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Tioga Pass

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

Start:Yosemite Valley
End:Lee Vining
1 - 3Days,11Stops,84Miles
Yosemite Valley
James O'Neil/Getty Images
Crane Flat Gas Station
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias
Javen Lin/Getty Images
White Wolf Lodge
Danita Delimont/Alamy
May Lake & Mount Hoffmann
E+/Getty Images
May Lake High Sierra Camp
E+/Getty Images
Olmsted Point
Ji-fang Zhang/Getty Images
Tenaya Lake
Tom Grubbe/Getty Images
Tuolumne Meadows
Ron and Patty Thomas/Getty Images
Tuolumne Meadows Grill & Store
Westend61/Getty Images
Lee Vining
Kevin Delgado/Getty Images
Stop 1

Yosemite Valley

9035 Village Dr, Yosemite Valley

Seven miles long and one mile across at its widest, Yosemite Valley is a mélange of sheer granite cliffs, plunging waterfalls and verdant meadows bisected by the clear Merced River. The Valley’s world famous sites include Yosemite Falls, the tallest free-leaping waterfall in North America, which drops in a foaming torrent of three tiers totalling a prodigious 2,425 feet/739 metres or nearly half a mile of vertical white water. There’s also iconic Half Dome, Yosemite’s most recognisable chunk of granite. With three smooth, rounded sides and one sheer vertical face, the dome’s bald pate appears as if it’s been sheared in half. The towering monolith of El Capitan rises 3,593 feet/1,095 metres above the Valley floor as 'the largest single piece of granite rock on earth', an irresistible challenge to daredevil rock climbers. Yosemite Valley also has man-made majesty, as seen in the National Historic Landmark Majestic Yosemite Hotel. This 1930s' architectural gem is adorned with massive hand stencilled timber beams, sandstone fireplaces and intricate stained glass windows.

Stop 3

Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias

Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite Valley

One of three giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park, the Tuolumne Grove is accessible from Tioga Pass Road’s west end via a one-mile downhill walk on an old paved road. (Make sure you save some energy for the uphill return.) About 25 mature giant sequoias thrive in the grove and they’re surrounded by a shady canopy of incense-cedars, dogwoods and sugar pines. These ancient botanical giants are a must-see attraction for Yosemite visitors travelling Tioga Pass Road. Beef up your Instagram account with a few photos of the Dead Giant, a 25-foot/7.6-metre-tall sequoia stump with a large tunnel you can walk through. The stump was tunnelled in 1878 so that wagons and later motor vehicles could drive through. For quiet, tree-inspired solitude, visit early in the morning, or even better, turn up in winter and snowshoe into the grove to see the giant sequoias crowned in snow. (Unlike most destinations on Tioga Pass Road, Tuolumne Grove is accessible year-round.)

Plan your visit

    Stop 5

    May Lake & Mount Hoffmann

    Mount Hoffmann, Yosemite Valley

    Get a taste for Yosemite’s high country on this easy hike starting at Tioga Pass Road. Even young children can walk the 1.2 miles to May Lake, a granite-ringed alpine lake cupped in a perfect circle at an elevation of 9,300 feet/2,800 metres. The path begins at Snow Flat, 12 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows, and makes a quick ascent through lodgepole pines to the lake’s azure shores, tucked in below 10,850-foot/3,300-metre Mount Hoffmann. The white tents of May Lake High Sierra Camp—a wonderfully rustic place to stay with bunks, meals and showers—are perched on May Lake’s southern shore. The water is far too cold for swimming but you’ll want to stick your toes in anyway, before basking in the alpine sunshine. Want to see more of this grand Sierra upland? Follow the path along the north-west shore to Mount Hoffmann’s summit. It’s a steep walk that gains 1,500 feet/460 metres in two more miles, but it offers an astounding pay-off.

