Hiking Mt Tolkien (Echo Peaks) in Yosemite

Notes by piero scaruffi | See Travel resources | See Other Yosemite destinations

Mt Tolkien (3404m) is the name we gave to the unnamed highest peak of the several Echo Peaks in Yosemite. It can be reached from Tuolumne Meadows going south or from Tenaya Lake from the west. Below i describe both routes as a one-way hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Tenaya Lake via Cathedral Lakes and Sunrise Lakes. It requires leaving one car at Tenaya Lake (either at the Sunrise trailhead or at the picnic area of the northeastern tip of the lake).

The hike starts at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead near the visitor center of Tuolumne Meadows. This trail climbs up quickly to the lower lake (which requires a 1km detour) and then to the second lake (that is much closer to the trail). It then starts going downhill. This pass (Cathedral Pass) is a good place to leave the trail and start climbing east towards the very visible Echo Peaks, which are just south of the very popular (but lower) Cathedral Peak. head for the left ridge that can be easily climbed to a saddle. From the saddle there is only one peak that can be climbed easily. It is not the highest but it has a nice western view and it is a really short scramble. If you descend the saddle and keep going down you will reach Echo Lake. If you descend the saddle and turn left (avoid the steep granite slabs, of course), you get to another saddle, from which you can summit the much higher Mt Tolkien. This same mountain can be reached directly from the north (from the Cathedral Lakes) as well as from the south (from Echo Lake). This is the highest point around, from which you have perfect views of Cathedral Peak (north), Unicorn Peak (northeast), Cockscomb (east) and Matthes Ridge (south).

Descend to Echo Lake by simply following the drainage and then coast the lake to the west (left). If you stay a bit higher than the creek, eventually you will hit the trail that comes up from Lake Merced. Climb that trail to the pass and then down to the John Muir Trail. Turn left into the JMT for a short section until you reach the vast meadows of the High Sierra Camp (HSC). Turn right at the junction and you'll be climbing again. After this pass you descend towards the first and second Sunrise Lake. Eventually you hit the Sunrise trail that goes to Tenaya Lake (north) and Clouds Rest (south). Go north (right) and you descend quickly to Tenaya Lake. Just before the lake there is another junction: now you have to remember where you parked your second car. If you parked it at the Sunrise trailhead, go straight; if you parked it at the picnic area at the northeastern corner, go right.

  • Tuolumne Meadows
  • Turnoff for lower Cathedral Lake 6kms 2h
  • Upper Cathedral Lake 8kms 2h45'
  • Echo Peaks 10kms 4h30'
  • Mt Tolkien 12kms 5h30'
  • Echo Lake 15kms 6h30'
  • Merced Lake trail 17kms 7h15'
  • JMT 20kms 8h15'
  • High Sierra Camp 21kms 8h30'
  • Last pass 23kms 9h
  • Upper Sunrise Lake 24kms 9h15'
  • Clouds Rest trail 25kms 9h30'
  • Tenaya Lake 30kms 10h30'