The Gaylor Lakes Trail is not one of the better-known trails in Yosemite National Park, likely because it is so far from the valley and the heavily-trafficked western entrances to the park. But this trail is very convenient for visitors entering the east entrance at Tioga Pass, and it offers astounding scenery, a few challenging climbs, and an interesting historical site.
The parking for the trail is just past the east entrance kiosk, and if that lot is full, there is another just a tenth of a mile further on the left. The first six tenths of a mile is a steep and relentless climb to the top of Gaylor Pass. The payoff at the top is a wonderful view of Lower Gaylor Lake and the basin in which it sits. The high peaks around Tuolomne Meadows are visible to the west. The trail climbs down to the lake shore and follows the east bank and then the inlet stream to Upper Gaylor Lake. Another 15-minute climb reaches the historic and fascinating site of the Great Sierra Mine. The mine was built in 1881, and it became the largest mining operation in what would become Yosemite National Park. There are several structures made almost entirely of piled rock; some are still intact and others are nearly demolished. The views up here are stunning, and wandering around the mine site is fascinating. On the way back to Lower Gaylor Lake, there are a few other large lakes in the basin that can be reached by an easy cross-country trek.