Tioga Road, the fabled route through Yosemite National Park’s scenic high country and the highest-elevation road in California’s state highway system, will re-open to vehicles Monday.
The road, which closes every winter due to deep snow, and closed last Nov. 14, will open to all vehicle traffic at 9 a.m., park officials announced.
The road’s annual opening date is something of an annual rite of spring, and is an indication of how much snow the Sierra Nevada received during the winter. Last year, after record snow and rain that broke the California’s five-year drought, the Tioga Road didn’t re-open until June 29. The average opening date from 1996 to 2015 was May 26.
All campgrounds along Tioga Road remain closed. Park officials said Thursday that there is no anticipated opening date for the Tuolumne Meadows store and the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. There is no gasoline available along Tioga Road. The closest gas station is located at Crane Flat. For more information about park road conditions, motorists can call 209-372-0200 or go to https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.
One of the marquee drives in America’s national park system, the winding, two-lane Tioga Road bisects Yosemite’s alpine center, passing through meadows and forests of lodgepole pine and juniper. It runs 46 miles from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass, where it crests at 9,945 feet in the highest highway pass in California.
The route for centuries was a footpath for Indians, upgraded to a mining road in 1883 during a brief silver boom, and then a private toll road that charged $2 per horse and rider.
In an unusual act of philanthropy, it became public and part of the park in 1915, when San Francisco native Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, bought it for $15,000 with his own money and donations from the Sierra Club and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce. He sold it to Congress that year for $10, hoping to bring more tourists into the park.
Yosemite’s other high-elevation road, the Glacier Point Road, re-opened to vehicles on April 28. Every year, crews with snow plows clear each of the two roads, facing snow drifts that can be 20 feet deep and avalanche risks. In 1995, Yosemite employee Barry Hance, 43, was killed when an avalanche on Tioga Road smashed into the snow-removal machine he was driving.
In his memory, the park presents the Barry Hance Award every year to the park employee who best demonstrates “a positive attitude, a concern for fellow employees, a willingness to work with other divisions in the park, getting the job done, and a love for Yosemite National Park.”
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