Central California - May/June 2009

Yosemite National Park - Tioga Pass Road 1


The route of Tioga Pass Road thru the High Sierras.


The elevation profile along Tioga Pass Road


The 58mi long Tioga Pass Road was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. And at some points it was one of the scariest drives I have made.

When I was planning this trip in March, I was unsure whether or not Tioga Pass Road would be open. Depending on the amount of winter snowfall, the road is opened sometime between early April and early July! After running the published opening dates between 1933 and 2008 I figured I had a 4 out of 5 chance (80%) that the road would be open in early June. Turns out the road opened about 2 weeks before I left. But this was no guarantee it would be open while I was there. A heavy snowfall in the mountains could easily close the road for a couple of days. It turns out that the next pass north (Senora Pass), while lower in elevation, was closed due to recent heavy snows for a few days while I was there.

The western end (elev ~6200ft) starts as a narrow winding tree lined road. Many of the curves have trees on one side and a rock wall on the other. There are no shoulders, and only the occasional turn-out or rest stop. Some drivers take this road a little fast (>50mph), and sometimes it gets a little claustrophobic when you squeeze by an RV going in the opposite direction (especially with the big rental SUV). There are a couple of ponds and small streams along the way, but pretty much all you see are trees and road.




Olmsted Point

After ~40min or so, you leave the Alpine forest and begin to see the granite peaks of the High Sierras. A little further and you reach Olmsted Point (elev ~8500ft). From there you have beautiful vistas back towards Yosemite Valley and forward towards the high peaks. As you proceed east, you drop down a a few hundred feet to Tenaya Lake (elev ~8200ft)

Looking back at Half-Dome in Yosemite Valley. The hill behind and to the right of Half-Dome is Glacier Point.


Looking across the road from Olmsted Point. The interesting thing here are the loose boulders laying on the slopes.  They were strewn all over the area. While many of them simply broke off and rolled downhill, some were at one time miles away from their current location. These rocks, known as Glacial Erratics, were carried here by the glaciers that once covered this area.

One of the year-round residents of the High Sierra, a Yellow-bellied Marmot.

Another marmot.

Looking north-east towards Tenaya Lake.


Tenaya Lake


Tuolumne Medows

Leaving Tenaya Lake the road begins the climb up to Tuolumne Meadows (pronounced “To All ‘o me”).
The road, while still winding, seems to be a little wider. Still no shoulders though, just the occasional turnout.

Tuolumne Meadows (elev ~8600ft) was a very peaceful stop along the way. Here several tributaries join to form the Tuolumne River. As is apparent in the relief map above, these waters then flow west and eventually form the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.






San Francisco

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Waterfalls

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Tioga Pass Road 1

Tioga Pass Road 2

Mammoth Lakes – Fire…

Mammoth Lakes –  ... and Ice

South on US395

Moonrise at the Golden Gate


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All images copyright ©2009 by Al Hann

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