Mt. DanaMt Dana is one of the most accessible summits over 13,000 ft. I took the Tioga Pass Rd – Rt 120, from Mono Lake towards Yosemite National Park. Actually that is the only way (West) one can take it from I-395. It’s a short drive during which one will gain a lot of elevation. I want to say about 8,000 ft. Only feet away from the entrance booths to Yosemite National Park, on the right hand side as one drives West, there is a gravel parking area. One will be at 10,000 ft elevation at this point. Everyone that wants to hike around the Mt. Dana Meadows or to Mt. Dana summit will park here. There is no need of paying the park entrance fee. Once parked walk toward the park’s entrance gate. The trailhead is located to the left of the post that holds the gate.
The trail is very well defined. The hike to the summit will start nicely through the meadows. Once passed the meadows the brutal uphill will seem endless. The trail to the summit is 2.5 miles by official count. That means one will gain 3,000 feet elevation in two miles of hiking. By my calculations there was a mile from the parking lot to the tree line. That’s also where I started feeling the wind very badly. Looking uphill as I hiked it seems to me that the summit was just there. Little did I know that was just a ridge. Once I got to the ridge Mt. Dana reveled itself in all grander. It took me by surprise. The final accent is on rock fall, very steep. I started my hike at 1:00 PM so by the time I got to the top I meet with 19 people going down. I made it to the top in 2 hours and 10 minutes. Some of the people took as long as 4 hours to make it to the top. One guy told me he only needed 2 hours to hit the summit. On the summit I was alone but not really enjoying much. There was cold wind and a very dense haze; I could barely make out the outline of Mono Lake. The views were a little better toward Yosemite Park. Nevertheless I should say I was lucky to get this kind of weather; a couple told me the tried to hike the day before and by the time they reached the base of the summit lightning was hitting the top and they had to turn back. At least I got a windy day. When at the top I spent probably 40 minutes looking around after witch I head downhill. I was tempted to go down on the South side and walk the ridge to Mt Gibbs which was right there (the 3rd highest peak in Yosemite Park, after Mt Lyell and Mt Dana.) It was however late and I did not know where the trail from Mt Gibbs would take me to and far away I would’ve been from the car. Plus, every Monday at South Tufa at Mono Lake they have a stargazing session starting at 9:00 PM with a ranger talking about the visible stars and pointing out various constellations. Pretty cool. I did not want to miss that.Although I was happy to get another 13,000 ft under my belt, I mainly did this summit in preparation for hiking Mt Whitney 3 days later. I also hike it for my cousin Dana who only saw the mountain from Mono Lake last year but never got the chance to hike it. I’ll have to send her pictures.
There is no water along this trail. There is however a lot of wildlife such as butterflies, Blue Jays and other birds and lots of marmots. The flora is also beautiful. The altitude did not affect me since I got the altitude medication when I do over 11,000 ft hikes. That is where the altitude starts affecting me. It’s a nice, enjoyable hike. The next time I’ll do it, if ever, I’ll plan to cross from Mt. Dana to Mt Gibbs and come down that way. Good luck.