Highway 120 ConditionsCurrent road conditions can be found here.
In a typical snow year, Highway 120 is closed from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass or to Lee Vining from mid-November to late-May. Opening and closing dates for Tioga Pass since 1933 can be found here. In the spring, updates on the progress of Highway 120 plowing efforts can be found here.
Overview"The Meadows" (as locals call it) is really nothing more than a glorified seasonal tent-city along the Tioga Road. The Tuolumne Meadows logistic center is the staging ground for a myriad summer activities. In the parking lot of the Tuolumne Meadows grocery store, you'll see 75-year-old retirees stepping out of their pricey "Hotels-On-Wheels", grizzled rock climbers guzzling stouty hops, and San Francisco backcountry bums posing out in the latest tech gear.
The namesake, Tuolumne Meadows, is a broad, unusually flat meadow, in the guts of Yosemite's central backcountry. Multiple tributary streams, from the countless high peaks of the Sierra Crest and Cathedral Range, converge to meet the Tuolumne River, before it rapidly drops into a deep gorge, the "Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne".
Services here are quite spartan. Open only during the summer (like Tioga Road itself), this logistical center has a gas station, a tiny market, a small visitors center, campgrounds, a small lodge, and a short-order grill. Historically, this area is trapped between two diametrically-opposed visions of the national park mission. The Tioga Road was enthusiastically widened in the early 1950's, making the whole region more accessible to tourists. However, by the 1960's, before the infrastructure could be built up to the point of Yosemite Valley, attitudes in the Park Service changed to a more preservationalist bent, so there simply isn't much going on in Tuolumne Meadows for the vested "tour-on". For the aspiring ascensionist, vast climbing potential overwhelms the budding adventurist!.
|Driving information from Major Airports|
|City||Distance||Yahoo Driving Directions|
|Reno||129 miles||RNO to Lee Vining|
|RNO Extra Info:||From Lee Vining, turn right onto California Highway 120. Continue west on 120 to Tuolumne Meadows for ~15 miles. Total trip distance ~ 145 miles.|
|San Francisco||192 miles||SFO to White Wolf|
|SFO Extra Info:||Continue past the sign for "White Wolf" on highway 120 for 10 miles to Tuolumne Meadows. Total trip distance ~ 202 miles.|
|Fresno||95 miles||FAT to Yosemite Village|
|FAT Extra Info:||Proceed west on Highway 140. Turn right onto Highway 120 at Crane Flat. Continue 40 miles to Tuolumne Meadows. Total trip distance ~ 145 miles.|
Public Transportation: Unlike many other national parks in the Western US, Yosemite has a decent public bus service, YARTS, designed primarily to cut down on private car traffic. On the western side of the park, the YARTS line starts in Merced, California, which has frequent Amtrak train and Greyhound bus service. On
the eastern side, the YARTS line terminates at Mammoth Lakes, which has a Greyhound stop.
Red TapeEntrance fee: $20 per vehicle, good for seven days. A Golden Eagle pass allows entry to all national parks and many federal recreation areas. These passes cost $80 and are good for one year from the date of purchase.
Black bear restrictions: If you drive a private car into the park, you must adhere to strict regulations on the storage of food, because black bears in the park have grown accustomed to "liberating" stored food from vehicles, at any time of the day or night. If a bear breaks into your car to steal food (even candy-bar wrappers constitute "food"), you are liable for $500 or more in fines.
Overnight road closure: Although the official Tioga Road winter closure (between Crane Flat and Tioga Pass) is in effect only between mid-November and late-May, the park service prohibits overnight parking anywhere on Tioga Road after October 15. The area is open to dayhiking until the official road closure, but I guess the park service fears that a storm can unexpectedly close the road at any time, and leave you and your car stranded!
|Peaks easily accessible from Tuolumne Meadows|
|Mountain||Usual Trailhead||Mountain||Usual Trailhead|
|Cathedral Peak||Cathedral Lakes||Clouds Rest||Sunrise Lakes|
|Cockscomb||Cathedral Lakes||Mount Conness||Saddlebag Lake|
|Mount Dana||Tioga Pass||Echo Peaks||Cathedral Lakes|
|Half Dome||Sunrise Lakes||Mount Hoffman||May Lake|
|Mount Lyell||John Muir Trail||Koip Peak||Dana Meadows|
|Kuna Peak||Dana Meadows||Matthes Crest||Cathedral Lakes|
|North Peak||Saddlebag Lake||Tresidder Peak||Cathedral Lakes|
|Common Trailheads near Tuolumne Meadows|
|Trailhead||Directions from Tuolumne Meadows|
|Cathedral Lakes||1 mile west along highway 120. South side of road.|
|Dana Meadows||4 miles east along highway 120, 2 miles west of Tioga Pass. South side of road.|
|John Muir Trail||Behind wilderness permit office, one mile east of Tuolumne Meadows|
|May Lake||8 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows, turn right on dirt May Lake Road. Proceed for 2 miles.|
|Saddlebag Lake||8 miles east of Tuolumne Meadows, 2 miles east of Tioga Pass, turn left (north) onto Saddlebag Lake Road. Follow until end.|
|Sunrise Lakes||7 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows on highway 120. Park at "Sunrise Lakes" trailhead on southwest side of Tenaya Lake.|
There is a campground for tents and RV's at Tuolumne Meadows which costs $20/night. The campground closes before (October 15) Tioga Road closes for the season.
