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What to do when Yosemite National Park announces that Tioga Road is closed for winter

First, the NPS website is your best resource for park updates: Click here for current park conditions. With the appropriate information, you can plan accordingly. Below are a few answers to frequently asked questions when Tioga Road closes.

Q: What does it mean if Tioga Road is closed?

A: Tioga Road, Glacier Point Road, and the Mariposa Grove Road close seasonally in the winter to vehicular traffic.

Tioga Road is closed just past the entrance to the Tuolumne Grove (the trees are accessible year-round) all the way to the Tioga park entrance on the other side. 

Sometimes there can be shorter periods of time (a day or two) where the road may close temporarily and reopen, especially in the late fall. Again the best resource for information regarding roads in the park is the current park conditions webpage linked above.

When Tioga Road officially closes for winter, for most of us this news means, “See you later,” to the incredible beauty of the high country until next summer. The alpine landscape coated in layer of fresh snow which will hopefully accumulate into a healthy snowpack over the upcoming months to feed the waterfalls and watersheds in the following year.  

Q: Does this mean Yosemite National Park is closed?

A: No, Yosemite National Park stays open year-round.

During the winter there is a lot to see and do from snow-shoeing through giant sequoia groves, skiing up at Badger Pass, or simply hiking around Yosemite Valley. Check out some of our staff favorites here.

Usually starting in January, the Outdoor Adventure team offers occasional snow shoe walks around Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove, and Badger Pass. All of our Outdoor Adventure programs are found here.

Worried about the cold? There’s plenty of hot chocolate at Degnan’s Deli, the Ahwahnee Bar, the Mountain Room and Lounge, and the Wawona Hotel to cheer up any afternoon.

Q: Wait! I’m supposed to be traveling across the Sierra Nevada! What am I supposed to do?

A: Great question! There are still lots of options to cross the Sierra Nevada throughout the winter.

Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park on January 1 2022 covered deep in snow. Snowy mountains in the background.

Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park on January 1, 2022.

The ‘closest options’ are a bit further in the winter months — to the north of Yosemite is Carson Pass, highway 88, and to the south is Tehachapi Pass, highway 58. These passes will remain open all winter — though it’s good to check Caltrans during weather events in the winter in case of temporary closures.  

Q: If the road is closed, does this mean that Tuolumne is closed?

A: No, just the road is closed.

Actually, for winter alpinists this is the time to start gearing up. Over the winter months, the park service’s Tuolumne winter rangers will begin posting updates for Tuolumne Meadows winter conditions. These updates provide a vital information source for intrepid, experienced winter adventurers, but they are also great at transporting you from the comfort of your home to the meadows with commentary on wildlife sightings and descriptions of wintry wonder.

Q: I’m trip planning for next season — when can I plan on the pass being open again?

A: It is incredibly difficult to predict when the pass will open from year to year.

And if we consider the importance of snowpack for our watersheds — and for Yosemite’s waterfalls — the later the opening, the better, because that typically means an excellent snow year.  

One incredibly helpful resource provided by the National Park Service is a chart of the historic opening and closing dates for all three of the seasonal roads. Even with that, your guess is as good as ours… 

 

The photo of “December storming clearing over Tuolumne Meadows” and the photo of “Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park” were both taken by Tuolumne winter rangers. Courtesy of NPS.