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Hiking and Climbing in Yosemite

The Eastern passage to Yosemite is Closed

Update April 20, 2011: Tioga pass remains closed for the winter 2010-11 season.

Update May 20, 2009: Tioga pass opened for the season on May 20, 2009 at 10 am, just in time for the Memorial Day rush. Unfortunately, there are no commercial services available at this time. The pit toilets are open along the highway. Most of the Tuolomne area of Yosemite is still closed, including campgrounds, lodges, the store and the gas station. Weather permitting these services should open in the next few weeks. The road, part of Hwy 120, running from Crane Flats to Lee Vining is 64 miles long. It is typically covered in snow for most of the winter and spring months.

The Tioga Pass connects Yosemite eastern Tuolomne area to Bishop and Mammoth areas on the eastern side of the sierras, via US 395. Its highest point is at the parkís entrance, rising to 9,600 feet. Tioga Pass is closed annualy during the winter months. Winter travel to Yosemite is only possible through the south and western entrances on highways 140, 120, and 41. In past years the pass opens around the month of May when the frost has cleared and the roads are cleared of ice and snow. Tioga Pass Road, known originally as the Big Oak Flat Road, was cut in the mid 1800ís as a pack train path to scale the eastern side of the sierras. Used by prospectors during the gold rush, it was expanded to allow wagons. On the eastern incline side of the sierras, most of this road was single lane with the very occasional turnout for oncoming traffic. The turnouts were hair-raising with huge drop-offs. This winding, cliff hanging road remained basically unchanged until the major rebuild began in 1961. Refinements to the eastern side of the Tioga continued until 1967. This portion of Hwy120 remains a seasonal two-lane road to this day, so the opening of the road each year is a momentous event.

Many government studies have occurred over the years to make the Tioga Pass Road an all-weather road. The National park service, in its preliminary 1978 General Management Plan, looked at changing the road to a service road with a parking lot at each end. One parking lot would have been located at park bounding near the head of the Pass down to the Hwy 395. Shuttles would carry visitor to Lee Vining, located at the base of the Pass. This concept was not adopted due to the impact of the 1,500 car parking lot in Tuolomne. Even with the additional road widening on the eastern incline side, the pass today is still not for the faint of heart.

Keywords: Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, Memorial Day, Tuolomne, Lee Vining

Side of Half Dome from Yosemite Valley
Side of Half Dome from Yosemite Valley

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