Mount Dana Trail

Inyo National Forest, California

Elevation Gain3,200ft
Trailhead Elevation9,946ft
Elevation Min/Max9929/13055ft
Elevation Start/End9946/9946ft

Mount Dana Trail

Mount Dana Trail is a hiking trail in Mono County and Tuolumne County, California. It is within Ansel Adams Wilderness, Yosemite National Park, and Inyo National Forest. It is 2.5 miles long and begins at 9,946 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 5.2 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,200 feet. The Tioga Pass saddle is near the trailhead. There are also parkings and restrooms. The trail ends near Mount Dana (elevation 13,045 feet).

Mount Dana Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"The second-highest peak in Yosemite; perched on the very eastern edge of Yosemite and the Sierra. Mount Dana is an accessible High Sierra peak of only moderate difficulty. You’ll find incredible wildflowers, in season, on this aesthetic hike largely through open, rocky terrain. Views from the summit highlight the dramatic contrasts between the mountains and the basin-and-range province of Nevada. Another reward is the optional glissading on the descent for all skill levels. Standing watch over Tioga Pass, Mount Dana is a gateway to Yosemite and the Sierra."

"Superb backcountry ski terrain makes the Tioga Pass area a favorite of many skiers in winter and spring. Due to the high elevation and ample snow depths, skiing remains good into early June. Unfortunately for winter skiers, Tioga Pass Road is not plowed until April or May, depending on the amount of snowfall accumulation during the winter."

"The walk up Mount Dana, Yosemite’s second-tallest peak, is a simultaneously rewarding and exhausting adventure. As you follow the use trail upward, the view becomes ever more expansive, providing good excuses to stop and catch your breath as you climb. But the view from the summit tops them all, as you stare down the vertical eastern escarpment to Mono Lake and north and south along the Sierra Crest. Do not take this walk if thunderstorms are forecast."

"William Brewer and Charles Hoffmann, members of the Whitney Survey, made the first ascent of Mt. Dana on June 28, 1863. Josiah Whitney accompanied Brewer for the second ascent the following day. They named the peak after James D. Dana, a professor of natural history and geology at Yale during the mid and late 1800s, declaring, “We give the name of Mount Dana to it in honor of J.D. Dana, the most eminent American Geologist.” This ascent was one of the survey’s first in the Sierra, and they speculated at the time that Mt. Dana might be the highest peak in the range. However, the view from the summit showed that Mt. Lyell was higher and that there were many tall peaks to consider to the south. They continued their surveying efforts in the southern Sierra the following year, climbing many peaks including Mt. Brewer and Mt. Tyndall. The ascent of the 1,000-foot Dana Couloir is an excellent introduction to Sierra gully ice, with about 7 pitches of moderately angled ice. This broad gully also provides a fine spring ski descent and has become something of a pilgrimage for many skiers. It is possible to ski from the top of Mt. Dana to the couloir, ski the couloir, climb onto the Dana Plateau, and ski down one of the steep couloirs above Ellery Lake."

"Dark glasses and good health are both necessary for this climb to the second highest summit in Yosemite. Only Mt. Lyell exceeds it—by about 60 feet—but the Lyell summit is distant and it requires mountaineering skills. Because Dana vies with Mt. Hoffmann as Yosemite’s most accessible peak, it is very popular, and on weekends you may find dozens of persons ascending it. Its summit views are among the Sierra’s best, but turn back if the weather looks threatening."

"The Mount Dana Trail is an unmaintained trail that begins in lovely Dana Meadows. The trail is wide, flat, and well traveled for the first half mile—an easy stroll past lakes, wildflowers, and an assortment of wildlife. When the trail reaches the base of the mountain, the climb begins. In a little more than 2 miles of climbing, you gain over 3000 feet of elevation. The way to the top is a strenuous scramble. The route passes through rocks, boulders, snow runoff, and even ice fields if you make the trek early enough in the season."

