Tioga Road

Tioga Road, a beautiful Alpine drive

Tioga Road is a part of California State Route 120, in Mono County, California, USA, with a length of 39-mile (63km), from Crane Flat, past Olmsted Point and Tenaya Lake, through Tuolumne Meadows, and on to Tioga Pass, which at .3031m (9,945ft) above sea level is one of the highest mountain roads of California.

There are many turnouts with broad and beautiful vistas. This scenic drive through forests and past meadows, lakes, and granite domes is very exciting and sometimes very exposed and unsecured driveway in innumerable twists and turns. This drive travels from Yosemite National Park’s South Entrance, through Yosemite Valley, over Tioga Pass, California’s highest drivable pass, ending at the salt water Mono Lake, surrounded by tufa towers and mountain peaks. On the summit of the road there’s the Tioga Pass, at an elevation of 9,943ft (3.031m) above the sea level. It is the highest highway pass in California and in the Sierra Nevada. Mount Dana is to the east of the pass. The surface of the road is paved, and chains or snow tyres can be required throughout the year. Tioga Pass is named after Tioga Mine, whose name originated in New York: "Tioga" is named for an Iroquois and Mohawk term meaning "where it forks". The road was built in 1882-1883 as a mining road and was realigned and modernized in 1961.

Is Tioga Pass scary?

This is a very beautiful Alpine drive, but the road is up/down and twisty, curvy all the time. It is a wide two-lane road with many turnout areas to pull off and soak in the absolutely spectacular scenery. There are no guard rails along most of the drive, so if you go off the road, it's a thousand-foot drop down the side of the mountain. 

Is the Tioga Pass Road open?

The road, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, is generally open to vehicle traffic only from late spring (usually late May or early June) through mid-fall (usually until the first significant snowfall in November), but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. These dates are subject to considerable variation. In heavy snow years, the road usually closes in early-October and could open as late as mid-July. In light snow years, the road could be closed in December and open as soon as April. In 2004, however, the road closed for the winter on October 17, the earliest closing in at least 25 years. The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. Snow clearing of the Tioga Road normally begins on or about April 15 each year and usually takes between one and two months. Predicting when these roads will open is not possible, even in late spring, because April and May weather significantly affects plowing progress. A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging.


Tioga Pass is the highest vehicle crossing in the Sierra Nevada. Starting from Lee Vining, the ascent is 19,96 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 957 meters. The average percentage is 4,7%. The pass is the eastern border of Yosemite National Park and provides instant access to spectacular Sierra highcountry with classic climbs that can be easily done in one day. There are several trailheads into the Yosemite backcountry which begin at Tioga Pass, including the trail to the Gaylor Lakes to the west/northwest, and the rough trail to the summit of Mount Dana. 

 

 

 

NOTICE: Due to the spread of COVID-19, many points of interest and roads are closed and travel is not recommended. Please follow all local health authority directives before venturing off, and stay safe.