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All the stops to make on Tioga Pass to Yosemite Valley

All the stops to make on Tioga Pass to Yosemite Valley

Taking a drive on Tioga Pass to Yosemite Valley? Here are all the stops you need to make!

Palig Dzadourian


6 min read

May 11, 2022

Found in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite Valley is among the most impressive and beautiful places in Northern California, with ancient giant sequoias, breathtaking waterfalls, and deep valleys, the legendary Yosemite National park is undoubtedly part of the list of must-see places in California, quite possibly in the world too.

Yosemite Valley is one of those places that retains its beauty and splendor at any given time of the year, but once the weather starts getting warmer, you might want to take in the magic of the landscape from higher up, where the heat won’t tarnish your Yosemite valley experience. One way to reach those heights is by taking the Tioga Pass to Yosemite Valley, where not only will you be able to see and explore some cool spots along the way, but you will also be able to maximize your enjoyment of your trip. 

Getting to Yosemite Valley via the Tioga road pass

Catch some amazing views of Yosemite Valley from the heights of Tioga Pass.

The Tioga road pass serves as the Eastern entry point for Yosemite National Park, stretching up to 64 miles long, other ways to refer to the road include the Highway 120 or the California State Route 120; it is a pretty long drive, taking up to 1.5 hours without any stops. What sets this specific road apart from the other long ones scattered all along the United States is its scenic beauty, the journey will be just as stunning as the endpoint destination.

It is also California’s highest drivable pass, reaching 9943 at its peak. You might want to take advantage of the warmer weather coming up to drive through this incredibly fun road, as the Tioga Pass road is closed during the cold seasons, at risk of avalanches and other hazardous accidents, it is only open around May every year. However due to rehabilitation projects the Tioga Road will remain closed until May of next year. But keep your eyes open, because driving Tioga road Yosemite is something you definitely don’t want to miss out on!

Take the Lembert Dome or Dog Lake

The serene Dog Lake awaits as you make your way through some of America’s most beautiful landscapes.

Reservations for the Tioga pass entrance to Yosemite valley are not needed before 4 am and after 6 pm, however, you will need to acquire a pass for when you get to Yosemite National Park, as you will be driving through the park. As you start your journey through the Tioga Pass, about 6 miles off the entrance of Yosemite national park, you will have the chance to stop at the Lembert Dome. Leave your vehicles at the dirt parking lot and embark on a very pleasant summer hike through the woods. Here you will be presented with two trails to choose from: The Lembert Dome and the Dog Lake, both of which are great in their own aspect, and pretty similar at that. They have the same elevation and both stretch up to 2.8 miles long.

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Once you get down your vehicles, take the steep trail until you reach the forest, where you will be met with two trails. If you have chosen to take the Lembert Dome, after reaching the junction take the trail on the left, and take in the stunning views of the Tuolumne Meadows as you climb up the steep trail. If you decide to go to Dog Lake directly, just continue straight from the junction until you see the lake.

Despite the name, Dog Lake does not have any dogs nor does it resemble one. It just so happens that upon discovery Robert Marshall found an abandoned sheepdog with her litter of puppies, and decided to name it Dog Lake in 1898. The good news is that if you want to experience both trails, you absolutely can, as you can take the Lembert Dome on the way back from the Lake.

Into the Tuolumne Meadows

The absolutely breathtaking sight of the Tuolumne River will forever be ingrained in your memory.

Tuolumne meadow is one of the highest elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevadas, at 8600 feet. You will have already caught a glimpse of it if you climbed up the Lembert Dome trail, surrounded by majestic domes and mountains. As you get closer, the Tuolumne river’s beauty will reveal itself. It was also declared “Wild and Scenic River” by Congress in 1984. Before reaching the river, as you walk along the one-mile-long trail of Parsons Lodge and Soda Springs, enjoy the diverse ecosystem and keep an eye out as you are sure to spot a deer or two hopping around the Meadows. Getting closer to the Tuolumne River, take a minute to experience the tranquility and peace the water will offer you.

If you opted to drive through the Tioga Road Pass at later hours in the evening, stopping at Tuolumne Meadow is definitely worth it, as you will be able to gaze up at the night sky and see the stars blinking back to you. Some planets might be visible as well, Yosemite Park being far away from the bright city lights, the dark sky will make way for the stars to shine down on whoever is willing to look.

Take a dip into Tenaya Lake

Crystal clear waters and stunning landscapes, who wouldn’t want to swim in this gorgeous lake?

The “Jewel of the High Country”, the Tenaya Lake is considered to be one of the most accessible lakes to access along the Tioga Road Pass. It is among the most memorable and photogenic destinations in Yosemite, at an elevation of 8150 feet, the edges of the lake are surrounded by granite peaks and domes, which is what gives it its picturesque quality. There are so many things to see and do at Tenaya Lake, as you can swim, kayak, sunbathe, enjoy a picnic, and hike! Tenaya Lake also has campgrounds available for camping if you have in mind to stay overnight. The forested lakeside trail takes up to 2 hours to complete and is 2.5 miles long, dotted with lodgepole pine trees all along the way.

Cool off at Olmstead Point

Relax on the rocks and enjoy the views nature offers at Olmstead Point.

Named in honor of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead and his son when Tioga Road first opened up for traffic in 1961, both of whom helped the protection and management of the wildlife in Yosemite Park. Olmstead Point is more of a viewing area, where you will be in the midst of some spectacular views including Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. Olmstead Point is a very convenient stop to make along Tioga Pass, as it offers cooler weather, and is where Yosemite’s shortest hiking trail belongs, a mere 0.25 miles, great for anyone in a hurry but is still willing to experience some of the natural beauty of the park.

Take in the tranquility of Yosemite Creek

The sounds of the creek, warm weather combined with the shade of the Pine trees, Yosemite Creek is definitely worth the stop.

Yosemite Creek is another great stop to make, found a few miles east of Lone Wolf Road, as it has a lot of amenities and offers some amazing natural attractions. This might be an essential stop if you have been on the road for a while, as there are toilets you can take advantage of and picnic tables. There are no trailheads at Yosemite Creek, which makes it quite a relaxing destination, you can enjoy the sounds of the creek while sitting underneath the shade of a giant Pine Tree and just soak in the moment. 

Mono Lake Yosemite

As the sun sets on Yosemite’s Mono Lake, enjoy the presence of one of America's oldest lakes.

One of the oldest lakes in North America, Mono Lake is definitely worth stopping at. Being at least 760 000 years old, it is impossible to be close to this lake and not be in awe of just how long it’s been around. Found at the Yosemite Tioga entrance, there is a visitor center you can stop by before heading on over to the lake itself. No fish can be found living in these alkaline waters, but the lake is rich with brine shrimp and alkali flies which birds feed on.  Take a walk in Mono Lake’s South Tufa Area, surrounded by tower-like rock formations that can be found everywhere here.

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