Sierra Nevada

Tioga Pass to Open: Hello, Summer

All of that prodigious snow has been cleared from the iconic Sierra route.

LOOK, honestly, we're going to eventually get to the whole rhapsodizing part of the Tioga Pass, because not absolutely going full gush over the marvelous meadows and sky-reaching peaks and vistas worthy of an Ansel Adams print isn't the way things are done, no sirree. We're all first-time visitors to the Tioga Pass, in terms of awe, wonder, and delight, even if we roll along its wending way each and every summer. But before the gushery, let's chew on some dates and numbers. The big, blinking sign of a date that everyone who digs spending time in the Sierra Nevada, the Eastern Sierra, and Yosemite National Park will be talking about as June wraps? Thursday, June 29, for that's the day that, after a major snow-removal effort, the Tioga Pass will fully open, promptly at 8 a.m., meaning you can admire Mono Lake in the morning and hike the Cook's Meadow Loop in Yosemite Valley in the afternoon, no sweat (well, maybe a little, but that's good). 

AS FOR THE NUMBERS PART? You can see all of the recent opening dates for the high-elevation Highway 120 pass here, and the percentage of snowpack, so, if you think June 29 is a pretty late opening, it is, but not as late as it was in 1995, when Tioga Pass opened on June 30. The snowpack as of April 1 for 2017 stood at 177% and the 1995 percentage just eeked that number out, coming in at 178%. And check it out: The pass even opened in late April, in 1988. All very cool stuff, if you like to pore over years and snowfall amounts and opening dates. Closing dates, too: The pass has been closed, this last go-around, since Nov. 16, 2016.

THREE THINGS: The June 29 opening is a "conditions permitting" deal, so checking one more time before you head out, that morning, just to be sure everything is copacetic, is wise. Also, Yosemite National Park shared some wisdom on what hikers and campers can expect regarding conditions upon opening. Two? Gratitude to all of the people who work so hard to clear the mountain passes, for, surely and factually, they faced some epic snow scenes after the winter of 2016-2017. And three? Here comes the gushing: Meadows and waterfalls and critters and trees and rocky granite outcroppings and the sun glinting on lakes and all sorts of creeks, oh my. The Tioga Pass takes nature lovers to all of that beauty, each summer, and that is something deserving of a classic, no-holds-barred, tumble-over-ourselves gush-a-thon. Few roads deliver people to such mythical, get-happy places, anywhere.

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