Tioga Road/ Big Oak Flat Road National Scenic Byway

Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road offers a spectacular passage over the Sierra Nevada. Drive through the highest automobile pass in California and experience an elevation change of over one mile. You'll find glacier-carved granite peaks, pristine lakes, wildflower-covered meadows and lush evergreen forests with giant sequoia groves in this serene yet rugged landscape. The byway is located entirely within Yosemite National Park and follows California State Highway 120.

Tioga Road/ Big Oak Flat Road was designated a National Scenic Byway in September 1996. This byway is also designated a California State Scenic Highway and a National Forest Scenic Byway.

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Location

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Nearby
Latitude: 37.8233787 Longitude: -120.2578068 Elevation: 2836 ft

Length of Byway or Route

64.0 miles

Driving Directions

The byway begins at the Big Oak Flat Yosemite National Park entrance, at the State Route 20 junction south of Mather. Follow State Road 120 as it winds through Yosemite National Park. The byway ends at the Tioga Pass gate.

Allow 1.5 hours to drive or 3 hours to visit places along the way.

Highlights and Key Points Along the Route

Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road takes you on a potentially epic journey through the nation's first federally protected area. Traveling through the home of the largest living beings, the tallest exposed chunk of granite, and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, a trip down this byway should reside near the top of every traveler's must-do list.

Originally set aside by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and later named as the second National Park in 1872, Yosemite National Park boasts rich historical value in addition to the obvious scenic and recreation opportunities in the famous valley. Bring your camera, hiking boots, and plenty of supplies because regardless of the season, you'll find the perfect trail to indulge your hiking passion along the byway. Before you head out, take a look at the Yosemite National Park website for descriptions and useful information about the various trails you’ll find throughout the park.

A casual explorer discovers countless wonders within minutes of the byway. Stroll among the giant sequoias in Toulumne Grove where these 30-foot-thick monoliths testify to thousands of years' worth of experience. The 2.5-mile hike guides you over a short, smooth trail through the grove, which includes one hollowed-out tree you can walk through. But be prepared—this hike is strenuous for some. In the springtime, cool off in the spray created by countless roadside waterfalls or take one of the quick half-mile hikes to the base of Bridal Veil Falls or Yosemite Falls, both just a few miles south of the byway in Yosemite Valley. Enjoy the refreshing spray from both falls in the spring and early summer, for Yosemite Falls often dries up from late July or August through October.

Though the views of massive spring waterfalls and soaring granite cliffs from Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road never fail to inspire, the busy summer season often finds the sites closest to the byway crowded with your fellow tourists. The majority of visitors rarely stray from the road, however, so a half-hour's hike down any trail results in quiet communion with nature. And trails abound! Feeling adventurous? Take the 14-mile round trip hike to Cloud's Rest. The trail begins at the midpoint of the byway at Tenaya Lake and ends on a tiny precipice with sheer cliffs on three sides. Stand atop Cloud's Rest and take in the awe-inspiring views of Yosemite's iconic granite domes and dense conifer forests surrounding you.

Many travelers head to Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road seeking a more strenuous vacation, following a philosophy that a true retreat from the office requires epic forays in wild areas, tempting danger and risking injury while pushing their own limits. These explorers find a surplus of opportunities along the byway. A rock climber’s dream come true, El Capitan also offers dedicated hikers an opportunity to brave a 17-mile hike past Eagle Point and Nevada Falls to stand atop the tallest piece of granite on earth. A few visitors tackle all 211 miles of the John Muir Trail, ending at the top of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states.

Regardless of your motivation, a trip along Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road takes you through 64 miles of consistently inspiring beauty, culturally significant sites, and a bounty of hiking opportunities.

Explore the byway with a National Park Tour: Yosemite National Park.

Pet Friendly Notes

Pets are only allowed

  • in developed areas
  • on fully paved trails and roads except trails signed as not allowing pets (pets are not allowed off the floor of Yosemite Valley, including the trail to Vernal Fall)
  • in campgrounds (except Tamarack Flat, Porcupine Flat, and walk-in campgrounds)

A few places where pets are allowed, contrary to the general prohibition regarding pets on unpaved roads including the Meadow Loop and Four Mile fire roads in Wawona, on the Carlon Road, and on the Old Big Oak Flat Road between Hodgdon Meadow and Hazel Green Creek.

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