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Author Topic: Tioga Pass Road  (Read 469 times)

Max Rockatansky

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Tioga Pass Road
« on: July 06, 2017, 10:48:35 PM »

Tioga Pass just opened up last week after the heavy snow pack from this year.  Given that it was a holiday I waited until today to head back onto the road and over the Pass to the Eastern Sierras, well worth the trip this go around...photos are located here:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/151828809@N08/77NxwL

I'll do my whole historical reference/map thing later on this weekend.  For now I'll just summarize the trip/current conditions over Tioga Pass:

-  Surprisingly it seems almost all the tourists from the 4th have already bailed out.  41 was pretty quiet, even more so for the 4 AM that I left Fresno.  My understanding was that there was some pretty heavy crowds heading back to the city today at a more normalized hour.

-  There was some pretty heavy roadwork going on in Yosemite Valley along North Side Drive.  I would have to assume that the traffic is going to be backed up pretty badly since it looked like the workers were just setting up when I rolled through.

-  The MUTCD US 395 shields on the lead up to Tioga Pass Road are back and brand new.  I'm not sure what happened to the old ones since they didn't really seem to be in need of replacement.

-  The snow line was present starting at 8,000 feet.  There was a small rain shower near Olmstead Point but otherwise it was about 60F the entire trip, even up to 9,945 feet.

-  Tioga Lake still had a pretty substantial pack of ice in it along with large snow drifts that could still be walked on.

-  Lee Vining Canyon was in really good shape, I'm really not sure why the Caltrans Map is saying watch for rocks.

-  There was hardly anyone on Tioga Pass in general today.  :eyebrow:  I'm not buying that so many people bailed out that the road would be that dead, but suffice to say the Minnie Winnie crowd wasn't an issue.


Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tioga Pass Road
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2017, 10:32:58 PM »

The alignment of Tioga Pass Road used to be very different in the early days of the state highway system.  SSR 120 took a turn on what is now Evergreen Road to Aspen Valley Road which used to be the original routing of Tioga Pass Road.  SSR 140 from Evergreen Road used the modern alignment of CA 120 to Yosemite National Park.  The alignments can be seen very easily on the 1935 Tuolumne County Map:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~247379~5515400:Tuolumne-County-?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:california%2Bdivision%2Bof%2Bhighways;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=79&trs=163

In addition to the 1938 State Highway Map:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239588~5511892:Road-Map-of-the-State-of-California?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=69&trs=86

Tioga Pass Road originally traversed Aspen Valley way north of the modern road where it met up with the modern alignment of the road via White Wolf Road.  Sometime between 1942 and 1944, Tioga Pass Road was moved to the modern realignment which resulted to changes to SSR 120 and SSR 140.  SSR 140 was cut back to the El Portal Entrance of Yosemite on the Merced River while SSR 120 was rerouted off of Evergreen Road onto Big Oak Flat Road where CA 120 enters Yosemite today.  The changes are reflected on the 1954 and 1955 state highway maps:

1942 State Highway Map

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239582~5511888:Road-Map-of-the-State-of-California?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=65&trs=86

1944 State Highway Map

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239579~5511886:Road-Map-of-the-State-of-California?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=63&trs=86

As for the Tioga Pass Road itself, the eastern section up Lee Vining Canyon to the Tioga Mine was built in 1883.  The connecting section of the Tioga Pass Road from Big Oak Flat Road was built as a wagon trail from 1902 to 1910.  The National Park Service purchased the Tioga Pass Wagon Road in 1915 which was when the era of automotive travel over the road began.  Surprisingly Lee Vining Canyon has only a 7% grade which is a hell of an accomplishment for a roadway in the eastern Sierras.  Really the whole saga of Tioga Pass can be found on this website:

http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/tioga_road/mines.html

Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tioga Pass Road
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2017, 10:44:20 PM »

Really though...I don't think many people open this thread for a history lesson, so on with the pictures.   Starting out on the Wawona Road approaching Yosemite Valley the sun was just coming up:

IMG_1459 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Given the lack of early morning crowds it gave me a good opportunity to get the Wawona Tunnel unobstructed.  I should note that this was all back on the 6th, the holiday crowds bailed out fast after the holiday:

IMG_1463 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1486 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Had to stop at the Tunnel View to get a couple pictures before looping through Yosemite Valley:

