The Rim Fire of the late summer 2013 reached the Tioga road. Due to fire damage and danger of falling trees, Tuolumne Grove has had some work done. Due to the fire and general wear, there is construction on Tioga Road for 2015. While fire has always been a part of the cycle in the Sierra Nevada forest, this was a human caused fire, not a natural fire. The forest will return eventually.
The high road through Tuolumne provides the easiest access to a high Alpine meadow in the Sierra. From the east you have a long steep climb to the park boundary at Tioga Pass -- a relatively low pass over the Sierra, which is why the road was built. Then the Tuolumne meadow area with the campground and visitor center. Tenaya Lake is a good place for starting an interesting hike to Clouds Rest (and continuing to the valley if your car can drive itself). Olmstead Point gives you a view of Half Dome and is the critical avalanche zone for the snow plows every spring. The road continues down into the forest and Crane Flat.
Many trailheads start from the road, which saves hikers from the long climb up from the valley floor. Winter and spring are possible only on skis or snow shoes, but summer and early fall are great times to visit and get away from the crowds. Especially fall when facilities are closing and there is no overnight parking allowed on the road -- once it snows the road is closed (closures range from October 17 (a rare event) to December 11 (there is the very late January 17, 2012 closing), but most closing dates are in November). Through the fall a snow may close the road, but a week of sunshine opens it again, but without that week, it stays closed. Recently a summer shuttle has operated from Olmstead Point to Tuolumne Lodge. Perfect for arranging day hikes when staying at the Lodge or the campground.
|Tuolumne is the largest alpine meadow in the Sierra, also the most accessible and most crowded. But compared to Yosemite Valley, or much of Yellowstone, it is deserted. Even more so in the winter when it is under several feet of snow. If you get out of your car and start walking you quickly leave the people behind.|
|Snow steadily accumulates with each winter storm, then steadily and quickly melts to feed the streams and falls. The meadow itself provides San Francisco with subdized water. San Francisco pays nothing to protect the important watershed. Below the meadow, Hetch Hetchy has been destroyed by San Francisco to produce power that is mostly sold to make money for the city. More water storage is available lower in the Tuolumne basin at Don Pedro.|
|Olmstead Point provides a different view of Half Dome. The higher Clouds Rest (to the left) provides even better views. This is one of the critical zones for opening the road each spring -- with the large expanse of bare rock it is prime avalanches terrain. Walk out to the views that are a bit beyond the parking lot. For stereo views, see Olmstead Point Stereo The smooth granite slabs are ideal for spring avalanches which can delay plowing operations.|
|C Initially closed due to the Rim Fire in the summer of 2013, but available again. Though not really on the Tioga road (parking is off the Tioga road near the begining -- or in the winter, just before the closure) -- it is on the old road to Big Oak Flat, which is now a walking path -- the Tuolumne Grove is a quiet place to see Sequoias. Including what is left of a Tunnel Tree. Mariposa Grove on the southern edge of the park is larger and more accessible (and thus more crowded, but access there will be restricted for trail reconstruction and rerouting begining in 2015).|
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