Stephanie is a cherished member of the Sampling America writing team, dedicated to crafting captivating narratives that transport readers to thrilling adventures across the country and beyond.
Yosemite National Park has some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in America. While many people want to visit the area to see the views taken by National Geographic, it can often seem overwhelming to choose which hikes to take.
Read on for 12 stunning lakes to visit while in Yosemite. Some of these lakes are the destination, and many are spectacular sights you can bask in on the way to your final destination.
Tenaya Lake is both the most prominent and easily accessible lake in Yosemite. From this lake, you’ll see granite peaks around the stunning mountains and beautiful natural scenery.
The lake is much less crowded than some of the more well-known lakes in the region. You can easily enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and boating here. The area is famous for having easily accessible trails for anyone with mobility issues, so bird watching and viewing nature is incredibly easy here.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
This reservoir has one of the longest hiking seasons in the national park. This small area boasts some of the best natural views, such as Smith Peak, Wapama Falls, Poopeanut Trail, and O’Shaughnessy Dam.
This area is popular and is often busy with visitors during peak hours. However, the site can be quiet in the early morning hours.
If you’re looking for a shorter trail around a small lake in Yosemite, Mirror Lake will be perfect for you. The easy hike leads to the enigmatic mirrored image of half dome on the lake’s surface.
If you’re headed this way to capture the infamous image, be sure to visit in the spring and early summer. Otherwise, the lake levels will be much lower and look more like a marsh than a vibrant mirrored surface.
The benefit of visiting this area is seeing two stunning lakes on the same trail. Hikers come far and wide to visit this majestic spot in Yosemite.
Halfway up the trailhead, hikers can rest on granite banks to enjoy the incredible scenery that these two lakes offer.
You’ll need to plan ahead for a day trip to the Young Lakes, as the hike takes about 6 miles to reach the summit. Although there are two separate trails at the same distance, many avid hikers recommend taking the eastern course for majestic views of the Ragged Peak range and alpine meadows.
This stunning trip will take some planning and preparation to pull off successfully, but the end is a once-in-a-lifetime view.
Dog Lake has some of the most photographed scenery in Yosemite. With granite peaks, towering domes, and lush meadows filled with wildflowers, the area is well-known as a photographer’s dream location.
The hike is usually only accessible from June to October and can often get quite busy even though the lake at the trail’s end isn’t as big as many others.
One of Yosemite’s most popular hiking trails, Lake Eleanor, boasts a concrete damn constructed in 1918 to help provide drinking water to San Fransisco.
This vast lake draws hikers with its stunning natural beauty and ethereal sensation that many hikers remark when visiting. Getting out in nature is one of the best ways to connect with yourself; many people who hike Lake Eleanor do so to get in touch with nature and themselves.
There are two lakes in this small region: Upper and Lower Gaylor Lake. The hike to these small lakes is more of a climb and will require hikers to be physically agile to ascend.
However, the view from upper Gaylor Lake is worth the climb. The sprawling valley encompasses five lakes intertwined with the majesty of the towering peaks in Yosemite.
This high alpine lake offers views of the High Sierras at the peak of a 10-mile hike. This hike is a famous winter climb as the pathways are maintained year-round.
The hike itself is moderate and can be accomplished by most novice hikers. The peak of the hike has a view of Half Dome as well as stunning surrounding valleys.
Saddlebag Lake is an excellent location for fishing, boating, and kayaking in the Eastern Sierra mountains.
The lake is so big, in fact, that it has a water taxi service to bring guests across to the 20 Lakes Basin or to enjoy brook and golden trout fishing on the shorelines of the lake.
One of the biggest lakes in the region, Cherry Lake, is situated in the Groveland Ranger District outside of Yosemite.
Many hikers say that this location is well worth the detour if you’re already visiting Yosemite. Cherry Lake has some of the most challenging white water rafting in the U.S., making it a thrill seeker’s dream.
Townsley Lake sits at a very high altitude in Yosemite, making it a glacial lake filled with crystal-clear water, rocky shorelines, and sandy floors.
The lake is a popular destination for backpackers heading through longer national park stretches. The altitude in the High Sierra allows for some of the most stunning views in Yosemite.
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