Tioga Pass Road at Sunset

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Here are more great pictures of the moon, lining up perfectly with the road.

At this point, highway 120 (known inside the park as Tioga Pass Road) turns off to the left.  If you continue straight, you’ll eventually reach the park’s main attraction: Yosemite Valley.  We will return here tomorrow.

Entry to Yosemite costs $20 per car (2004 price), and will allow you to enter the park as often as you like, for the next week.  Just show your park map, with the receipt attached.

The first few miles of Tioga Pass Road are somewhat uneventful.   An almost endless number of curves makes you wonder if you’re getting anywhere.  The first place worth stopping is this waterfall, that splashes down the mountainside, right next to the road.

Just a few miles further, and the horizon really opens up, providing great views toward Yosemite Valley.  When you see the late evening sun light up the mountainsides, you might be inspired to pause for a moment and quietly hum “America the Beautiful.”

These pictures are from a wide and easily accessible turnoff.

Tioga Pass Road stretches for 60 miles, with almost no facilities along the way.  Much of the road is curvy, and you’ll probably get caught behind an RV at some point, so plan at least 2 hours for your trek across the Sierra Nevada.

Ah, yes.  The moon makes another appearance, just as the last rays of sun light up the mountains.

I decided this rocky, snowy scene was worth turning around for.  And of course, it didn’t hurt that the moon was in just  the right place.

Moonrise?

It’s getting dark, and Tioga Pass (and the motels on the other side) are still a long distance away.

One more glimpse from another scenic viewpoint, before darkness sets in.  This picture, at Olmsted Point, was my final photo of the day.

From here, I continued on, over an impossibly dark and lonely mountain road.  Of course, it’s probably best I couldn’t see the steep slopes just a few feet from my right tires, as I made my way down from Tioga Pass.

Tioga Pass Road truly puts the “high” in highway.  It’s the highest paved road west of the Rockies. (Hwy 108, which I mentioned a few pages ago, is the second highest.)  By the way, the highest road in the Rockies is in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I visited it on my Rocky Roads Trip.

At the end of Hwy. 120 is the small community of Lee Vining, which consists of a few hotels, two gas stations, an “all purpose” convenience store (grocery store, hardware store, sporting goods store, you get the idea), a couple restaurants, and a souvenir shop.  The Best Western had a friendly staff and spacious old cabins for a fairly reasonable rate (just under $100, probably the best deal you’ll find during the busy season).

Note: This trip was first published in 2004.

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