12 Most Gorgeous Lakes In Yosemite, USA

lakes in yosemite
Kaycie Gayle
Kaycie Gayle 
| 4 min read

Yosemite is known to be the home of one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. It is also popular for its moonbow during spring and early summer. Its wildlife ranges from amphibians and reptiles to birds, mammals, and aquatic species. A view of the lakes, granite peaks, meadows, flora, and three separate falls are the natural gems that entice visitors to explore Yosemite. A lot of outdoor recreational activities are also available within the national park. Plenty of trails will lead you to different lakes and natural sights, making it a place of delight, especially for nature lovers. There are hotels near Yosemite National Park for easy access to the nearby attractions. If you are not fond of hotels, you can book a luxury cabin in Yosemite for a comfortable stay. While Yosemite has around 2,000 lakes, you can check out the most gorgeous lakes in Yosemite, USA, from our list below.

1. Lukens Lake

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Nestled at a lofty elevation of 8,200 feet within Yosemite’s pristine wilderness, Lukens Lake may be small, but its unique charm beckons hikers to explore its hidden treasures. While Lukens Lake may not boast the towering mountain vistas typically associated with Sierra lakes, it compensates with an exquisite meadow at its eastern edge. During the wildflower season, which typically graces the area from mid-June to mid-July, the meadow transforms into a vibrant canvas adorned with corn lilies, painting the landscape in shades of pink and purple.

With mild elevation gains and a moderate crowd factor, Lukens Lake offers a tranquil escape, perfect for those seeking a pristine natural setting. The short route accessible from Tioga Road captivates with a dramatic entrance from the dark woods into the meadow, providing an awe-inspiring transition and ensuring that every step is a visual delight.

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2. Ten Lakes

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Amidst the pristine wilderness of Yosemite National Park, the Ten Lakes Trail offers a captivating adventure that beckons to both nature enthusiasts and intrepid hikers. This 13-mile round trip trek, with a trailhead elevation of 7,520 feet and a peak elevation of 9,640 feet, promises a gradual ascent through dense forests and a breathtaking meadow before culminating in panoramic vistas overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

As you explore, you’ll encounter not just one or two, but an astounding ten lakes, including the two accessible Grant Lakes. The official trails hug the shores of four lakes closely, but those who dare to wander further will discover a remote paradise surrounded by rugged beauty. Be prepared for a moderate to strenuous hike, which includes some steep sections and rocky descents.

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3. Tenaya Lake

Poly Dome Crowns Tenaya Lake, Yosemite 10-18 (44459526590)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Don Graham used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you are looking for a swimming spot in Yosemite that is easily accessible, then visit Tenaya Lake. It features a lake with views of granite peaks, and promontories. It is typically not crowded and allows you to enjoy activities like swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, and boating. Hiking, walking, and bird watching are also possible activities from this lake. Some of the short and easy hiking trails in Yosemite suited for all skill levels are available here. If you are staying for the night, you can find some vacation rentals nearby.

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4. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Hetch Hetchy May 2011 001
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user King of Hearts used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is known as having the longest hiking season in Yosemite Park. It offers views of lakes, granite walls, canyons, vast wilderness, and wildflowers. Some of the interesting spots to see here are the Smith Peak, Wapama Falls, Poopenaut Trail, and O’Shaughnessy Dam. This lake is less popular compared to other lakes, thus making it less crowded and perfect for those who want to be at one with nature and enjoy a quieter spot.

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5. Mirror Lake

Yosemite national park mirror lake 2010u
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user chensiyuan used under CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the best lakes in Yosemite is Mirror Lake which sits at the base of Bald Mountain. It offers a view of a lake surrounded by cliffs. It is open only to non-motorized boating and is perfect for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. It has an easy-to-moderate trail that is open year-round. Along its trail, you can see educational displays of local flora and fauna. The lake’s spacious campground is nestled in the forest with a view of wildflowers. Other activities you can enjoy here include hiking, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.

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6. Cathedral Lakes

Cathedral Lakes Trek 21 (4245566895)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ronnie Macdonald used under CC BY 2.0

Cathedral Lakes has two lakes on one trail, the lower Cathedral Lake and the upper Cathedral Lake. Tuolumne Meadows is the trailhead to explore the lakes. Hikers typically rest on the granite banks and enjoy the water views of the lower Cathedral Lake before heading to the upper Cathedral Lake. Both of the lakes have shoreline with campsites that are ideal for resting. Animals that can be seen along the way include bears, ducks, and deer.

