Roads / Drives, Yosemite National Park
Driving up Highway 120 from Lee Vining and Mono Lake, you enter the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Tioga Pass. The roadside scenery is breathtaking.
While the western slopes of the Sierra Nevadas are covered by foothills which slowly peter out, the eastern slopes rise dramatically from the high deserts along the California-Nevada border. The Tioga Pass is one of the few places where one can drive straight up into the mountains.
At the western end of the pass is the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. Most visitors to the park approach from the western entrance.
Highway 120 winds its way up through the Tioga Pass, through Tuolomne Meadows, and across the center of Yosemite National Park. It passes north of the famed canyon.
Most visitors just visit the canyon itself. But the surrounding park contains some scenic beauty that they usually miss. Tuolomne Meadow is one of the lovliest alpine meadows anywhere. It's well worth going out of your way to visit.
June Lakes Loop, south of Lee Vining off US 395, is a 16-mile road leading pass four lakes under Carson Peak. The scenery along this road is okay, but not quite as spectacular as Tioga Rd. Also, there is a large amount of development near the June Lakes Village. The two most beautiful lakes on this drive are June Lake and Silver Lake; the other two are Grant and Gull Lakes. A good number of waterfalls can be seen from this drive.
To reach the starting point, take Hwy 120 down from Tioga Pass, then US 395 south, and you'll reach the beginning of the drive.
Although not half as spectacular as Hwy 120 over Tioga Pass (Tioga Road), Hwy 108 over Sonora Pass allows you to see some classic Sierra scenery of snowcapped peaks, meadows and rivers. From its junction with US 395, Hwy 108 follows the Walker River through its winding river, then begins to climb steeply up towards Sonora Pass. The road is curving and has steep grades (26%); this is not the place to take your RV or trailer. From there, it meanders through meadows and forests to reach 9628 foot Sonora Pass, California's second highest automobile pass. It descends from Sonora Pass, with some good scenery; then it fades out into an aspen forest and heads downhill into the foothills. Along the way, you should stop to see the Columns of the Giants and also the Dardanelles. Count at least 2 hours on the drive between Bridgeport and Sonora.
Hetch Hetchy is about a 1.5-hour drive from Yosemite Valley, via Big Oak Flat Road, Evergreen ROad, and then the Hetch Hetchy Road to the valley. Hetch Hetchy means 'grass'; it once referred to a valley filled with forests and meadows and surrounded by grand rocks and thundering waterfalls that rivaled Yosemite Valley. However, the city of San Francisco decided Hetch Hetchy would be a convenient location for a dam that would supply water and power to the city, and in 1913, the Raker Act passed Congress allowing this once-beautiful valley to be flooded and turned into today's Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. John Muir loved Hetch Hetchy Valley very much, and fought against the construction of the dam in what was probably the first major environmental dispute in American history; after the bill was passed, Muir's spirit faltered and he died a year later. The O'Shaughnessy Dam was completed in 1921, and has made the reservoir you see today. However, the fight's still on to restore Hetch Hetchy to its original condition, led by organizations like Restore Hetch Hetchy and the Sierra Club.
Entering or exiting Yosemite National Park via Tioga Pass isn't an option in the winter time by car. The scenery is lovely on the eastern side of the park. Many people don't get to see it though.
This picture is of Ellery Lake, located along Highway 120 at the elevation of 9358 feet.
From the 395 highway, we turned to the 120 to enter at the park, as we did not have a detail map of the are, we were not sure if we had already entered at the park until we actually crossed the line where you have to pay lol
There are some beautiful spots to stop before like this lake
Glacier Point Road from above. The road runs through a forest of douglas fir trees. The road is steep and winding, but what road in Yosemite isn't? As your heading up an additional 3,000 feet, it gets a bit cooler, which is a welcome relief from the summer heat. Plus, with the trees providing some shade, the conditions are particularly pleasant in comparison to the 100 plus degree heat waiting in the valley below.
So much has been written about the beauty of Yosemite that it seems almost overkill to attempt to describe it. Besides, I don't think national parks can really be experienced through the words of another. But for any arm chair travelers out there, the unique beauty of Yosemite's landscape is one that is worth all those attempts to capture it by word or by film. This is truly a park that will leave you in awe.
My favorite little dome. Pothole Dome is easily viewed from the Tioga Road. Looks something like a beached whale--no? Of course, it has been millions and millions of years since this area was submerged under an ancient sea.
Going downhill on the eastern side of the Sierra is spectacular. You always wonder if the brakes will really do their job. Going uphill is exciting, too: Will the engine overheat?
Note how different the east side is from the west. It´s dry, it´s barren.
For Tioga Road, you´ll have to continue eastwards, up to Tuolumne Meadows which is a beautiful plain high up on the sierra. It´s probably closed in winter, they must have so much snow then - but in summer, it´s nice and cool up here, and QUIET.
Along Tioga Road,Glaciers polished the stones some 15 000 years ago, and only here and there some roots have found a foothold in the cracks of the granite.
from this area, at an elevation of 7000-8000 ft, you can see various vistas of Yosemite Valley below.
This familiar one shows Vernal and Nevada Falls.