Panorama from the summit of Donahue, looking toward Lyell and McClure(right) and Banner and Ritter(left).
Donohue Peak lies on along the Eastern boarder of Yosemite National Park. While the peak is often overshadowed by its much taller neighbors, Lyell and McClure, the views from the summit alone are worth the effort. To the South Banner, Ritter and Davis are fully visible, to the SW one has a spectacular view of Lyell, McClure and there glaciers. The views don't stop there, continuing North into the Tuolumne River valley, NE to Kuna, Koip, and Parker Peaks, and East toward June Lake. The views alone are a reason to climb this peak.
The easiest approaches to the peak are an 11 mile trek up the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River or up from Silver Lake to Donohue Pass. From Donohue Pass one can climb the peak either via the class 2 SW Ridge or traverse around to the sandy class 1 NW slope. Since this peak sits very close to a major Sierra thorough fair it receives a number of visitors a year, though it is not uncommon to find yourself all alone atop the peak, even though there are crowds at the Pass.
Donahue Peak as seen from the pass.
Donahue Peak, Unnamed Peak, and the Koip Crest from Lower Davis Lake
The peak can be approached via two major trail heads. The most common is from Tuolumne Meadows off Highway 120. To reach the Yosemite High Country take Highway 120 East from the Groveland area or West from Lee Vining and park near the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in the hiker parking area. From the parking lot head South up the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne, which is a wide, flat, winding river. The first 8 miles are very flat, and you gain minimal elevation, but near the end of the canyon this all changes as you climb abruptly toward Donohue Pass.
Another approach to Donohue Pass begins at Silver Lake on the East side of the Sierras, near June Lake. For this approach take Highway 395 toward June Lake, turning onto Highway 158(June Lake Loop) and following that until reaching the North end of Silver Lake, where the Rush Creek trail begins near the West side of the road. From here hike up steadily uphill past Agnes Lake, Gem Lake, and Waugh Lake toward Donohue Pass. Route #2 requires more climbing, though the crowds on this variation will be much smaller.
Both climbs require an overnight wilderness permit. When leaving Tuolumne Meadows one needs a permit from Yosemite National Park, which can be obtained at the Ranger Station in Tuolumne(trail heads can fill fast on summer weekends). There is also a National Park Entry fee for each car driving into Yosemite National Park
. For the Rush Creek trail head
there is no entry fee, though a standard issue wilderness permit is required for overnight trips.
When To Climb
Normal climbing season is between May and October, with snow lingering during the spring and fall near the pass and above. Donohue Pass holds snow late into the season, especially on the Southeast side. Water usually available on top of the pass at several small lakes. Winter climbs are possible, though snow shoes and skis would be necessary on the multi-day approach to the peak.
There is a large campground at Tuolumne Meadows, which is usually crowded during the summer. For those preparing to leave on a back country trip there is also a designated backpacker camping area in Tuolumne. This area is hidden in the back of the main campground and is reserved for those holding upcoming wilderness permits, allowing them one nights stay. There are also campsites at Silver Lake near the Eastern approach.
Check with Yosemite National Park and the Inyo National Forest for road and weather information(sites linked above).