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7. Young Lakes

Young Lakes Sunset
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jasonseannn used under CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the best fishing spots in Yosemite is Young Lakes. It has three lakes — the lower lake, the middle, and the upper lake. Two trails are available to reach the lower young lakes, while the middle and upper are accessible through the lesser trail. Sights to be seen here are vast alpine meadows and granite peaks, including Sheep Peak, North Peak, and Mt Conness. Tents are mostly placed at the lower lake, while the middle and upper lakes are well suited for those who want to camp with some privacy. Also, the middle lake is known to be ideal for fishing, and the upper lakes give you an elevated scenic view. Other activities to partake in while in this region include peak climbing, hiking, and photography.

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8. Dog Lake

Dog Lake, Yosemite
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Supercarwaar used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Dog lake gets its name from a sheepdog that was spotted by Robert Marshall of the US Geological Survey when he visited the lake. Views to enjoy here are lakes surrounded by evergreens, granite mountains, and meadow strips. Only a short hike on an easy trail is required to reach this less crowded lake. Other trails are also available, should you want to explore the vicinity further.

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9. Lake Eleanor

Lake eleanor, ca
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Diablanco used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Lake Eleanor in Yosemite is the largest natural lake in the area. To reach the lake, you would need to take a long hike on an easy trail. A popular activity here is fishing from a canoe and from the shore. Black bears, eagles, deers, and wildflowers can be spotted here. Campsites are also available near the lake. Lake Eleanor is suited for those who like to enjoy the peace and quiet while being surrounded by nature.

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10. Gaylor Lakes

Melting Gaylor Lake
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wing-chi Poon used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Gaylor Lakes has two lakes - the upper Gaylor lake and the lower Gaylor lake. You can reach the lower Gaylor lake via a short but moderately difficult hike. From there, you can ascend to the upper Gaylor lake. After exploring the Gaylor lakes, you can go above the upper Gaylor lake to see the abandoned 19th-century mine. Also, you can go further north to see Granite Lakes.

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11. Ostrander Lake

Ostrander Lake Cabin
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nicwool used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Ostrander Lake is a granite mountain lake with abundant wildflowers. Its trailhead is Ostrander Lake Parking Area and would approximately take about five to eight hours to reach the mountain lake. Although a long hike is needed to reach the lake, you’ll pass and enjoy the views of meadows, and streams along the way. You can also indulge in a range of outdoor activities here, including horseback riding, hiking, and photography. Ostrander lake is popular among backpackers who like to enjoy nature without the tourist crowds.

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12. May Lake (from USD 155.0)

May Lake Yosemite
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Staci L. used under CC BY 2.0

Spend a day exploring May Lake, which is known for having an easy short hike. Exploring the lake can be easily done in a day. The lake can be reached through a one-mile hike from Tioga Pass. During the hike, views of the surrounding mountains and the Half Dome can be seen. Its lake camp offers opportunities for relaxation and fishing. After exploring May Lake, you may opt to hike Mt. Hoffman or Clouds Rest mountain, or visit Lembert Dome rock formation, and Glen Aulin camp.

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Saturday | Yosemite’s High Country Hike & Swim Group Adventure

Duration: 6 hours

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Outdoor adventure in Yosemite

Yosemite is home to a plethora of lakes, rock formations, forests, and waterfalls. Choose from the lakes above and indulge in activities along its shores and on its water. From swimming and fishing to boating, kayaking, and waterfall hiking, Yosemite has so much to offer. All in all, this place is a nature and adventure lover’s paradise, and the best way to enjoy this more will be to enjoy a stay at a pet-friendly cabin in Yosemite with your fur pal.

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Frequently asked questions about most gorgeous lakes in Yosemite, USA

  • Which lakes in Yosemite have hiking trails around them?

    Yosemite National Park boasts several picturesque lakes with hiking trails around them, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the park’s stunning natural beauty. Some of the notable lakes in Yosemite with hiking trails include Lukens Lake, Ten Lakes, Tenaya Lake and Gaylor Lake.

  • Which lakes in Yosemite are ideal for fishing enthusiasts?

    Yosemite National Park offers a variety of lakes that are ideal for fishing enthusiasts, providing opportunities to catch a range of trout species and enjoy the tranquility of the park’s pristine waters. Some of the lakes popular among fishing enthusiasts in Yosemite include Tenaya Lake and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Kaycie is a content writer that specializes in the travel industry. She writes regular blogs and articles for various websites. She is into local tourism and slow travel.

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