Yosemite National Park] Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows Day Trip | Summer Camping in Yosemite National Park

Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows | Introduction

Want to go to Yosemite National Park but don't want the crowds? Come to the Tioga Road and Tuolumne meadows area, an east-west road on the north side of Yosemite National Park. The 39-mile-long scenic road cuts through forests, meadows, lakes, and the huge granite landscapes that are a part of Yosemite. Don't think there are fewer people here because there is nothing to see. In fact, this area is just not as commercialized as the Yosemite Valley to the south, and because it is covered with snow and ice for most of the year, it is only open from early June to November, and there are fewer well-maintained and simple trails. Not only is the scenery beautiful, but the high elevation makes it a great place to escape the heat in the summer.

Tioga Road | Day trip planning

Tioga road runs through the east and west exits of Yosemite National Park. In fact, many visitors come here because they drive all the way from the east to enter the park through this road. There are no accommodations other than campgrounds on this road, so if you want to go through the whole road and back to Yosemite Valley, you have to arrange half a day even if you want to go on a horseback trip, because it takes about one and a half hours to drive from the west to the east, and it will take you three hours to go back and forth.

We had a campsite appointment at Tuolumne Meadows campground this time, so the whole trip was made in time to get to the campsite before dusk fromGlacier pointDrive to Tuolumne meadows campground, then the next day we will arrange a full day itinerary: in the morning we will climb up to Lembert Dome and Dog lake, in the afternoon we will go to see the meadows and Soda springs, then we will drive west and have a picnic lunch at Tenaya lake, and then we will stop again at the most famous viewpoint of the area, Olmsted Point. - Olmsted Point.

Accommodation | Tuolumne Meadows Campground

Tuolumne meadows campgroundThe campsite we stayed at was conveniently located close to the Tuolumne Meadows visitor center. The main advantage of this campground is the Tuolumne river, which makes this campground a very beautiful spot.

Although it is a reservation system, the campsites on this side are not pre-designated spots, but are arranged by the Park. We arrived at the campsite at around dusk, the post was empty and there was a white board at the post with the name of the reservation and the assigned campsite number. We were assigned a spot right by the river. The campground was not very nice, but the view was excellent.

Camping Environment

  • Camp Comfort: ⭐️⭐️

This time, the location is near the river, when we came to the heavy rain, the ground is quite muddy, but in fact, the biggest drawback is that the assigned location is 80% are all different sizes of rocks, there is only a small piece of land to set up camp. Luckily, our tent is small and we can just settle on this piece of ground. But the other campsites seem to be better.

  • Camp Space: ⭐️

The campgrounds here are not very spacious, but because there were so few of us, our assigned campsites were really small, and the terrain was so bad that it was hard to find a place to put a chair. Since we are usually spoiled by the large campgrounds in California, we were not used to it this time.

  • Facility Cleanliness: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The camp facilities were ordinary and the nearby toilets were very old. Water taps are hard to find and you have to go deep into other people's camps to get water.

  • Convenience: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The best thing about this campground is the location, it's very close to all the attractions on Tioga, and with a big plus river right next to it, this program takes it back a few notches.

  • Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you want to camp in Yosemite, it's very rare to get a campsite reservation, so you really can't be too picky. I think this time is very lucky is the river view is superb, in the river rest time also met an old lady from bakersfield, said she is specially come to this side of the summer heat, do not intend to go to other attractions is ready to relax in this campground for three days.

Tuolumne river

One more thing that makes the campground great is the view of the river. We arrived in the evening, and after setting up our tents, we were able to watch the sunset over the river. The sunset was so beautiful that we forgot all the tension of setting up camp and the hunger of not having dinner yet.

The view of the river in the morning was also quite beautiful, so we just pulled our chairs down to the river for coffee.

Olmsted Point

Olmsted Point is the most famous viewpoint in the area, from this point you can see the Yosemite valley to the southeast, including the half dome to the south, and Teneya lake to the east. there is a cool granite rock in front of you when you look towards the valley.

The point is named in honor of Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned American architect who designed New York's Central Park and was responsible for some of Yosemite National Park's original conservation policies.

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya lake is the biggest lake above Tioga road, because it is just beside the road and beautiful, people like to play water here. There is a picnic area at the east end of the lake where you can get close to the large sandy beach, but there are also a lot of people jumping into the lake directly on the roadside to play in the water.

Lembert Dome

Lembert Dome is the most difficult trail that we are going to challenge in this trip. There are actually two different routes to Lembert Dome, this time we chose to start from Lembert Dome and dog lake trailhead, although it is a bit longer, the middle of the trail is a bit smoother. This route is 3.4 miles (5.5km) back and forth, with an altitude difference of 850ft, it is a difficult route, so make sure to bring plenty of water with you.

After climbing up to Lembert Dome, there is no more trail, you need to find your own way on the rocks. The road to the top became very steep, most people didn't really climb to the top, after all, it was windy and steep up there, need to overcome the fear. The view from here is panoramic of the whole Tuolumne meadows and the surrounding hills. Even if you don't climb to the top, you can get a great panoramic view from the ridge of Lembert Dome.

Dog Lake

Dog lake and Lembert Dome can be combined into a 5 mile loop, but we went back to the turnoff and then up to Dog lake. If we counted from the starting point, the total distance of this route is 3.6 miles (5.8km), although most of our route was repeated, we only added 1 mile to the 3.4 miles of the Lembert Dome route. Dog lake trail is also considered as a difficult trail, but the difficult part is shared with Lembert Dome, so we didn't have to spend too much effort on this extra section.

Dog lake is surrounded by forest, only a father and son were seen playing in the water, very quiet.

Soda Springs

After descending the mountain, we took the Soda Springs trail which leads to Soda springs and Parsons memorial lodge. This trail is quite gentle and is the easiest trail on the Tioga road, with a round trip of only 1 mile, which can be completed in half an hour. However, since the trail goes through the grassland, it will be very hot under the direct sunlight, so you should remember to bring some water with you.

After half a mile you will see a small house and red carbonated water on the ground, Soda springs is here. The water on the ground was bubbling amazingly.

A little farther up the road is the former Parsons memorial lodge, honoring Edward Taylor Parsons, who was an early Sierra Club guide in the late 1800s and took hundreds of people on exploratory trips to the mountains. This is now a National Park display room. A few cabins stand on the side of the trail, where the Sierra Club used to live.

There are many animals on this trail, and the groundhogs are lying on the rocks, basking in the sun.

Further reading



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