A Place for Summer Recreation
California's highest mountain pass, Tioga Pass Rd. (Hwy. 120), is the east gateway to Yosemite National Park and traveled by thousands of motorists, hikers and rock climbers each summer. It is closed in winter months and dates vary each season – see California Highway Closures for information. The scenery boasts dramatic, classic Yosemite domes and drop-offs formed of multi-color granite and strewn with aspen trees. Turnoffs lead to hiking trails, campgrounds and crystal clear lakes. Start or end your journey in Lee Vining, California, home to the dramatic Mono Lake Tufa Reserve and the Mono Basin Scenic Area Ranger Station & Visitor Center.
Travel past Tioga Lake and Ellery Lake
Driving the dramatic granite-carved eastern section of Tioga Pass between Tuolumne Meadows and Mono Lake, you will pass along the west shore of Tioga Lake and Ellery Lake. These beautiful small-scale lakes can be part of a scenic drive in and out of Yosemite, or a destination in itself. Fish, picnic and soak up incredible views.
Hiking and Fishing at Tioga Pass at Saddlebag Lake
Explore the diverse 4.2 mile loop around Saddlebag Lake, the large and very beautiful high alpine body of water that captures the essence of the Yosemite and Eastern Sierra area. All skill levels will enjoy this trail, which is dog-friendly. The lake is stocked with Alpers Trout. Find it by driving Tioga Pass to Saddlebag Lake Road.
An Easy Hike at Tioga Pass
Stop and stretch your legs while traveling through Yosemite's east side.Nunatuk Nature Trail is a dog-friendly, paved 0.5 mile trail off of Tioga Pass Road. The trail offers scenic views of the surrounding dramatic peaks.
Hike to Historic BennettvilleJust south of Tioga Pass Resort and Junction Meadow Campground (at Saddlebag Rd.) is a moderately difficult trail to what is left of an old mining town called Bennettville which existed in the late 1800's. From there, hiking along the Mine Creek drainage is relatively easy and takes you to some beautiful high alpine lakes.
Tioga Pass Run
Each September, runners challenge themselves to take on 3,200 feet of elevation gain over a 12.4 miles during the Tioga Pass Run.
Fuel up before entering Yosemite
If you are heading to Yosemite via Tioga Pass/Hwy. 120 West, it's about 60 miles from Lee Vining to the next gas station (at Crane Flat), so be sure to get gas and food before entering Yosemite National Park. Chevron and Shell stations are located in Lee Vining. World-famous Whoa Nellie Deli at the Mobil station offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner when the pass is open. Bodie Mike's, Mono Cone and the new Epic Cafe are delicious options on Lee Vining's main street; and Nicely's Restaurant and the Mono Market are open year-round. If you prefer to dine near the very top of Tioga Pass, stop by the cafe at Tioga Pass Resort, a historic lodge that has been hosting travelers since 1914. Or for delightful views of Mono Lake, dine at the Mono Inn or Tioga Lodge north of Lee Vining.
Camping at Tioga Pass
California's highest drive-to campground is located at 10,000 feet atSaddlebag Lake Campground. Camp surrounded by hiking trails and fishing waters; open in summer and fall. Other campgrounds includeEllery, Moraine and Sawmill Campgrounds.