Gaylor Peak lies at the headwaters of the Tuolumne River and Lee Vining Creek, straddling the Yosemite National Park and Inyo National Forest border no more than half a mile north of Tioga Pass. While rather modest in elevation by the standard of the high peaks to its south (Mt. Dana
, Mt. Gibbs, and others), it is a popular ascent. The reasons for this are likely twofold: It's no more than an easy twenty or thirty minute stroll from Tioga Pass, and for this minimal effort, the hiker is rewarded with excellent views over Lee Vining Canyon, to Mt. Dana
and the Kuna Crest to the east/southeast, as well as the Cathedral Range to the southwest. As a bonus, continuing around Gaylor and Granite Lakes, an easy and popular cross-country route, reveals extensive mining ruins (the former community of the Great Sierra Mine), some still remarkably well preserved.
The usual route follows the signed Gaylor Lakes trail from Tioga Pass to a saddle south of the peak, from which an obvious, well-trodden use trail (all class 1) heads up to the summit.
The peak is located north of Tioga Pass. Trailhead parking is found just west of the pass on the north side of the road, signed for Gaylor Lakes.
Permits are not required for day hikes, but a wilderness permit is required for overnight visits within the Yosemite or Hoover Wildernesses. For entry via Yosemite trailheads, including the usual Gaylor Lakes approach described above, this can be obtained from any ranger station in the park. The nearest location is the permit building just east of the Tuolumne Meadows
campground. It is just off the road that leads to the Tuolumne Lodge, on the right hand side. For entry via Hoover Wilderness trailheads, permits may be obtained from the Lee Vining Forest Service visitor center, located on Hwy 395 a couple of miles north of Lee Vining; additional information is available on the Inyo National Forest
Note that camping is technically illegal within a mile of Tioga Road, and within four miles of any trailhead. This includes the entire Gaylor and Granite Lakes area. As a result, given the summit's close proximity both to the road and to the popular Tioga Pass area, it is almost always climbed as a day hike.
When To Climb
Due to the winter closure of Tioga Road, Gaylor Peak is most commonly climbed when the road is open, i.e. between May and November in normal snow years.
The closest legal camping can be found outside the park in several Forest Service campgrounds along Highway 120; these include Tioga Lake, Ellery Lake, and half a dozen others. Further information can be found on the Inyo National Forest
Inside the park, the closest legal camping is found in the Tuolumne Meadows
campgrounds, located roughly six miles to the west on the south side of Tioga Road.
Current conditions can be found on the NPS page
"Andrew J. Gaylor, born in Texas in 1856; a packer with the US Cavalry in his youth; Yosemite National Park ranger, 1907-21. He died of a heart attack at the Merced Lake ranger station while on patrol, 1921. (Bingaman, Guardians
, 13, 85.) The name was first given to the lakes. It was later extended to the peak, as suggested by David Brower, and verified by Walter A. Starr, Sr. as being in common use. (USGS.)
At the time of the Tioga mining boom the peak and the entire ridge north and south of it were known as 'Tioga Hill.' (Homer Mining Index
Oct. 1, 1881; Jan. 28, 1882.)"
- Peter Browning, Yosemite Place Names