Photographing Olmsted Point - Yosemite's Tioga Road

Ray Anderson
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Latitude: 37.810856 Longitude: -119.484591 Elevation: 8423 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Ray Anderson


The alpine scenery surrounding Yosemite National Park's Tioga Road is spectacular: granite peaks and domes, lakes, cascading creeks, meadows, flora & fauna, etc.  And a bonus with no crowds like Yosemite Valley, no stores, no restaurants, and no hotels.  There are rustic Spartan tent cabins at Tuolumne Meadows and small rustic cabins at White Wolf and Tioga Pass Resort.   For people who want lodging with a view, camping is excellent in Nature's wonderland.

The season for visiting here is short, due to snow in winter and frequently autumn and spring.  Caltrans does not snow plow Highway 120 (Tioga Road).  This approach definitely helps protect the Yosemite High Country from over use and commercial development.  Tioga Road is usually opened for travel near the end of May and then closed with the first snow staying on the road, usually late October.

The road half a mile east of Crane Flat to the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias is plowed and accessible in winter, but not beyond there.

One of the first scenic road stops heading east is Olmsted Point, located 30.5 miles east of Crane Flat.  Here a half mile trail crosses on top of a curving huge granitic dome, surrounded by Nature's geology.

Full Explanation

"Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer.  Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings.  Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature's sources never fail."                             John Muir - Our National Parks, 1901

A half mile stroll west across the curving granite of Olmsted Point ends at a view point of the back side of Half Dome and to its left, Clouds Rest.  This unique view is looking down from 8,300 feet elevation.  Looking back to the east is another excellent view of Tenaya Lake with Mount Conness in the background.   It may be tempting to continue hiking down into Tenaya Canyon but definitely not advised.  There is no trail and the footing dangerous along steep slopes.   A better option is to cross the road to the north of the parking lot up a granite slope for another similar view like Olmsted Point, and you may have this spot all to yourself.

For photographers, a polarizing filter or neutral density filter is recommended for the harsh sunlight during the day.  Usually late afternoon approaching sunset is a fine time for photographers.  A telephoto lens is also recommended to bring in the geological features.  Even if photographing midday in harsh sunlight, post editing software conversion to black & white makes for interesting Ansel Adams like images detailing textures and variety.

"Glacial erratics" deposited by glaciers are interesting photographic subjects, giant boulders standing on top of the Olmsted Point surfaces.

Camping is a fine way to stay within Yosemite's high country, rather than driving away from it for distant lodging.  Ideal for staying around for sunset and being there already for sunrise. There are numerous National Park campgrounds along the Tioga Road. The closest one to Omsted Point, is located about 5 miles west, Porcupine Flat.  This campground is along Snow Creek with many sites next to the water, and it has 52 spaces, maximum rv length 24 feet. 

A campfire at night under the stars, and coffee next morning outdoors, ideal for modern day John Muirs.


What a tempting spot! The thought of a personal experience in Yosemite is mind boggling. I love your photos. It would be interesting to see the same photo in B&W and then in color. The tree and boulder have such an ageless look; they seem primary and ancient at the same time. Thanks so much!

Shelley L Houston, 8/19/2014

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