Camping contact information:
Toll free reservation number: 800.436.7275 (PARK)
International reservation number: 301.722.1257
TTY toll free number: 888.530.9796
Hours: 7am & 7pm (Pacific time), 7 days a week
When making reservations for the Tuolumne Family or Group campsites, the reservation can ONLY be made up to 5 months in advance and can only be called in for reservation on the 15th of each month. Unorthodox but nonetheless, a logistical fact!
Internet Reservations: http://reservations.nps.gov
Generally, backcountry camping is permitted anywhere in the wilderness, i.e., more than a mile from the nearest paved road. Wilderness permits, required for any overnight stay in the backcountry are issued on a quota basis, however, so you may not be able to camp in the most popular areas once the quota for those areas fills. The most convenient permit office is approximately 1 mile east of Tuolumne Meadows, and well-marked ("Wilderness Permits") from the highway. Unlike Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP, bear-proof food canisters are not required, though they are strongly recommended. Canisters can be rented at wilderness permit stations.
"Tuolumne Meadows Lodge is open from approximately early June to mid-September and is located on the Tioga Pass Road, near the park's eastern entrance on Highway 120 East...Tuolumne Meadows Lodge has 69 canvas cabin accommodations." White Wolf Lodge, approximately 15 miles east of Tuolumne Meadows on Highway 120, has available "24 canvas cabins and four cabins with private bath."
The most convenient outside-the-park lodging is in the town of Lee Vining, about 20 miles east of Tuolumne Meadows.
High Sierra Camps
Yosemite Concessions Service operates these full-service (food,tent,hot showers provided) camps as a pricy alternative to backpacking. "The five High Sierra Camps are spaced 5.7 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail in Yosemite's beautiful high country...
Glen Aulin - 8 cabins, total occupancy 32.
May Lake - 8 cabins, total occupancy 36.
Sunrise Camp - 9 cabins, total occupancy 34.
Merced Lake - 19 cabins, total occupancy 60.
Vogelsang - 12 cabins, total occupancy 42."
The Inyo National Forest offers paid campsites just outside the park boundries (Tioga Entrance) at Saddlebag Lake and other various campgrounds right along Tioga Road. Sites can be acquired on a "first come, first served" basis. The going rate is $16 dollars a night.
Weather ConditionsReal-time weather conditions 10 miles from Tuolumne Meadows, at Lee Vining, elevation 6800 feet
Notable InterestsHaven't got any plans for grubbing other than the lame menu you brought up to the Meadows? Then make your way down Tioga Road to the Whoa Nellie Deli (aka The Tioga Mobile Gas Station). Located at the intersection of I-395 and Hwy 120, WND offers a fine spread of ecclectic California eats. A Mobile Station, you say? Come experience this original place first hand. Sure, half of the place is a Mobile gas station but it's the one Mobile staion you can get the world's finest Fish Taco's, garnished with a mango chutney. The menu is genuinely fresh and so are the cooks! Most of the employees are Valley or Meadows transplants/transients who offer their own unique blend of character to the place. The ambience can't be beat: climbers chatting about the days' exploits, heated/shaded dining patio, a great wine selection, and a splendid view of Mono Lake and the upper Owen's Valley.
Not enough entertainment to drag your carcass out of that 35' foot RV (complete with 116-channel satelite dish!)? The Deli also provides musical entertainment from time to time. While your stuffing your face with Wild Buffulo Meatloaf, the Tungsten City Band will definately complete your WND experience. This is a band that is climbing (literally) in popularity on the Sierra east side. The band has regularly lit up the place on Firday nights, playing everything from ska, funk, reggae, driving folk rock, and even bluegrass. The trio: Chris Canales, Austin Archer, and "Milo" Lance Cagle, have transformed the gateway to Yosemite into a mini-concert site. Be sure to catch their concert schedule at the Deli.
- Yosemite Concessions Page
Excellent page for everything in the park that is not operated by the park service. This means all hotels in Yosemite (Ahwanee, Yosemite Lodge, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge), the High Sierra Camps, all shops and restaurants, and the Badger Pass Ski Area. Because they are trying to make a profit, they have up-to-date information, for example, on weather and winter closures.
- NPS page
This, and almost all federal web pages, are down indefintely, until the termination of a silly court case. Still, it is the best source of camping and wilderness permit information.
- California Department of Transportation
Up-to-date road conditions. Highway 120 is the main access point to Tuolumne Meadows. Fresno or Los Angeles visitors may also use Highways 140 and 41.
- Lee Vining, California Lodging Options
Courtesy of thesierraweb.com
- NPS Shuttle bus page
A great overview of the many shuttle bus options in and around the park. Some are free, some not. In any event, shuttle buses make possible some very interesting one-way trips.
- Toga Pass Webcam
This webcam is updated 4x day.
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