Snow situation on Tioga and Glacier Pt Roads

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

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 The following is a guest blog submitted by Sonke K. of Hamburg, Germany. 

     As the Half Dome hiking season is approaching, the anticipation is rising and so are the temperatures in the Yosemite Valley. However, there is still a lot of snow in the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite is facing the second largest snowpack in the last 30 years (178% water content of the snowpack as a percent of average). Partly thanks to a late March winter storm that also triggered the rare event of a full park closure. 

     During winter, two of Yosemite’s most popular roads remain closed: Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road. Both offer access to many wonderful hikes in case the cables are still down (or you couldn’t scoop up a Half Dome permit) in case you are looking for an alternative. Tioga Road plays a vital role if you want to get to the east side of the Sierra Nevada (e.g. to enjoy a Wild Buffalo Meatloaf sandwich at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining or if you have plans to go from Yosemite to Death Valley via 395).

     Before the roads can be opened some major plowing needs to done. Each year Yosemite National Park roads crews assess the Tioga  and Glacier Point Roads for current conditions and avalanche danger. A Tioga and Glacier Point Road Plowing Update is issued on a regular basis usually starting mid-April. The first report is in and there’s still 10 ft of snow on both roads. Here’s where things stand:

    Tioga Road – Work began this week at the closure east of Crane Flat intersection and consisted of snow cats and dozers moving lifts of snow to reduce snow levels for the rotary plows. Snow levels are still at record-high levels. Work will continue Monday through Saturday, weather and conditions permitting. Also see photo below.

     Glacier Point Road – Deep snow, up to 10 feet, equipment breakdowns, and fresh snow fall marked the first week of spring snow removal on Glacier Point Road. With a slow start as a result of the late-March snow event, which required resources to reopen other park roads and facilities including Mariposa Grove, work clearing the road was delayed. The large rotary snowplows were all inoperable at times during the week, so progress was slow. The road is plowed to pavement up to Summit Meadow, one mile east of Badger Pass. Work will continue Monday through Thursday.

     In other areas, Mariposa Grove  road opened on Friday, April 14 after multiple heavy snow events occurred after the initial snow removal was performed (work had been completed for an April 1 opening but another major winter storm delayed opening). Crane Flat Lookout and Campground/Snow Play Area were completed and equipment moved to Tioga Road. Snow depths required a dozer to reduce the snow level in front of the rotary plow (this has not been the case for many seasons).  

     In 2005 the snowpack had 163% (Tioga Road opened Jun 24, Glacier Point opened May 25 that year).  So if you are planning a hike from a trailhead off Tioga and/or Glacier Point Road or you have to cross the Tioga Road (check YNP website for alternative routes) please plan accordingly and keep an eye on the plowing updates. You can also check with Caltrans for latest Tioga Road conditions click  <HERE>. Safe travel and happy hiking!

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “He who limps is still walking.” – Stanislaw J. Lec 

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch –


7 Responses to “Snow situation on Tioga and Glacier Pt Roads”

  1. andy Says:

    Good update thanks.
    Another thing to consider when planning an alternate hike are the trail conditions. Even though a trail may be “open,” snow and runoff can make some parts almost impassable.
    Last year in June the trail above Yosemite Falls to Eagle Peak was covered with lay downs, snow and running water. Trying to keep your feet dry was a challenge.

  2. Norman S Says:

    I know that when someone puts the effort into doing a blog, they appreciate feedback on how it’s received. I want to second what andy has already said. Thank-you.

    The information is really helpful since I’m planning a trip to Yosemite next week. But the information as good as it is, is not as amazing as your writing. I just wanted to acknowledge your skills in this area.


  3. Maureen Lahiff Says:

    I’d like to be the third to add a vote of thanks for Sönke’s report.

    And Andy is absolutely correct when he adds that the road may be open but the trails aren’t find-able or hike-able. Aspect and shade can make a big difference. Generally west and south-facing slopes melt off faster.

    Even when the trails are partially snow free, there is also danger from under-cut snowbanks, especially near trees, buried rock, and over hard-to-discern creeks.

    Late June 2009, there was snow on the trail to Mount Hoffman above May Lake, less than 1000 feet above the elevation of the Tioga Road.

    If you haven’t checked out the little spike things that strap on over your boots, I suggest it for hiking high up even in late June and July. (Mine are called Stablicers, there are other brands. Stabiliers light are for over running shoes on city streets, but Stabilicers without the light are great for hiking.)

    I truly wish the park would update the Wilderness Conditions on their website at least weekly from late spring into July. (I figure if the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers can post weekly, somebody can make this happen at least that often in spring/summer!)

  4. Sönke Says:

    Thx guys – I really appreciate your comments and your feedback. 🙂

  5. Sönke Says:

    The road crews have been busy and made some astonishing progress:

    Tioga Road: Snow removal operations are nearing the first avalanche zones at South Fork. Avalanche rescue training was performed near Gin Flat. Avalanche crews spent the week blasting and spreading charcoal at Olmsted Point to help reduce the snow above the road. Caltrans is working 120 west from Lee Vining to the park entrance at Tioga Pass.

    Glacier Point Road: Deep snow, 8-12 feet, still describes the work week. Two dozers worked all week pushing multiple lifts of snow off to the sides of the road so the rotaries can then blow the rest up and out of the roadway. The dozers are east of Bridalveil Creek Campground with the rotaries not far behind.

    Mariposa Grove: Open to the grove parking lot. The great weather has dried the loop road shoulders and base to the extent that current restrictions on large vehicles and the tram operations will most likely be dropped next week.

    Here’s a little map to give you a better idea where they are on Glacier Point Road. Bridalveil Creek Campground is on the right side of the map.
    I’ve used National Geographics Park Maps HD iPad/iPhone app that has the detailed Trails Illustrated National Park Maps of 15 of the top US NPs including Yosemite.

  6. Brian Says:

    The fact that Sönke is reporting all this from Hamburg and that he has such a love and respect for Yosemite (and Brice Canyon and Zion, etc) that he puts that much time into a blog like this. It also demonstrates the awe-inspiring nature and attraction of our National Parks.

    In fact, Yosemite is a Global Park…we just do it better than most! I’m proud that we do such a good job of maintaining, preserving and making it accessible to all to see.

    Of course, when I go up to visit it on July 4th and forced to drive at a snail’s pace I may not hold this view! 🙂

    You’re a star, Sönke. I look forward to seeing you and Esther in July in Yosemite!

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