Rating:
Area: Yosemite
Distance: 5 miles
Type: Out & back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation gain: 3,200ft (from 9,900 - 13,053ft)

You won't find the Mt. Dana Summit Trail on your National Park Service map and you're unlikely to find it in your hiking guidebook either. What you will find on this trail however, is a challenging trip up the second highest peak in Yosemite National Park which rewards with some of the best panoramic views you'll experience anywhere.

Located at the eastern entrance to Yosemite, the staff at the Tioga Pass ranger station will be happy to point out the unmarked trailhead for you. The trail quickly transports you away from the RV traffic of Route 120 and into an evergren forest hiding lakes and wildflowers. After half a mile the trees thin out to nothing, so be sure to check the weather forecast with rangers before you set out, as it's just you and the elements all the way to the top.

The well defined trail gets you close to the peak before branching off in many directions. At this point you'll have the summit in your sights so you can take your pick of trails as you navigate your way upward. Expect your trail to disappear beneath the small boulders from time to time, forcing you to scramble your way up. Views on the way up are spectacular, but until you reach the summit you haven't seen the half of it!

Tackling three thousand feet in under three miles might seem like a daunting challenge, particularly compounded with the extreme elevation, but if you're acclimatized to the atmosphere and if you progress at a steady pace that you're comfortable with, you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Tangents:
- Trailspotting Images: Mt Dana on Flickr
- National Park Service: Yosemite National Park
- Summitpost.org: Mt. Dana

Hiking Yosemite National Park by Suzanne Swedo
California Hiking by Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown