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Yosemite National Park - Exploring Tioga Pass

Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Yosemite National Park - Exploring Tioga Pass

Paula Gaston

A couple weeks ago we drove through Yosemite via Tioga Pass. On our earlier visits to Yosemite, we have been to Yosemite Valley, like most other visitors I guess, but we had never driven Tioga Pass, Route 120 before. Even though we were just passing by, we were excited to see what this part of the park had to offer. The road is closed most of the year due to snow, so if you plan to visit, you should plan your trip somewhere between June and October. And I can promise, it will be worth it! This is the highest mountain pass in California and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


These are the places we recommend:


Olmsted Point is a viewing area with an amazing view to Yosemite Canyon. People at Olmsted Point walk around on the rocks, take photos and enjoy the view. From Olmsted Point you can see both Half Dome and Clouds Rest. Tenaya Canyon is in between them far away. If you walk down on the path leaving from the left side of the parking lot, you can find these glacial erratic rocks that I am standing on. They are there due to this area once being a glacier. When the ice melted, it left behind many of these rocks. Unfortunately there were also a lot of wasps around this area when we were there, and our daughter got stung by one. That cut our visit to Olmsted Point short, but luckily she got better quickly. And the vista can’t get any better than this!

Olmsted Point in Yosemite

Olmsted Point in Yosemite



Tenaya Lake is right by the road and is an absolutely beautiful, clear water lake. The lake got formed by the Tenaya Glacier which also shaped Half Dome. Many creeks and springs bring water to the lake. We saw a lot of people there swimming, kayaking, fishing and just having a picnic. There are also trails you can take from Tenaya Lake if you are interested in hiking. Unfortunately we were not able to stay there for long, due to our daughters wasp sting, but this would be one place I would love to return in the future.


Soda Springs is a short hike which will take you to see carbonated cold water bubbling out of the ground. Park your car at the Lembert Dome parking area and follow the signs. The trail follows Tuolumne River and is very scenic. You will first arrive to the Parsons Lodge which was constructed by the Sierra Club in 1915 in honor of Edward Taylor Parsons. He was the club leader. From the lodge, just turn to the right and the spring is right there. People used to drink the water from soda springs, but they do not encourage it anymore.

The trail to Soda Springs

The trail to Soda Springs

Soda Springs at Yosemite National Park

Soda Springs at Yosemite National Park


Tuolumne Meadows must be the most known place in this part of the park. Melting snow always keeps this area wet and it is a perfect spot to see some wild flowers in the spring, the road would be already open. There are many hiking trails around the meadows and you can see several domes arise in the distance.

Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows



There are not a lot of services on Route 120, so make sure you enter the park with a full tank of gas, and some food and water. However, there is a visitor center in this area. Both Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center and the Wilderness Center are open in the summer months until mid-October. Soon after the visitor center there was also a small temporary restaurant, but make sure to check the opening times since it doesn’t open at the same time as the road. We brought our own snacks and there are many beautiful places to enjoy a picnic along the road.. There are also several camping grounds on Tioga Road.

Also, be aware of altitude sickness, since going above 8,000 feet (2,500m) quickly can cause some symptoms for many people. They include headache, shortness of breath, insomnia and loss of appetite. Tioga Pass at it’s highest point is 9,943 feet (3,031 m). If you are one of those people to get symptoms, it might be better for you to take it easy and enjoy the views rather than go hiking. It is always a good idea to learn how to recognise and treat altitude sickness before heading to the high mountains.


After spending a day in Yosemite, we headed to the other side of the Sierra Nevada, to Mammoth Lakes. More abou this in my next post. Have you been driving in Tioga Pass? What was your favorite thing to do there?