along the dirt road.
Lembert Dome is a semi popular hike in the Tuolumne meadows region of Yosemite National Park. Protruding on the eastern edge of the meadow Lembert Dome is basically begging to be climbed. It stands 800 feet above the meadow floor and was formed from glaciers. It was formed when glaciers covered this area during the Pleistocene Epoch. The dome is formed of Cathedral Peak Granodiorite, which is easily identified by its large orthoclase phenocrysts. On hiking to the top, you can see areas of glacial polish and striations that show the direction of glacial motion (Source: https://epod.usra.edu/)
Climbing Lembert Dome It’s a short hike, but you are climbing a mountain, and you need to be careful to pick a safe route.
The more strenuous route would be to park at the backpackers lot just east of the Wilderness Station East of Tuolumne meadows and climb up out of the parking area crossing Tioga Road on your way up a standard series of switch backs to the backside of Lembert dome. This route will be your quickest access to Lembert Dome and is the same trail backpackers use to go to Young Lakes.
The Alternative is to do this from Tuolumne Meadows, parking on road just below Lembert Dome and following trail up the Northside, stopping first at Dog Lake then proceeding to Lembert Dome and backdown the Northside to Tioga Rd and to trail that leads you by the wilderness center.
The View from Lembert Dome might not be as Iconic as views over Yosemite Valley, but it scenic enough to make you just want to sit for a bit and take it all in. After a visit to the top we suggest continuing north on the trail you came in on to Dog Lake.
Dog lake is a great place for an afternoon break. Bring a hammock and hang lake side in the trees for hours with very little interaction with people. At an elevation of 9240′ the tree lined lake stay a nice summer temperature and seems to just invite relaxation.
Dog Lake is a fairly simple lake compared to other Granite featured lake sin Yosemite. Its simple nature and mountain backdrop are simply a pretty location to observe. There is no backpacking allowed at Dog lake so you will find a natural untrampled area around th elake if you are willing to walk a short distance around the shoreline.
Once you have had enough rest you can back track just a bit and follow the loop back into Tuolumne meadows and into Soda springs or if part of the loop head South on the trail up to Lembert Dome for the highlight view of your loop.
As with any Yosemite Trail, there are always options to explore further. On the Dog lake loop the trail North is the backpackers trail to Youngs Lake basin approx. 6 miles past Dog lake. There are two special creek basins on this trail worth seeing. the first is an easy hike from Dog lake the second will take some commitment. If you are determined to see as much as possible this trail will also connect with anther Young lakes trail after Dingley creek basin that will loop you back down to Tuolumne meadow. in all however this loop would be approx. 10-12 mile depending o where you parked your car. But the scenery is pure gold.
The backcountry north of Dog Lake should not be ignored if you like exploring. Following the trail North at the Dog Lake junction will lead you to Delaney Creek Meadow (a little less than a mile) this section is easy to travel and worth visiting if you have the time. Often on our backpacking adventures to Youngs Lake we stop here for lunch, friends have even caught fish there in the creek while resting on our journey.
Going past Delaney Creek the terrain starts to climb up to a high tundra area Just to the South or Old Ragged Peak and the headwaters of Dingley creek. This area is moderate to strenuous section of the trail based on your fitness level, but the rewarding views from the high tundra plateau are spectacular.
Just past Dingley creek the meadow will climb to a small bench area before heading down to the alternative Young Lakes route trail which will carry you back down the mountain to Tuolumne meadows.
For additional tips on hikes int eh area check out some of our favorite Tioga road hiking resources:
- Our Top 10 Day Hikes off Tioga Pass and Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.
- 10 Great Day Hikes off Tioga Pass and HWY 120 Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite
- Waterfall Chasing
- Hiking Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park
- Hiking Parker and Mono Pass in Yosemite National Park
Getting There: From Yosemite Valley, take highway 120 ten miles (16.8 km) to the Crane Flat turnoff onto Tioga Road, then take Tioga Road 40 miles (64 km) east to reach the trailhead at the far eastern edge of Tuolumne Meadows. From Yosemite’s east entrance at Tioga Pass, take the Tioga Road west 7 miles (11 km) to the trailhead.