Tioga Pass

Summary  Link to more information about summary

Difficulty 4 Intermediate-advanced
Length 17.6 miles round trip
7400 feet
+2600, -2600 round trip
Navigation Road
Time Full day
Season December through mid-April
Snowmobiles Use Low. Not permitted west of Tioga Pass (inside Yosemite National Park). [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]

7.5' series, Mount Dana, Tioga Pass

Start At the gate on Highway 120 West, 3.7 miles west of Highway 395.

Description   Link to more information about description

The one-day tour to Tioga Pass, covering almost nine miles of the Tioga Pass Road, is a rewarding experience which offers grand Sierra scenery. The route climbs 2100 feet in the first 5.6 miles as it traverses the sheer walls of Lee Vining Canyon to Ellery Lake. Ellery Lake marks the end of most of the work, and the remaining 3.2 miles climbs only 500'. To the west of the pass lies the wide-open expanse of Dana Meadows with Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs looming to its east.

This tour is the easiest and most popular winter access route to Yosemite National Park and Sierra highcountry. The most popular destinations for multi-day ski tourers crossing the pass are Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley.

Do not be surprised to find no snow on the road past the gate at the starting point. Depending on the snowfall, winter temperatures, and the date, you may be able to ski right from the gate; other times you may have to walk as many as three miles. Regardless of the initial snow level, you can count on finding snow before reaching the Warren Fork unless you are attempting the tour after Cal Trans begins to plow the road in mid-April.

When Tioga Pass Road is plowed and open beyond the normal trailhead, there is excellent day touring and peak bagging to be had along the road and at Tioga Pass.

The first 5.6 miles of this tour traverse the sheer walls of Lee Vining Canyon. This section is not safe for skiing during heavy snowstorms and remains unsafe until the accumulated snow avalanches. Regardless of the snow conditions, rock slides occur throughout the winter. Also, avalanches and snowdrifts can cause snow to build up and create short but steep and dangerous side-slopes on the road. Southern California Edison occasionally relieves this situation when they drive Sno-Cats up to inspect their reservoirs.

Mileage Log   Link to more information about mileage log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Waypoint 1 to 2
Miles: 0.0 - 4.2
Elevation change: +1600

From the trailhead (1), ski or walk and ski west on Tioga Pass Road for 4.2 miles until you reach the Warren Fork (2). The excellent tour up the Warren Fork is described separately in this guide.

Waypoint 2 to 3
Miles: 4.2 - 5.6
Elevation change: +500

Continue southwest on Tioga Pass Road for 1.4 miles until you reach the dam at the east end of Ellery Lake (3).

Waypoint 3 to 4
Miles: 5.6 - 6.6
Elevation change: +50

Continue west on Tioga Pass Road for 1.0 miles until you reach the turnoff to Saddlebag Lake (4) on your right.

Waypoint 4 to 5
Miles: 6.6 - 7.4
Elevation change: +150

Continue south on Tioga Pass Road for 0.8 mile until you reach Tioga Lake (5). At the 0.2-mile mark you will pass Tioga Pass Resort, which is closed in winter.

Waypoint 5 to 6
Miles: 7.4 - 8.8
Elevation change: +300

Continue south on Tioga Pass Road for 1.4 miles until you reach Tioga Pass (6). If the road is difficult to discern, climb very gradually south and stay just to the east (left) of steeper slopes. Several buildings are located at the pass.

Return to trailhead
Miles: 8.8 - 17.6
Elevation change: -2600

Retrace the route for 8.8 miles back to the trailhead (1).


Print version of map for tour