A Top 10 must see destination in Yosemite National Park – Tenaya Lake

Yosemite National Park – Places to See – Tenaya Lake elevation of 8,150 feet is located off HWY 120 (Tioga Pass) in Yosemite’s high country. The lake at its natural level is approx. 114 feet deep with crystal clear and cool snow melt waters. The West shore outlet of Tenaya creek eventually meets up with Mirror Lake and the Yosemite Valley.

Tenaya Lake was created by the Tenaya Glacier, which flowed out of the vast Tuolumne Ice Sheet and down to Yosemite Valley. This same glacier created Half Dome

  • Hiking is a popular activity. Trailheads that start at Tenaya Lake lead to Cathedral LakesClouds RestHalf Dome, the Yosemite Valley floor, May Lake and Murphy’s Creek. Popular day hikes from tenaya include: Clouds rest or Sunrise Lakes, May Lake, Mt. Watkin, Glen Aulin high Camp and White Cascade
  • Fishing is permitted year-round at Yosemite National Park. Visitors over 16 require a valid California fishing license. Various species of trout can be caught in the lake.
  • Visitors can kayak, canoe, or sail on the lake. No formal launch facilities or docks are available, and motorized boats are not permitted. Swimming is permitted.

We have been visiting Yosemite routinely sine 2012 and Tenaya lake has become the must see stop on each visit. The crowds have grown over the years but a cool refreshing dip in the lake is a requirement after a long hot day of hiking in Yosemite’s high country.

When asked by first time visitors on the Must see or do items in Yosemite, we always include Tenaya lake if you have the time from the Valley floor or as a must see stop if traveling Hwy 120 Tioga Pass through Yosemite. Its waters are purer that Lake Tahoe and just as crystal clear.

A Locals Choice Recommendation: We personally like parking on the West side and swimming off the rock shores, giving you a great view of the Cathedral range to the east. Kayaking or Stand-up Boards are great way to enjoy Tenaya Lake.


Tenaya lake is located along the Route 120 through the park. It is roughly 15 miles from the East gate on top of Tioga Pass or 50 miles / 1.5hr drive from Yosemite Valley. In 2022 Yosemite national park added a parking curb on much of the HWY 120 Corridor through the park. Parking areas around Tenaya lake have become more difficult as they try to direct traffic away from lake side parking. Lots for parting can be found on each side of the lake as well in the center near Murphy’s creek trailhead.

Bear Vaults are found at the trailheads. This is active bear country so make certain not to leave food in your car when parking at the lake on a backpacking excursion or long day trip hike.



Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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