Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (1996)
- Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
- Length54 miles
Experience glacier-carved granite peaks, pristine lakes, wildflower-covered meadows, and lush evergreen forests with giant sequoia groves in this serene, rugged landscape as you travel through Yosemite National Park.
Story of the Byway
Protected since 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but it also offers deep valleys, grand meadows, giant sequoias, wilderness, and more. Start at the western entrance to the park and stop at the Big Oak Flat information station. The route will then take you to several groves of giant sequoias. Favorite stops are Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, but glimpses of the Sierra Nevada wild and vistas are accessible without leaving your car. Dense forests, glacial lakes, and sub-alpine meadows line the route. Granite domes rise starting at Crane Flat to Tenaya Lake. Climbing through the Tuolumne Meadows, towards Tioga Pass the elevation reaches 9,945 feet. This is the highest automobile pass in California. Stop in the many scenic turn-outs for photo ops. Because of the extreme elevation at Tioga Pass, the weather can change quickly. Sometimes snow can fall even in June! Check the National Park Service website “Tioga and Glacier Point Roads Plowing Update” for the most up-to-date information before traveling the route.
The lush Tuolumne Meadows is home to the Tuolumne River as it winds its way through the park. The name “Tuolumne” is of Native American origin and has many different meanings, one of which is “Many Stone Houses.” The granite formations along the route have been “polished” by glaciers which give them a smooth and shiny appearance. In the warmer months, wildflowers abound in the high-country alpine meadows. This driving route lets you experience Yosemite National Park and allows for stops along the way to enjoy the wilderness, vistas, and photo ops.
Take Highway 120 from the Big Oak Flat Information Station on the west side of Yosemite National Park (just south of Mather) and travel through Yosemite National Park, ending at Tioga Pass.
Points of Interest
Yosemite National Park
A 748,436-acre park in northern California, situated between the Sierra National Forest and the Stanislaus National Forest.
Serves as the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park and stand at 9,945 feet.
Half-dome granite formation in Yosemite National Park at 8,842 feet
El Capitan Viewpoint
Tallest cliff in Yosemite Valley at 7,569 feet.
Small glacial lake about 2 miles north of Tioga Pass, the eastern entrance to Yosemite.
Meadows at the foot of Mount Dana near the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Alpine lake formed by glaciers, between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. Great for water recreation.
Rises to 13,061 feet as the second highest mountain in Yosemite. At the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park
2.6 miles south of Mount Dana, it rises to 12,772 feet.
10,912 feet formed by glaciers in the south-central portion of Yosemite National Park.
From the junction to the high country, take Tioga Road for 30 miles to the Olmstead Point parking lot. Great for hiking, and “scrambling.”
Big Oak Flat Information Station
Yosemite information and permits available here. Yosemite Conservancy Bookstore
One of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada at 8,600 feet.
Yosemite-Meeting of the Trees and Glacier Peaks
Begin this drive on Highway 120 at Big Oak information center at the west end of Yosemite National Park (south of Mather). This relaxing drive winds through a forest of pine, fir, cedar, Giant Sequoias (in the Redwood family), and other species of trees. It will take you to glacier mountain peaks, to pristine lakes, and through meadows ablaze with wildflowers. Pack a lunch and snacks. Remember this is bear country, so store your food properly and don’t feed the bears.
Shortly, you will come to a fork in the road. Tioga Road continues on Highway 120 as Big Oak Flat Road turns off to take the traveler to El Capitan, the tallest peak in the park. If you continued the Highway 120/Tioga Road route, watch for Half-Dome on the south side of the byway. Make a stop at Olmstead Point for hiking and “scrambling.” Soon you will arrive at Lake Tenaya, a great place for water recreation. A few more curves will take you past Cathedral Peak to the south. After a few more turns, now heading due east, enjoy Tuolumne Meadows on the north side of the route. Curving northward, you will see Mt. Dana to the east with Dana Meadows at the foot of the mountain. Just south of Mt. Dana is Mt. Gibbs. Shortly you will arrive at Tioga Lake where, like throughout the park, you will find a campground and hiking/biking trails. The byway ends as you drive through the Tioga Pass at the east entranced to Yosemite.
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