Jdub’s Unforgettable Drive #3 U.S. Highway 395 in California from Bishop to Tuolumne Meadows via Tioga Pass Road

Ellery Lake from Tioga Pass Road

     If you followed me to Bishop up from Ridgecrest then keep going because this drive gets better and better as we work our way into one of the greatest national parks of them all, Yosemite. If you were lucky enough to spend the night in Bishop, then stop at Schats Bakery and load up on breakfast pastries and coffee to start the day. 

     Head north up 395, You will soon come to the turn off to Mammoth Mountain. In the summer you can go mountain biking on the same slopes that make Mammoth famous during the winter. Then take a stroll through the village streets shopping and looking for souvenirs. Other sites nearby are Devils Postpile National Monument, where ancient lava cooled to form the worlds largest deposit hexagonal basalt columns. If golfing’s your game, try out the Sierra Star golf course, this 18 hole, par 70 course has an elevation of 8,000 feet making it the highest golf course in California.

View of Mono Lake from Whoa Nellie Deli

     After exploring Mammoth keep heading up 395 until you get to the small town of Lee Vining, which over-looks the surreal Mono Lake, with its limestone tufa towers and salty brine waters. This is where you make the turn onto Tioga Pass Road (hwy 120) into Yosemite Park. The Tioga Pass closes in the winter so check the National Park Website for road conditions. It usually open in early June and closes around October/November. Right after you turn onto Tioga, there is a Mobil gas station on the left you should stop at, be sure to fill up your tank here as gas is more expensive further up and also, do not pass up a chance to stop in at the Whoa Nellie Deli. This deli is self described as “the most unusual deli inside a gas station you will ever visit”. They aren’t kidding! Check out the unbelievable menu Chef Matt Toomey has created, otherwise known as Tioga Toomey. It will probably be your best meal of the trip.

Yosemite entrance

     As you start up Tioga road the elevation goes up from around 6,700 feet to near 10,000 feet near the entrance to Yosemite. You are now on one of the most scenic trans-Sierra routes. Once there you will find pristine lakes, rivers, glaciers, and if you are lucky, wildlife, including deer, black bear, marmots, and blue jays. As you enter Yosemite on Tioga Pass there are a number of activities you can do, including fishing, photography, camping, and best of all hiking, with around 20 hikes originating from Tioga Pass Road which offer varying degrees of difficulty. Chances are you can find a hike to suit any style. Follow this link to some of the trails, shown with difficulty. For a list of campgrounds in and around Yosemite visit here for camping reservations and here to camp without reservations.

Tenaya Creek

     Be sure to stop often as there are plenty of nice photo opportunities right along side the road. One of our favorites being Olmsted Point, which offers stunning views to the east side of Half Dome.

     As you can see there is a lot to see and explore in this part of California, so plan now and have a great adventure this summer enjoying the High Sierra and all it has to offer. Join me in the future as we go deeper into Yosemite and explore some of the special sites and wonders that await. As always thanks for taking the time to read my blog, I hope you enjoy it and I hope that you have a chance to go and see these places firsthand. As always stay tuned and drive safe. Thank you.

View of Half Dome from Olmsted Point