Northern Yosemite is the national park’s high country, fundamentally alpine with rugged terrain for hiking, camping and exploring. Here, giant granite domes, craggy peaks, stands of ancient trees and wildflower-studded meadows embody the austere beauty of the High Sierra. As Highway 120 rises toward Northern Yosemite, it becomes Tioga Road, the main artery through the region. The elevation gradient is steady and significant, rising from about 6,000 feet at Crane Flat to nearly 10,000 feet at Tioga Pass. Tioga Road opens in late May or June, depending on the winter snowpack and road repairs. It typically closes in late October or November, depending on winter storm conditions.
See & Do
Heading away from Yosemite Valley, Big Oak Flat Road is the runway to Northern Yosemite’s high country. An arborist’s dream, the road is a sylvan parade of trees as it gains elevation towards Crane Flat. Oak, fir, pine and ancient stands of giant sequoias such as the Merced and Tuolumne groves rise just off the road.
Crane Flat is a meadow-covered setting where myriad varieties of wildflowers (and bears) call home. The Crane Flat Snow Play Area is a popular place for sledding and snow play, located just south of the Crane Flat gas station and market, the ideal stop for refueling and picking up some road snacks.
Like Yosemite Valley, the Hetch Hetchy area features soaring cliffs and waterfalls above the Hetch Hetchy reservoir.
Tucked into Yosemite National Park’s peaceful northwest corner, Hetch Hetchy Valley is one of the park’s less-visited treasures. Soaring peaks, steep canyons, and thundering waterfalls are here. O’Shaughnessy Dam, at the west end of the valley, provides a nice overlook of the reservoir and wilderness beyond, including 1,000-foot-plus Wapama Falls.
Of all the scenic byways in Yosemite, Tioga Road rises above them all (literally, as well). The 46-mile (62 km) drive from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass gains 4,000 feet in elevation as it cruises through a glaciated granite wonderland of immense vistas such as Olmsted Point, roadside domes and peaks, the glittering sapphire jewel of Tenaya Lake and picturesque Tuolumne Meadows.