Located near a spectacular cascade and situated on a sandy level bench, this 7,800 foot camp is located at much lower elevation than other Yosemite camps. Glen Aulin was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2014. The camp is less than 6 miles from Tuolumne Meadows and is positioned along the High Sierra Loop trail. It is situated directly next to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and the famous Waterwheel Falls. Except for a few permanent structures, all the guest cabins, bathhouse tent and dinner tent are completely disassembled before the winter snows. The camp is resupplied with food and other materials entirely by mule train. There is no electricity or cell service. Reservations are obtained by a once per year lottery system.
Glen Aulin means “beautiful valley” in Gaelic. It was first coined by a Irish topographer in 1913. The camps’ first location was immediately north of its’ present site and was chosen by the N.P.S. Naturalist Carl P. Russell in 1924. He was on an assignment to select sites for five additional hiker’s camps for the then Park’s concessionaire. The first 3 camps were constructed in 1924 but Glen Aulin had to be delayed due to uncertain travel conditions.
Finally in 1927, construction on the camp was started. Mule trains delivered equipment for guest tents and a cook tent Including 22 iron cots and two flush toilets. Total cost of construction was $900. Guests were charged a dollar a day and one dollar per meal. However, intolerable mosquito problems were encountered and the camp was force move up one valley east to its’ present site.
It is interesting to note that when Yosemite High Sierra Camps were first constructed, the tent floors were dirt and they had no showers. As demand increased, concrete foundations were added and shower tents constructed. The current Stone Cookhouse was constructed in 1934 to replace the original metal frame and canvas unit. The 20′ by 14′ structure easily blends into the rocky landscape. By 1953, most of the buildings now found at Glen Aulin had been constructed. In 1959, the visually appealing Alkai Bridge (aka Conness Bridge) was constructed, a true work of stonemasons’ art. It was damaged during high water in 2017. The Park Service recommended fording Conness Creek just upstream from the camp at it widest and slowest section until the bridge is repaired.
The camp is bordered by the Tuolumne River to the south and west. It sits at the head of the descending valley that comprises the magnificent Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. The very swimmable Alkai Creek is directly to the northwest and features a beautiful wood footbridge with approach steps constructed of native rock. As the Tuolumne River passes to the southern corner of the camp, it drops over granite boulders in a series of cascades. The largest of which forms a small waterfall known as White Cascade. The Tuolumne River has its’ own massive steel footbridge. The camp can only by accessed by one of these two footbridges. The musical sounds of White Cascade’s rushing water is heard throughout the camp. The southern side of the camp is boarded by a large granite slope. Cabins share a forest of Lodgepole pines and large granite boulders are strewn throughout the camp.
Cabins are nested against a large steeply sloping granite shoulder and near the roaring White Cascade, the major feature of the camp. A total of 8 canvas sided cabins are arranged in a single row and face west toward the sites’ campfire ring. While staying at the camp, you will be assigned sleeping quarters dormitory style. Meaning, you will sleep in the same cabin as other hikers. Each tent holds 4 campers and the maximum camps’ capacity of 32 guests fills each night. Bring your ear plugs for noisy/snoring sleep-mates. Layered clothing options are recommended.
The cabins have a steel pole frames and are constructed on 12′ X 14′ concrete platforms. Each has a wood screened door and a narrow vertical storage shelf. Beds lie on squeaky steel frames, the mattresses are older, army style cots. Only single beds are available, there are no queens or kings. No “glamping” style thick, plush mattresses here. You are required to bring your own sheets or sleeping shell. However, blankets and pillows are provided. Despite this, campers are generally comfortable and thankful just to have a spot at a Yosemite High Sierra Camp.
Nights can be very cold but a wood stove is provided in each tent with fuel to burn. Glen Aulin was the very last Yosemite Camp to receive warming stone and they were here installed in 1980. Please be aware that If the heater is fired all night, some visitors complain of coughing the next day. Better to use it in the early morning when it is coldest anyway. You will find steel bear boxes throughout the camp to store your food. This is bear country!
FOOD AND DRINK
Meals are provided in a large canvas sided eating tent, one corner of which is built around a large granite outcrop. Food is served family style and although plentiful and well made, it is cooked by a seasonal worker, not a gourmet trained chef. Fresh salads and homemade desserts are served. The presentation and menus can be very basic. Most find the meals taste better than they really are as a hard days hike gives hikers a good appetite.
Breakfast is the traditionally hot cooked affair and lunch sandwiches are available for purchase. Fresh food and all supplies are stocked via mule train. Alcohol is not sold but you are allowed to bring your own it. Alternately, you could arrange to have it packed it with the wranglers pack train for $5.00 per bottle. This option would obviously require significantly advanced request. The Stone Cookhouse is a simple building but exhibits a lot of character with it’s thick, native granite fieldstone walls. Built in in 1935, most Yosemite High Sierra Cookhouses where constructed in that years and replaced the old canvas tent structures.
DAY HIKING OPTIONS
This camp is ideally located for day hikes to the amazing waterfalls of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. However, this out and vack hike with require a full day. As you depart the camp, you drop down into the actual valley of Glen Aulin where the original High sierra Camp was located. At the end of the valley you arrive at California Falls and farther away down the canyon, Le Conte Falls. Finally, the very famous Waterwheel Falls is found just before the final step descent down the valley floor of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Keep in mind that the trail is all downhill but you will be required to regain all the lost elevation to return to camp. Another possibility, albeit much shorter is the nearby McGee Lake. It can be accessed via a level trail. Pluto Dome is a nice cross country day hike using an unmaintained trail.
SHOWERS AND TOILETS
This is one of the few camps to have flush toilets. The Comfort Station was built in 1990 and replaces two previous structures on the same spot. The toilet system operates by means of a leech line and a septic tank installed in 1980. A sewer mound is located 200 feet northeast of camp. As environmental concerns continue to evolve, there is little doubt that this camp will be forced to install a composting toilet system. Other High Sierra Camps at higher elevations have already converted to composting. The Comfort Station where the toilets are located has native granite stone sides and each end is weathered wood. The tent bath house is still standing but showers are only available for employees. To repeat, there are no showers for guests at Glen Aulin.
ENTERTAINMENT AND TRADITIONS
Each camp is allowed to calls guests to dinner and a unique fashion. At Glen Aulin, they use a xxx. Swimming in the many nearby pools should be definitely on your list. The social focus center is the campfire ring and NPS Rangers often give evening talks.
BOOKING YOUR STAY
At the time you make reservations, you choose between waking in or a saddle ride, meaning a mule and donning a protection helmet. The saddle option can be uncomfortable for many due to discomfort to the legs and buttocks. If you have ever been “saddle sore” than you know how uncomfortable this can be. This is definitely a cast of “pick your poison” when deciding if you want to walk long distances versus riding a mule for long distances. It is a very individual choice. Reservations are made through a yearly lottery and fills fast. However, some campers have good luck with last minute cancellations, if you have that type of flexible schedule. See our Reservations page for more information and helpful hints.
The camp is located 5.8 mile from the Tuolumne Meadows at the Dog Lake/Lambert Dome trailhead at an elevation of 8,500. The first half of the trail is very level and somewhat easy. You walk on soft and sandy surface and carefully dodge the many horse droppings. Views of beautiful granite domes surround you. As you pass a large unnamed meadow, the trail becomes more rocky and you are forced to slow down as you carefully descend to camp next to a series of cascades. The trail drops a total of 600 feet before arriving at camp. Because the trail is the gateway to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, it sees a lot of traffic. Keep in mind that you are starting the hike at a very high elevation and it is recommended to acclimate for a day in Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne Meadows.