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Tuolumne Meadows to Agnew Meadows Run

Running toward Parker Pass Tuolumne Meadows California
Running Toward Parker Pass

Distance: 23-24 miles
Elevation Loss: 1500 feet
Location: Starts at Mono Pass Trailhead about 1 mile west of the Tioga Pass/Yosemite Entrance, Ends at Agnew Meadows
Time of Year: Mid June to Mid October 
Directions from Bishop: Take Highway 395 north 65 miles to Highway 120 west at Lee Vining. Turn left and after 12 miles enter Yosemite N.P at Tioga Pass. The Mono Pass Trailhead is 1 mile south of Tioga Pass on the left. 

Description: We started out at the Mono Pass Trail parking lot near Tioga Pass/East Entrance to Yosemite.  We were stoked for the day full of running and napping and eating and laughing and singing ahead.  The trail initially was pretty chill, we hiked a few steep sections knowing we had a long day ahead of us, and took our time waking out bodies up.  After 4 miles we arrived a the junction to Mono Pass - which we  decided to bypass and continue on.  (You can detour to Mono Pass and back, adding 2.4 miles onto your trip).  The next 2 miles to Parker Pass were beautiful - a wide open grassy area that was the epitomy of the mountain term "runnable".  Beautiful views and soft easy trail beneath our feet - the miles were steadily pass by.  At Parker Pass, we took our first snack break while enjoying the fact we were 6 miles in and feeling pretty good. 

Next up was Koip Pass, our highest point (at 12,270 feet) of the day.  The trail immediately after Parker Pass descends slightly on gentle rolling terrain...and then abruptly starts climbing up.  All those I had talked to assured me we would be hiking this section and that it had an endless supply of switchbacks.  Both ended up being true, but the climb up was steady and the views looking back to Tuolumne and the section we had just run were stunning.  Always nice to take a hiking break to rest some muscles while using others.  There was a deafening wind atop Koip Pass, so we quickly descended the switchbacks that took us down to Alger Lakes.  On the way we passed a lady who yelled at us "where did you come from"!!!  At one of the Alger Lakes we took another snack break, lying down in the grass, chatting about chocolate and shoes, and enjoying the solitude. 

Soon after passing the north shore of the last Alger Lake, and were asked by another incredulous passerby "where are you going!", we must have been so caught up in conversation that we classically lost the trail.  We wandered around in somewhat the right direction for a while, thought we found the trail, only to end up in a giant backcountry mule camp, and decided to just hike back uphill towards the lake.  Smart choice - we picked the correct trail back up easily enough and continued on.  There's a few small lakes/ponds you run by in the this section on the way to Gem Pass that are true little gems worthy of a shout of joy.  

The only way you know you've reached Gem Pass is when you start going downhill.  That said this next section of trail was smooth sailing and chill running down to Gem Lake.  Not long after starting the descent down from Gem Pass, we came across a small stream that we hiked up a ways to fill our camelbaks.  The water was deliciously chilled.  Once we got to Gem Lake, we continued going straight rather than going left to June Lake. We stayed straight on this trail - there are many places where the trail turns off to the left and/or right for the next few miles - key is just staying straight and looking for signs like Agnew Pass/Agnew Meadows/PCT.  It was pretty easy, and if Elsbeth and I can stay on the right trail, you probably can too:) There was some good running in the few miles after passing Gem Lake, and then it was a bit of a hot dusty grind up to Agnew Pass.  We alternately hiked/ran this section, running the flatter parts, power hiking the steep sections - and arrived at Gem Pass pretty quickly.  Summit Lake looked oh so inviting at that point, and we stripped and jumped in before I could lose my nerve/cool off at all.  Oh it was genuine bliss and gave us the cool off/rejuvenation we needed to continue on the hot exposed section of the PCT awaiting us. 

Once we got to the junction with the PCT, we were both feeling pretty good as this was the home stretch that we had both run many times.  The last time we had run this stretch was the previous fall, when we both got super overheated and were nauseous and litteraly felt like the trail was relentless uphill both ways.  So I think we had both somewhat prepared ourselves for whatever might be awaiting us.  I am happy to say the trail was lovely.  Yes it was toasty - but there are usually frequent small stream crossings that you can soak your hat and neck scarf in to cool off.   And since we came straight from Gem Pass rather than our usual from Thousand Island Lake, we didn't have a big climb just to get to the ridge that this section of the trail is on.  Thus most of, if not all, of this section of trail, the home stretch, was super runnable.  Also, the views cannot be beat from this ridge.  If it was a pretty hot day, you could always descend down and connect up the river trail to take you to Agnew Meadows, this would probably be a little cooler/shadier if you wanted a less exposed option.  The last 1-2 miles of downhill I started feeling nauseous/hot/headachy - as the heat sometimes will have me feeling.  I knew we were close to the end, and enjoyed having Elsbeth to lead us strongly at the end of the run.  She was singing and exclaiming at the beauty which kept me following in her path down the trail.  

When we got the parking lot, we both bypassed the ginger bear/potato chips waiting in my pre-shuttled car and opted to lie flat in a shady/grassy spot.  Always fun to have finished a new/awesome/fun run.  This run was memorable for how run-able most of it was. This can sometimes be a rarity - to have 20+ miles that you can run more than you have to power hike!  Besides the last 5-6 miles on the PCT coming into Agnew, this run was on completely new terrain for the both of us which was super exciting.  Always fun to explore new places.  All in all, a wonderful day.

Celebrating at Parker Pass
Celebrating at Parker Pass

Running Towards Kiop Pass
Running Up Koip Pass

Chilling on Summit Lake
Chillin' at Summit Lake
Beautiful Single Track in Yosemite
Beautiful Single Track in Yosemite
Sweet Single Track on the Pacific Crest Trail
Running Single Track on the Pacific Crest Trail
Map of Tuolumne to Agnew Run