Bass Lake and Yosemite Guide
For a complete updated guide to the area — Activities, Dining, Culture, and more — please see our online resource:
Yosemite Recreation Guide.
Bass Lake is a tree-trimmed reservoir about a half-hour’s drive south of Yosemite National Park’s south entrance.
Bass Lake’s sparkling waters are surrounded by the Sierra National Forest. It’s a beautiful vacation spot year round.
Bass Lake’s elevation is almost 3,400 feet, and it’s surface water temperature is comfortably warm in summer at about around 75°F/24°C.
The lake is nearly 5 miles long.
Popular activities include water skiing, wake-boarding, and riding wave runners.
There are also sheltered coves for swimming, sailing, kayaking, and pedal boating.
Boat rentals are available on the lake.
On land, there are also plenty of trails leading into the Sierra National Forest, ready for hiking and mountain biking.
Bass Lake was made when the electric company dammed Willow Creek in 1901.
• Location — Sierra National Forest, 14 miles from Yosemite’s south gate entrance.
• Elevation — 3,369 feet
• Length — 4-5 miles
• Width — ½ mile
• Depth — 98 feet
• Shoreline — 18 miles
• Speed limit: None.
Boating & Rafting
Of course the best way to enjoy Bass Lake is to be ON it — in a boat, kayak, raft, or waverunner.
Bass Lake is known for rainbow trout, kokanee, largemouth bass, and more.
You can cast off from the beach, or drag a line from a boat… just make sure you have your license first!
(Call the Fish & Game Department at 559-658-7142.)
Hikes And Tours
At Bass Lake, there are four primary hikes to enjoy.
• Willow Creek Trail & Angel Falls
This is the primary water source for the lake, and it makes for a wonderful walk upstream, with plentiful swimming holes and waterfalls. There are nearby parking areas from North Shore Road and off of Road 274.
Be prepared: the full hike is almost three miles, and can be a steep climb at times. But it’s worth it. (But stay on the trail: some people have died leaving it. Really.)
• Goat Mountain
On the south side of Bass Lake, the Goat Mountain Trail begins in the Forks Campground, and takes you up to the lookout station. Along the way are great views of the lake.
• Spring Cove Trails
The Spring Cove Trail begins east of the Spring Cove Campground entrance, and also goes up for good look-outs.
This “Interpretive Trail” features signs along the way that highlight the history and lifestyle of the Mono tribe that once lived there. The loop trail is about a half mile long, and starts across from the Little Denver Church day use picnic area.
• Other hikes in the area include:
Lewis Creek National Recreational Trail
North past Oakhurst on Hwy 41 is a great hike to two falls: Red Rock, and Corlieu, which is 80 feet high. It’s all along the historical Sugar Pine Lumber flume route.
Nelder Grove — Shadow Of The Giants Trail
Giant sequoias await you in Nelder Grove, a peaceful and relatively undiscovered hike, located above Oakhurst, off Sky Ranch Road. There is more info here.
A geologic marvel carved by glaciers, Yosemite Valley is lined with 4,000-foot towering granite cliffs.
Yosemite Valley is world-famous for its tall waterfalls. The Merced River drops over the 594-foot Nevada Falls, and then the 317-foot Vernal Falls. (The hike up both falls is known as the Mist Trail.)
Yosemite National Park covers more than 1,100 square miles, extending to the high country and Tuolumne Meadows.
When you’re visiting Yosemite, there are more wonders of nature to see than most travelers can fit into one visit.
(Many of us who’ve lived near here for years haven’t seen half of it!)
But here are our favorite places that you just can’t miss:
Glacier Point offers the best views of Yosemite Valley that are easily accessed: you can drive almost right up to the viewing area.
From an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, you’ll overlook the full valley below, seeing Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and more.
Pass the South Gate entrance on the way into the Valley, and turn right up onto Glacier Point Road.
Hike and bike through the 2.8 mile-long Yosemite Valley to gaze at impressive waterfalls, high cliffs, unusual rock formations, sunny meadows, groves of pine and oak and sparkling rivers and lakes.
Yes, this is likely the most iconic view of Yosemite Valley. You’ll see El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall.
How do you see it? Well, if you are driving into the park from Oakhurst, you can’t miss it! The main road, Hwy 41/Wawona Road, goes through the tunnel as you head into the valley.
In the valley, Bridalveil is the first waterfall you will drive near — the parking lot for it is right off Wawona Road as you enter the valley. Get out of the car and walk right up to the base of the Falls — it’s well worth it!
This is a granite dome rising 8,800 feet above sea level.
The adventurous can climb the summit using the seasonal steel cables.
The rest of us can appreciate the sight from many vantage points throughout the valley.
Vernal Falls and the Mist Trail
Vernal is a 317-foot waterfall that gushes from the Merced River into the valley.
The Mist Trail is a mostly paved path to the base of the cascading waterfall, where you can feel the namesake mist (or get soaked by it during peak seasons).
If you’re feeling energetic, continue on up past Vernal to Nevada Falls.
While we recommend the free shuttle, the nearest parking lot is just past Curry Village.
In early Spring, you can experience the thunderous sound of Yosemite Falls throughout the Valley. The main Valley loop road takes you to the main access point to it. Enjoy an easy hike up to the base of the Falls.
Mirror Lake is a nice hike up from the Valley to the “half” side of Half Dome and the slow moving stream that runs at its base. While not as deep as in the days when it got its name, you can still peer into it from certain angles and see the rocky walls of Half Dome reflected in its mirror surface.
This monolith is known as the largest exposed slab of granite in the world. It’s especially striking when lit by the sunset, which you can best see as you head West toward the Valley exits, and it’s on your right.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
From the South Gate into Yosemite Park, turn right to drive a few miles to one of the largest groves of the largest trees in the world. (This area is undergoing serious renovation, with parking lots and some pedestrian areas being closed off for a year. Be sure to visit it next time you come to the park!)
Rafting in Yosemite
One of the best excursions around is a beautiful and relaxing cruise down the Merced River through Yosemite Valley.
The length of the Yosemite rafting season changes from year to year and depends on river depth, water temperature and climate.
Rafts can be rented at the Curry Village Recreation Center.
Hiking in Yosemite
One of our favorite ways to enjoy Yosemite is taking a hike. Some of the best hikes in the Park include:
• Yosemite Valley
• Glacier Point Road
• Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
• Tuolumne Meadows
Remember to stay on the trails. Straying off the path, even in search of a shortcut, is dangerous and illegal.