IMG_1468 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Leaving Yosemite Valley on the El Portal Road I noticed that a new MUTCD compliant US 395 shield was posted with a "To" placard.  The 395 disappeared earlier this year but has been put back up.  To reach Tioga Pass Road from Yosemite Valley the Big Oak Flat Road must be used:

IMG_1502 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1503 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

There are a series of three tunnels on Big Oak Flat Road before Tioga Pass Road is reached:

IMG_1504 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1505 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1506 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1507 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr
 

Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tioga Pass Road
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2017, 10:55:15 PM »

There is a gas station at the Tioga Pass Road/Big Oak Flat Road junction, I would suggest getting gas if you are getting onto empty since Lee Vining is a good 56 miles east over Tioga Pass.  Oddly aside from the white California spades the signage for CA 120 implies the route is active through Yosemite...even though it is gapped through the park.  I guess it probably is due to 120 being the implied route through Yosemite via Tioga, 41 and 140 aren't signed like that:

IMG_1509 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1510 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Really the modern Tioga Pass Road to White Wolf isn't difficult at all.  I'm to understand the alignment through Aspen Valley was kind of hellish and extremely narrow.  I'd like to try to hike the old highway one of these days on a trip to Hetch Hetchey.  The modern Tioga Pass Road to White Wolf Road has some pretty nice draw depths for some neat photos....I even encountered a coyote above the 7,000 foot mark:

IMG_1513 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1516 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1517 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1521 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1522 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

White Wolf Road is the junction of the Old Tioga Pass Road:

IMG_1526 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

From White Wolf the Tioga Pass Road gets a little more interesting crossing the snow line at about 8,000 feet.  There was even a small rain storm above the Sierras on the 6th:

IMG_1535 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1537 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tioga Pass Road
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2017, 11:05:30 PM »

Approaching Olmstead Point there is pretty good deal of cliff-side driving:

IMG_1548 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Half Dome was pretty easily from Olmstead Point given the clear weather:

IMG_1549 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

In addition to Tenaya Lake off to the east:

IMG_1561 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Tioga Pass Road runs along the short of Tenaya Lake which is at 8,150 feet above sea level:

IMG_1572 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1573 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1575 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Approaching Tuolumne Meadows the road was a little soggy but nothing too bad.  Tuolumne Meadows was pretty wet with fresh water from all the snow melt:

IMG_1579 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1582 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1590 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tioga Pass Road
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2017, 11:14:31 PM »

Tuolumne Meadows is the slow point on Tioga Pass Road with mostly 25-35 MPH speed limits:

IMG_1593 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Tioga Pass Road follows the Dana Fork out of Tuolumne Meadows heading east approaching Tioga Pass:

IMG_1593 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1599 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Tioga Pass is located at the Park Service gate at 9,945 feet...but I kind of wish there was a better sign.  There is an informal overlook of Tioga Lake from the pass that had plenty of snow just within Inyo National Forest:

IMG_1603 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1604 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1605 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Which is where CA 120 restarts entering Mono County on the descent to US 395:

IMG_1612 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1613 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Really the road isn't that curvy...

IMG_1614 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1615 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tioga Pass Road
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2017, 11:29:35 PM »

Approaching Lee Vining Canyon the roadway starts to open up on the 7% drop to Mono Lake:

IMG_1620 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1622 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Hard to beat the view....I think Donner Pass is the only real rival to Lee Vining Canyon in the Sierra Pass routes:

IMG_1626 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

There is a nice plaque at Lee Vining Canyon detailing the history of the Tioga Pass Road:

IMG_1651 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The elevation drops pretty quickly out of the High Sierras:

IMG_1658 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1664 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1665 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_1667 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Pretty soon Mono Lake comes into view:

IMG_1670 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

And the Tioga Pass Road ends at 6,781 feet above sea level in Lee Vining at US 395.  CA 120 multiplexes US 395 south before cutting east to US 6:

IMG_1671 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

And really that's it....hell of a ride with the extra snow this year.  I actually found third gear to be useful to descend down out of Lee Vining Canyon.  That probably wasn't necessary given the 7% grade but I was headed to Bodie next and wanted to keep my brakes as cool as possible given recent issues.  Apparently I'm at 6mm left on the front pads in the Sonic, so that means I'll be replacing them soon...had some fade issues later in the day but I'll detail that in the 270 thread.

 


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