For smaller crowds along the trails, take one or more of the many scenic hikes along Tioga Pass . However, be aware that they don’t call it “the high country” for nothing; the altitude here starts at 8,500 feet and goes up on many trails. If you’re not in great shape, or if you have breathing problems, take the altitude into account when deciding which trails to explore.
A great place to start your high country exploration, the loop trail to Tenaya Lake (Tioga Pass 20 miles west of the park’s east entrance, right along the main road) offers an easy walk, sunny beaches, and possibly the most picturesque views in all of Yosemite. 
The trail around the lake runs about 2.5 miles, and the only difficult part is fording the outlet stream at the west end of the lake, since the water gets chilly and can be high in the spring and early summer. If the rest of your group is sick of hiking and scenery, you can leave them on the beach while you take this easy one- to two-hour stroll. Just remember the mosquito repellant!
If you’re aching to see some giant trees, but you were put off by the parking problems at Mariposa Grove , try the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias (park and find the trailhead at the junction of Tioga Pass Rd. and Old Big Oak Flat Rd.). This 2.5-mile round-trip hike takes you down about 400 feet into the grove, which contains more than 20 mature giant sequoias. (You do have to climb back up the hill to get to your car.) While you’ll likely see other visitors, the smaller crowds make this grove an attractive alternative to Mariposa, especially in the high season.
For non-athletes who just want a short walk to an amazing view, Olmstead Point (Tioga Pass 1–2 miles west of Tenaya Lake) may be the perfect destination. Only half a mile round-trip from the parking lot to the point, this trail exists to show off Clouds Rest in all its often-underrated grandeur. Half Dome  peeks out behind Clouds Rest, and right at the trail parking lot a number of large glacial errata boulders draw almost as many tourists as the point itself.
Hikers willing to tackle somewhat longer, steeper treks will find an amazing array of small scenic lakes within reach of Tioga Pass . Gaylor Lakes (trailhead at the Yosemite Park border, Tioga Pass Rd.) starts high (almost 10,000 feet) and climbs a steep 600 feet up the pass to the Gaylor Lakes valley.
Once you’re in the valley, you can wander at will around the five lovely lakes, stopping to admire the views out to the mountains surrounding Tuolumne Meadows  or visiting the abandoned 1870s mine site above Upper Gaylor Lake. The total hike spans about three miles if you don’t wander around the valley. Crowd-haters will enjoy this trek, which is one of Yosemite’s  less crowded scenic hikes.
May Lake (one mile southwest of Tenaya Lake, Tioga Pass Rd.) sits peacefully at the base of the sloping granite of Mount Hoffman. While the hike to and from May Lake is only 2.5 miles, there’s a steady, steep 500-foot climb from the trailhead up to the lake. One of Yosemite’s High Sierra camps perches here, which makes this hike popular with the sorts of visitors who enjoy the much-less-known high-country areas. For truly hardcore hikers, a trail leads from the lake up another 2,000 feet (and six miles round-trip) to the top of Mount Hoffman.
The trail to Elizabeth Lake (trailhead at Tuolumne Gas Station and John Muir Trail) begins at Tuolumne Meadows  and climbs almost 1,000 feet up to the lake, with most of the climb during the first mile of the 4.5-mile round-trip. Evergreens ring the lake and steep granite Unicorn Peak rises high above it. This stunning little lake makes a perfect photo op that your friends won’t necessarily recognize as being Yosemite.
If altitude doesn’t bother you and your legs are strong, Tioga Pass  offers some stunning hikes good for a full day of hiking (or longer, if that’s your thing).
For a different look at a classic Yosemite landmark, take the North Dome trail through the woods and out to the dome, which sits right across the valley from Half Dome . You’ll hike almost nine miles round-trip, with a few hills thrown in, but getting to stare right at the face of Half Dome (and check out Cloud’s Rest just beyond) at what feels like eye-level makes the effort worth it.
If you can’t get enough of Yosemite’s granite-framed alpine lakes, take the long walk out to one or both of the Cathedral Lakes (trailhead at Tuolumne Meadows visitors center, part of the John Muir Trail). Starting at ever-popular Tuolumne Meadows , you’ll climb about 800 feet over 3–4 miles (depending on which lake you choose). These picture-perfect lakes show off the dramatic rocky peaks above, surrounding evergreens, and crystalline waters of Yosemite to their best advantage. Be sure to bring your camera, water, and munchies!
The Glen Aulin Trail (trailhead at Tuolumne Stables) to Tuolumne Fall and White Cascade is part of the John Muir trail, and several of its forks branch off to pretty little lakes and other nice spots in the area. From Tuolumne Meadows  to Tuolumne Fall and back is 13 miles round trip, with some steep and rocky areas in the trail. But if you’ve got the lungs for it, you’ll be rewarded by the fabulous views of the Tuolumne River alternately pooling and cascading right beside the trail.
This hike may get a bit crowded in the high season. In the hot summertime, many hikers trade dusty jeans for swimsuits and cool off in the pools at the base of both White Cascade and Tuolumne Fall. A great way to do this hike is to enter the High Sierra Camp lottery and, if you win, arrange to stay the night at the Glen Aulin camp. If you do this, you can take your hike a few miles farther, downstream to California Fall, Le Conte Fall, and finally Waterwheel Fall.