The Tioga Pass and Tuolumne Meadows

January 15, 2018

Between the eastern side of the Sierras, specifically where we were at Mono Lake, and the other side of the Sierra mountains, specifically, Yosemite Valley, are some seriously big mountains.

To cross the Sierra mountains, you can either drive further north and cross the mountain range where it’s flatter or take the scenic route, the Tioga Pass.

The Tioga Pass

The Tioga Pass runs from Mono Lake to the western side of the Sierra mountains. It’s only open in the warmer months when the weather conditions are good enough (click here to read the Tioga Pass Vehicle Restrictions – your family hire car will be fine though).

Map of the Tioga Pass

The Tioga Pass winds its way over the Sierra mountains.

To use the pass, or more correctly, to enter the Yosemite National Park, you will need to pay for a ticket, which you can buy from the Park Rangers at the Mono Lake visitor’s centre. (Click here to see the latest fees for Yosemite National Park). The Park Ranger we spoke too also provided us with info to make the most of our stay in Yosemite over the next few days.

Entering the Yosemite National Park

Entering Yosemite National Park

Tioga Pass Elevation

Tioga Pass – elevation 9945ft.

Driving along the Tioga Pass

Driving along the Tioga Pass

this was one of the most beautiful places in the world

Fortunately, there are stopping points along the Tioga Pass where you can take in the views – and there are many of them.

Maybe it’s because I love the outdoors and love the mountains, but to me, this was one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Ellery Lake

One of the first places along the pass that we stopped at was Ellery Lake.

View of Ellery Lake on the Tioga Pass

Fantastic views at Ellery Lake

Imagine unzipping your tent in the morning to this view

This mountaintop lake is staggeringly beautiful, with everywhere you looked, framed naturally by mountains and trees.

What’s more, there’s a campground here. Imagine unzipping your tent in the morning to this view!

Ellery Lake Campground

What a great place to camp!

View from the Campground at Ellery Lake

This is the view from the campground.

Clear waters at Ellery Lake

The blue waters of Ellery Lake

It was at this point we came across another creature we don’t get in the UK: ground squirrels.

A ground squirrel

Not up in the trees: this is a ground squirrel.

Tuolumne Meadows

Further along the pass, is another stopping point that’s a must visit: Tuolumne Meadows.

As we found, this can be very busy in the summer, but it’s well worth a stop if you can find a parking space.

Impressive Views at Tuolumne Meadows

Our view of Tuolumne Meadows was amazing

If you have the time to stay, there’s a campground here at Tuolumne Meadows. It’s also where you can join the John Muir Trail down to Yosemite Valley.

We enjoyed a picnic by the river, taking in the views and the sunshine.

Having a picnic at Tuolumne Meadows

This was an incredible spot for a picnic at Tuolumne Meadows

It’s also where we got a closer look at these huge lumps of rock that make up the famous ‘domes’ of the region.

Lambert Dome is accessible from the Tioga Pass

Lambert Dome. That’s one massive piece of rock!

Half Dome

As you continue west on the Tioga Pass, there’s a final stopping point where you can catch a glimpse of the famous Half Dome.

View of Half Dome from the Tioga Pass

Here’s a view of the famous Half Dome that we saw from the Tioga Pass. It’s the one in the middle of the photo.

somewhere I hope I get a chance to go back to one day

This was one of the most scenic drives of my life and somewhere I hope I get a chance to go back to one day.

Next, we set off to find these Giant Redwoods we had heard so much about…


USA West Coast Fly-Drive Series

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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. Glad you enjoyed your trip and the Chipmunk you saw….not a squirrel. Squirrels are much larger and grey in color and have big bushy tails.

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