California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 65

31

Tioga Pass

This is your ticket to Yosemite National Park's majestic granite
peaks, cobalt lakes, and unsurpassed alpine scenery

T I O G A PA S S R OA D R O L L S AC R O S S YO S E M I T E ' S H I G H
country, curving beneath ragged peaks and soaring domes, skirting
grassy Tuolumne Meadows, and topping California's highest paved
pass at nearly 10,000 feet. Plan a trip for summer or fall (the road
typically closes for heavy snowfall from November until June), and
don't forget your hiking boots. In Tioga's heavenly scenery, you can't
resist ditching the car and walking.
Start by swinging west out of Yosemite Valley, ascending
through manzanita and oaks to 6,200-foot Crane Flat, Tioga Road's
western terminus. Stock up on snacks at Crane Flat Gas Station,
then park at the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias for an easy hike
to this cluster of botanical giants. Be sure to walk through the Tunnel
Tree, a massive stump that was tunneled in 1878 so wagons could
pass through it.
Winding eastward, you'll pass the turnoff for meadow-edged White
Wolf Lodge. With advance reservations, a tent cabin can be yours for
the night, plus homemade meals in its rustic restaurant. A few miles
beyond, the forest thins and vistas open up around every corner.
Ancient granite, chiseled and etched by glaciers, dominates your
windshield. At Snow Flat, detour north for the short hike to May Lake,
cupped in a perfect granite cirque below Mount Hoffman. The white
tents of May Lake High Sierra Camp-another great overnight option-
are perched on the lake's southern shore.
Back on the highway, nothing can prepare you for the superb
scenery at Olmsted Point-an astonishing panorama of the Sierra

TI O G A PASS

crest. Walk the short trail over glacier-polished slabs and marvel at
Half Dome's distinct profile, plus the granite bulk of 9,931-foot Clouds
Rest. Dozens more iconic landmarks round out the vista.
A few miles beyond, glittering Tenaya Lake fills a granite-backed
basin. Sprawl on its white-sand beach and watch rock climbers inch

tent for hungry-hiker fare at Tuolumne Meadows Grill & Store (open

their way up polished-granite walls. The Yosemite Mountaineering

June-September). Next door, a tiny U.S. post office stamps cards and

School offers daily lessons and guided climbs for all ability levels.

letters with a Tuolumne Meadows postmark.

Tioga Pass Road snakes through imposing rock faces and enters
sprawling Tuolumne Meadows, the Sierra Nevada's largest subalpine
PHOTOGRAPH: CULTURA EXCLUSIVE/MANUEL SULZER

When your leg muscles grow weary, a cheeseburger and softserve cone can replace lost calories. Swing by the white canvas

The road begins its final ascent to Dana Meadows, where tundra
grasses hug the banks of shallow tarns. Mount Dana at 13,053 feet

meadow. Stop at the log-cabin Tuolumne Meadows Visitors Center for

towers over the landscape, tempting peak-baggers to scale its

maps and information. Dozens of trails fan out from the meadows, so

summit. At its base lies Tioga Pass (elevation: 9,945 feet). To return to

choose your flavor: Ascend the bald summit of Lembert Dome, trace

civilization, just keep driving-the road slaloms downhill, dropping an

the Pacific Crest Trail down the Tuolumne River, or stroll through

unbelievable 4,000 feet in a dozen miles. (Make sure your brakes are

meadow sedges to Soda Spring, where carbonated water pops up

in top shape.) The friendly town of Lee Vining awaits at the bottom

from underground.

with a handful of motels, restaurants, and shops.

1

day

S TA R T Yosemite Valley
F I N I S H Lee Vining

M O S T JAW- D R O P P I N G V I E W Olmsted Point

84
miles

I N S I D E T I P Tioga Road
closes around Nov. 1, and its
opening date varies depending
on snowfall. Typically, it
reopens between late May and
mid-June. Check nps.gov
/yose for plowing updates.

65


http://www.nps.gov

California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures

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