    Plan your visit

      Stop 7

      Olmsted Point

      Olmsted Point, Yosemite Valley

      Nothing can prepare you for the superb scenery at Yosemite’s Olmsted Point. Anchored by Half Dome’s distinct profile, this astonishing panorama of the Sierra crest encompasses a banquet of ancient granite that’s been chiselled and etched by glaciers. The grey bulk of 9,931-foot/3,027-metre Clouds Rest and the skyscraping walls of Tenaya Canyon are in full view, plus dozens more famous Yosemite landmarks. You can drive right up to this amazing viewpoint—it’s just a few miles west of Tuolumne Meadows on Tioga Pass Road—but make sure you get out of your car and walk the quarter of a mile long interpretive path over glacier polished slabs. Olmsted Point was named for Frederick Law Olmsted, one of Yosemite’s first preservationists and the landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park, and also his son, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr, who worked as a planner in Yosemite National Park.

      Plan your visit

        Stop 8

        Tenaya Lake

        Visitor Center Dr, Lee Vining

        One of Tioga Pass Road’s loveliest attractions lies only a few feet from the road six miles west of Tuolumne Meadows. Glittering Tenaya Lake fills a granite backed basin, its sapphire waters lapping near the road’s edge for nearly a mile. Park your car at the east end of the 150-acre lake and take a walk down to its white sand beach. The water is too cold for swimming but the beach offers a perfect vantage point for watching rock climbers inch their way up neighbouring granite domes. (The Yosemite Mountaineering School offers daily lessons and guided climbs for all ability levels.)

        Plan your visit

          Stop 9

          Tuolumne Meadows

          7943 Willow St, Wawona

          One of the most photographed regions of Yosemite, Tuolumne Meadows is a wide, grassy expanse bounded by high granite domes and peaks. At an elevation of 8,600 feet/2,600 metres, this pristine meadow extends for more than two miles along the Tuolumne River, making it the largest subalpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. From its tranquil edges, walking trails lead in all directions to the alpine lakes set below the spires of Cathedral and Unicorn Peaks and to a series of roaring waterfalls on the Tuolumne River. The meadow’s small visitor centre, housed in a historic cabin, features exhibits that focus on the area's geology, wild flowers, and wildlife. Note that access to Tuolumne is limited; roads are generally closed due to snow from mid-November to June.

          Plan your visit

          Stop 11

          Lee Vining

          Lee Vining

          Waiting at the eastern end of Yosemite’s spine-tingling Tioga Pass Road is the sagebrush-bound village of Lee Vining, the northern gateway to the Eastern Sierra. With a population of less than 8,000 year-round residents, the town has exactly what a Yosemite traveller needs—a selection of motels, restaurants, fuel stations and shops. It’s also home to spectacular Mono Lake, an ancient saline lake that’s a magnet for photographers and nature lovers and a major stop for migrating birds. The Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center, perched on a hill high above the lake, is a great place to stop for recreation information. In the middle of the town, the Mono Lake Committee’s Information Center and Bookstore stocks an impressive selection of hard-to-find books about Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra and offers information on Mono Lake’s unique features and history. Next door, the Latte Da Coffee Café serves top-notch espresso (and it tastes even better from a seat in the flower-filled back garden). For lunch, dinner and live music, head to the Whoa Nellie Deli, tucked inside the Tioga Gas Mart.

           

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          Road Trip Snapshot

          Find out more about the amazing locations featured in this road trip. Ready to plan your trip? Print the itinerary or map your adventure to get started.

          Stop 1Yosemite Valley
          9035 Village Dr, Yosemite Valley
          Stop 3Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias
          Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite Valley
            Stop 5May Lake & Mount Hoffmann
            Mount Hoffmann, Yosemite Valley
              SPOTLIGHTMay Lake High Sierra Camp
              May Lake, Yosemite Valley
                Stop 9Tuolumne Meadows
                7943 Willow St, Wawona
                Stop 11Lee Vining
                Lee Vining

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