On our first visit to Yosemite we drove along Tioga Pass Road reaching Tenaya Lake, in the late afternoon. With a winter storm forecast to drop a couple of feet of snow on the way, we decided to turn around. Lucky we did, as the storm arrived, the snow fell and the next day the road was closed.
On this trip we drove in from Lee Vining on a gloriously sunny September day, with absolutely no storms on the horizon.
Tioga Pass road is the highest automobile road in California and reaches an elevation of 9,945ft. It’s a fabulous drive and the views are simply spectacular.
The view as we drove up Tioga Pass Road from Lee Vining.
In 1883 a 56 mile long wagon road from Crane Flat was built to reach a silver mine on the eastern slope of the Sierra at a cost $61,000.00. The road finished just east of Tioga Pass. The silver mine wasn’t profitable and closed the year after.
Work started from Lee Vining on the east side of the Sierra in 1902, it was a narrow road with a 7% grade and a sheer drop into Lee Vining canyon. The road was finished in 1910 and cost $63,000.00.
The original wagon road from Crane Flat became a lightly used toll road and in 1915 Stephen Mather, the director of the National Park Service, bought it for $15,000.00 and donated it to Yosemite.
Our view as we drove higher up the pass.
It was a dirt road until 1937 and must’ve been an exciting drive, but the maintenance costs were very high. After an extensive survey, the road within Yosemite was rebuilt in 1961 at a cost of $7,000,00.00. The Lee Vining Route from the east was rebuilt between 1965 and 1970 at a cost of $6,600,000.00.
The road is a California Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and is marked by a roadside plaque partway up the pass, and yes that is how I know all this.
Once beyond the entrance, the park was really busy, all the parking spots along Tuolomene (pronounced ‘to-oll-o-me’) Meadows were taken and, at almost the end of September, all the concessions were closed, so sadly, no chance of a coffee.
We’d reached Tenaya Lake before we finally found somewhere to park, so goodness only knows what it’s like in high summer. Surrounded by high granite (I think) domes, white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters Tenaya really is beautiful but as it’s a glacial lake the water is absolutely freezing.
Eventually we decided we’d head back, this time there were more spots for us to pull in and admire the views, although it was too late in the day for us to think of hiking anywhere.
Tuolomene Meadows are really quite beautiful, although somehow I expected them to be much more open than they are. I have no idea why I expected that, I just did.
On our way out of the park, we stopped and took photographs along the way, I’m not exactly sure where the one below is, but it’s looking towards the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Our view as we drove back down Tioga Pass Road.
Further down we came across a couple of large motorhomes, not something we expected to see along that particular stretch of road.
Have fun, we are!