Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows

Along California Highway 120, a two-hour drive along some of the nation’s most scenic byways sneaks through the center of Yosemite National Park. Open only through early June to mid-November, much of the route is above 8,000 feet, often holding on to snow all year long. Tioga Pass, at the east entrance to Yosemite, stretches up even further, reaching to 9,945 feet.

The route is the only one over the mountains of California for more than 200 miles. Beginning at the west entrance near Crane Flat Campground on Big Oak Flat Road, the drive passes the Merced and Tuolumne sequoia groves. A mile hike into the forest on an old vehicle track leads to 25 mature trees at Tuolumne, giving a preview of the bigger groves located in other sections of the park.

Tuolumne Meadows houses a significant summer community, including a lodge, campground, log cabins, gas station, ranger station, visitor center, shops, and a restaurant, many of which lock the doors a month or so before the road actually closes in the fall. Trails leading to Lembert Dome, to Dog, Elizabeth and Cathedral Lakes, and to Tuolumne Falls reach out from the small cluster of buildings. Several of the domes in the area support short to medium climbing routes, making this a popular pre-climb camping spot. The park runs a summer shuttle between the Meadows, Olmstead Point and Tioga Pass, stopping along the way at trailheads and other points of interest, May to mid-September, to accommodate Tuolumne Meadows hikers and climbers.

Canvas tent cabins with private baths are available at the White Wolf Lodge and the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. The High Sierra Camps link five camps separated by a day’s ride on horseback, or day’s hike on foot. Tents and small RV campgrounds with no reservations are located at Tamarack Flat, White Wolf, Yosemite Creek, and Porcupine Flat campgrounds. Tuolumne Meadows Campground’s 50 percent reserved spaces leave the remaining 50 percent available to those without reservations. The only winter use Tuolumne supports finds cross country skiers trekking to a lovely stone and log cabin over snow covered ascents.

Drenched in spring and summer wildflowers, Tuolumne stretches up its massive meadows to the glacial peaks of the High Sierra, creating beautiful vistas across the grassland studded with domes. Whatever the mode of transport, the view makes a stunning impression on every visitor, every day, year after year. It is definitely a drive worth taking, and a most memorable outing while visiting Yosemite National Park.…READ MORE