"The enormous diversity of flowers has long made the unglaciated Dana Plateau a favorite location for Yosemite’s natural history buffs, but its charm is more wide-ranging. A spring-fed trickle flows through the lower end of the slanting plateau, while its northern and eastern escarpments offer striking views of Mono Lake and Tioga Road. Giant granitic boulders dot the landscape, perfect for an afternoon nap—or marmot spotting. The generally quite good use trail becomes less distinct in a few key locations, so only choose this destination if you are comfortable with your navigation skills."

"The Third Pillar offers one of the finest alpine rock climbs anywhere and is one of the most popular backcountry routes in the Sierra. In fact, many climbers visiting the Sierra choose this as their only backcountry route. The rock is excellent, and the climbing is fun and varied. Local guide Robert “SP” Parker has climbed all over the world and believes that the Third Pillar compares to the best climbs in the Alps, the Rockies, and the Bugaboos. Sitting on a narrow belay ledge high on the route and looking past your feet nearly a thousand feet straight down the face to the talus, it’s hard to imagine a more spectacular location. Although the route is not extremely difficult, there are no easy pitches either. Also, routefinding can be an issue on the lower reaches; although as the face narrows high on the climb, there is no such problem. Each pitch is interesting, and you will use every climbing technique imaginable on the route. At the base, the route combines fine hand cracks, interesting face moves, and a nice off-width for good measure. Higher up, the climb disappears behind a huge flake before tackling thin face moves and splitter cracks on the steep upper prow."

Mount Dana Trail Reviews

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I chose this hike because it was the tallest hikeable peak in Yosemite and because the distance was shorter than some of the other hikes. I live at the 3,500ft elevation and hike frequently between 3,500 ft. and about 6,000 ft. This Hike started at over 9,000 and went up to over 13,000. The thin air kicked my butt! I'm in good shape and hike often but I had to hike and stop and hike and stop most of the way to the top. If you're not used to hiking at elevation give yourself time for this one. After about .5 mile the hike is straight up and gets steeper as you go. You may think you're at the top several times because the peak is impossible to see from the lower parts of the hike. The scenery unfolds rapidly as you go along because of the rapid elevation gain. The views are stunning, however, until you reach the peak you don't see how stunning this hike is. No matter what don't give up without making it to the top. At a hard pace it took me about 2.5 hrs to the top. The way down is much easier although i'd strongly recommend hiking poles as most of the hike is on small loose rocks. I didn't have poles and it took a lot of effort to maintain my balance on the way down. All said and done it took me about 4 hrs to do the hike and it kicked my butt! The trail gets a little hard to follow towards the top but if you follow the large rock formations that people made it's easy to follow. Also, the start of the hike is directly to the right of the entrance booth of the park as you are exiting the park. There is no sign and if you can't fine it the park employees will point it out. It's right where the employee parking lot is. Enjoy!
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Occasional weekend hiker says this is the hardest trail I've ever done. Don't let that scare you off. Others flew past me like we were on level ground. One couple said they were training for Mt Whitney. I'd estimate that about 30 people were on the trail that day. I parked outside the park at the Tioga Pass entrance and walked in. They didn't charge me. I had minor difficulty finding the start of the trail near the park entrance. From there up to the talus, the trail is very clear. Then, I lost the trail, but just went straight up. You can't get lost. The views are spectacular, on the trail and at the top. Take a sweatshirt and windbreaker. It took me 8.5 hours from start to finish. Photos at
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This is a good trail, but be is straight up a long way! Those 6 miles round trip will take anywhere from six to eight hours to complete. The last section (about 1,000 feet) has no trail. You just kind of pick your way over the rocks and shale to the summit. However, the view from the top is worth every last step! AMAZING! Hang onto your food, the Marmots love to hang out at the small summit. Also, tank up on water...the two ponds at the beginning will be your last source of water on the trail. Bring a windbreaker, it is windy and cold up top. There are a few false summits to overcome before you spot the real one, too. The view from up top goes on forever, all the way into Nevada, Mono lake, and all of Yosemite. Enjoy the view! ****Hikin' Daddy****

Mount Dana Trail Photos

Trail Information

Inyo National Forest
Nearby City
Inyo National Forest
Skill Level
Additional Use
Yosemite National Park
Local Contacts
USGS Tioga Pass, Mount Dana
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018