When will Yosemite’s Tioga Road reopen? Here’s what we know about the road over the Sierra

The scenic Tioga Road – Yosemite National Park’s only road over the Sierra Nevada – remains closed at least through this weekend.

“This does not imply it will open just after the weekend – there is no estimated date for opening,” Yosemite officials said this week. “Opening work continues, especially near Olmsted Point. The road is closed to all entry, including vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Snowpack in the Tuolumne River basin was at 149% of average this year as of May 1.”

The closure extends from Tuolumne Grove, just east of Crane Flat, to the Tioga Pass Entrance Station – Yosemite’s east gate.

Officials said there are 26 potential avalanche zones along Tioga Road, and the Olmsted Point avalanche zone “requires careful work, including application of charcoal over the snow to help with melting and blasting the snow slab to make it safer for personnel.”

While there’s no estimated reopening date, comparing this year to 2017 might provide a good guess. In April 2017, Yosemite snowpack was at 177% of average (this April it was at 176% of average) and Tioga Road reopened June 29.

Snowplowing Tioga Road normally begins around April 15 each year and usually takes between one and two months.

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Tioga Road becomes Highway 120 outside the park. To the east, the road is open between Yosemite’s east entrance and Lee Vining.

Highways 108 and 4 – other routes over the Sierra, north of Yosemite – have opened for the season.

Other Yosemite roads are open, including Glacier Point Road.

Why does it take so long to open Tioga Road?

Yosemite officials said even once snowplowing has finished, other factors can prevent roads from reopening. That can include trash collection, fixing restrooms, ensuring there’s enough park staff, repairing roads, ditching, brushing, and removing fallen trees and rocks on roads. Roads may also remain icy even after plowing.

Current road conditions in the park are posted at nps.gov/yose.

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.