The new “Old Priest Grade Road”

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

 It’s been closed for most of the summer – the venerable Priest Grade from Moccasin to Big Oak Flat. It’s named for William Priest, a mining man, engineer and one of the first Yosemite commissioners.  If you have driven Hwy 120 to Yosemite, you surely have been onit as it takes you up about 1,575 feet from Moccasin to the top. The windy, steep (17% grade) road that you see to the southeast (after passing the fish hatchery) is the original path that was first a wagon route called The Grizzly Gulch Road. In its day it could take a heavy cargo wagon 5 hours to get to the top. It has become the “old grade.” It was built in the rush to exploit the park in the 1850’s. Today a strong car engine is limited to 20 mph but can get you up the 2.7 miles in about 10 minutes. The modern putsy  “new” priest grade was actually built almost 100 years ago!!   <<Click on photo enlarge.>>

   An extensive fresh repaving project and installation of guard rails kept the route closed until late September. I went up early October and shot these pix. It’s a real smooth ride now and the neat part is they built a large “turnout” on the right (going up) that could accommodate about 30 cars!  There are no signs restricting use, so it was a neat spot to gawk from. At the top, stop at the Priest Station  for a meal or soda. (I noticed they carry my Half Dome book- yea!) Your brakes better be good if you come down that way.



Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch –


2 Responses to “The new “Old Priest Grade Road””

  1. Kathy Says:

    A tip to Prius drivers, since we don’t have a downshift. When going down the Old Priest Grade, put you car in Battery. Slows the engine down and saves the brakes a bit! Old Priest is great since as Rick says it is only 10 minutes up. Going the new Grade – the way most people go from the Bay Area adds about 15/20 minutes to your trip and feels like it takes forever. But remember that Old Priest can not accomodate RV’s etc. Cars only!

  2. Dean Says:

    I remember Priest Grade from our first visit in 07 though I didn’t know that was its name at the time.

    It was a “oh, we seem to have reached high country” kind of moment.

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