As part of an ongoing series, we’ll feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. Gaylor Lakes Basin is a favorite spot of Beth Pratt, who lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the town of Midpines and often works in Yosemite. Beth is the California director of the National Wildlife Federation and works to conserve and raise awareness about California’s native wildlife. “My annual rite of spring involves a hike to one of my favorite spots in Yosemite on the day Tioga Pass opens. In some years I am hiking through snow, but my first glimpse of Gaylor Lake from the ridge, whether iced over or shimmering blue, is like greeting an old friend. The Gaylor Lake basin contains Yosemite’s greatest hits: a beautiful subalpine basin filled with shimmering blue lakes surrounded by spectacular granite peaks. You don’t have to work too hard to access it as the trail leaves from Tioga Pass and in just over a mile you’re at the first lake. This is also my favorite hike in the park for wildlife. I just named it one of the top seven spots in the country for CNN – not because of the mega-fauna, but because of the pika and frog viewing opportunities, two critters I love. The rocky slopes near Gaylor Lake make ideal pika habitat and the threatened Yosemite toad sings his annual love song here each year—a melodious trilling that can be heard throughout the basin in spring.”
The Gaylor Lake Basin, just over the ridge from the east entrance to Yosemite National Park, contains five subalpine lakes: Upper, Middle and Lower Gaylor Lakes, along with Upper and Lower Granite Lakes. The Gaylor basin’s namesake memorializes park ranger Andrew Gaylor who served in Yosemite from 1907 to 1921 and died of a heart attack while on patrol at Merced Lake. It is also home to the long abandoned Great Sierra Mine and the cabins of those who mined here – a testament to the mining history of the Sierra Nevada. The hike to the basin affords a spectacular 360 degree view of the High Sierra including Gaylor Peak, Tioga Peak, Mount Dana, Mount Gibbs, Kuna Peak, Mammoth Peak and the Cathedral Range.