Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles via John Muir Trail (Backpacking) Professional Review and Guide
"This northernmost section of the 212-mile-long John Muir Trail is perhaps the most popular trail route from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley, and justifiably so. Along it you pass relatively close by sheer, glaciated landmarks, which include Cathedral Peak, Matthes Crest, and Columbia Finger, and descend past the famous Yosemite Valley landmarks of Liberty Cap, Nevada Fall, and Vernal Fall. Most of this trip is downhill, which adds to its enjoyment. Nevertheless, there is considerable climbing, which says something of the more than considerable descent. Therefore, I recommend it be done in three days instead of two, just to save your knees. If you insist on two, then camp by Sunrise Creek in order to break your descent in half. If you take three days, then camp by Sunrise High Sierra Camp and in Little Yosemite Valley. To jazz up this already great hike, I’ve included three very rewarding side trips of variable effort. In the order you encounter them, these are Mariuolumne and Medlicott domes and Lower Cathedral Lake (extra 2 1 /2 miles distance/extra 400 feet of ascent), Moraine Dome (1/200), and Half Dome (4/1900). For the last side trip you’ll want to use a small day pack; you certainly won’t want to carry a backpack to the top of Half Dome! (Anyway, overnight camping there is no longer allowed.) Not a side trip but rather an alternate route is a descent to the Yosemite Valley floor via the Mist Trail (see Heads Up!)."