Trip Report – Glen Aulin June 2013

Another group went on the Glen Aulin/Waterwheel Falls backpacking trip described here.

Total distance: 18.2 miles (In and out)
Elevation changes: +/- 2000 feet (approx.)
Entry Trailhead: Glen Aulin
Exit Trailhead: Glen Aulin
Dates: 6-28-2013 to 6-29-2013

For the second time a crew from Gracepoint Davis tackled this particular trail, we went in very excited and determined to test a lot of the new equipment that we had managed to procure for our first summer with several backpacking trips planned. We also started quite late. We arrived at the trail head after 4 in the afternoon, and were quite surprised to learn that there was no camping allowed along the actual trail. This of course meant that we had to cover 5.3 miles or so before sundown. Or at least try. With this in mind, we started out from the Soda Springs parking lot at a strong pace.


Starting our hike, we went along the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows until we found our trail to Glen Aulin. This photo came from shortly after we  started our hike, and shows just how late it was when we started


We traveled through somewhat wooded  county as we went along the first part of the hike, where our late start  afforded us some spectacular views of sunset coming through the trees


The trail crosses two streams, so some dampness may be acquired along this hike. This isn’t one of the crossing points, but this stream ran parallel to the trail for a long while before the trail crossed over


We’d been warned that, while usually easy to follow, the trail seemed to disappear when it came to a small granite shelf. Here it angled north for a short bit, and you had to actually find the stone steps as it descended from the shelf toward the valley. The granite shelf presents a great view of the valley, and affords people the opportunity to take a picture with a spectacular sunset in the background.


The hidden steps


The trail also goes over a couple of bridges. This is the view from one of the bridges right at sunset. We ended up having to hike for a little while with flashlights, and fortunately the trail is pretty clear with flashlights


Our campsite the next morning. We didn’t quite make it off the Glen Aulin trail, so we ended up camping near White Cascades


Which afforded us this view in the morning


Our marmot visitor


We managed to hit the trail again a little after 10, after ditching most of our heavy gear near the campsite and hiding it in a small copse. Whereas most of the hike the day before had been up and down through rolling countryside, we now began our descent into the well named Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. One of our first sights was White Cascades, a gorgeous waterfall. If you love waterfalls high in the mountains, this is the trip for you


Our first major break to refill our water and eat some snacks was at these cascades, about an hour after we started the hike


The trail follows this river very closely. This is just after the cascades, standing on some switchbacks that lead down to the beach. The section after the switchbacks, following the river down there, is probably the most gentle part of the trail. It’s fairly flat until California falls, crossing right through a beautiful riparian ecosystem with plenty of opportunities to walk in the shade



We made it to Waterwheel falls in the early afternoon, and it proved an excellent spot for lunch and a break before ascending back out of the valley. The view is spectacular, and the Waterwheel that gives this fall its name was very impressive. So impressive that some of our hikers actually took a nap


This is another aspect of the waterfall that we all really loved. The water climbs up this outcrop and sprays outward


Some of us felt that our time could be better spent than simply napping


We managed to actually hike all the way from Waterwheel falls to the Soda Springs parking lot, setting off at 2 in the afternoon and leaving the trail head around 8 in the evening. Impressive for a crew of mostly inexperienced backpackers. The strenuous pace and fairly rough terrain required a few short rests on the way up, but we still managed to retrieve our gear around 4:30 and take a rest near our campsite until about 5. We took this shot when we got back to Tuolumne Meadows, much more tired than when we started the day before.


Our backpack trip concluded with a glorious sunset painting these clouds and many of the granite formations in the Meadows with beautiful reds and pinks.

Concluding notes:


Make sure to have plenty of water carrying containers with you. One thing that I think really hurt us was that most of the guys didn’t have very many bottles with them, and one of us only had a 16 fluid ounce Aquafina bottle with him. We were particularly fortunate to have a Katadyn Hiker Water Filter with us and a lot of places along the river to pick up water.


Carry plenty of bear canisters to hold your food and smellables in. Somehow we couldn’t fit everything in what we brought, and so had to hope that we wouldn’t get visited. Surprisingly, our only visitor was a marmot that didn’t bother to come too close to our campsite. We were particularly lucky on this one.

Photo and words by Jacob H.


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