Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road

State: California
Length: 64 miles / 102.4 km
Time to Allow: Allow at least 3 hours.

The Tioga Road Big Oak Flat Road takes up 64 miles in east-central California near the Nevada border. While you can make the drive-in as little as two hours, you may want to take a few days to visit the area properly and enjoy spectacular views through some of the state’s most beautiful forests. From lakes to flower-covered meadows and granite mountains, experience a unique world right in America.

If you have ever wanted to take a scenic drive through Yosemite National Park, then this is the byway for you. Start in the Big Oak Flat park entrance to the west for a walk through the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoia trees. The park offers three clusters of sequoia within the park, ready to leave you in awe of the size; however, the Merced Grove is not accessible by car, and you will need to hike to the area.

From there, continue on 120 highway, also called the Big Oak Flat Road, by car for views of glacial carved vistas and ever-changing landscape. Start in dense forests before moving to sub-alpine meadows and on to glacial lakes. As the elevation rises up to 9,945 feet, through the highest pass by car in California. Everywhere you turn, you will find a scenic turnout perfect for a photo.

Check the weather before going too, as the snowfall lingers and seasons change quickly. Those with asthma should be careful going up such a high elevation as the air thins. Continue moving down the byway toward the incredible Tuolumne Meadow, known as the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. The Tuolumne River twists through fifty-four miles of the park, offering exquisite beauty at every pass.

Yosemite offers several lakes, including Lukens lake, a short walk from the trailhead. It’s a picturesque location in the spring with wildflowers blooming in vast variety. Take another hike to May Lake if you want a longer trip where you can see views of Mount Hoffman in the distance. Finally, Tenaya Lake is one of the most beautiful in the state, with serene water and trees reflecting in the clear water under a backdrop of mountains.

The park also has the highest waterfall in North America at an impressive 2,425 feet. After a long day exploring, go to the Ahwahnee Dining Room for dinner. Inside the restaurant, be rewarded with opulence and 30 feet high ceilings. Make a reservation to enjoy the buffet and plan to wear formal attire despite the ruggedness of the outdoors.

Find tours to take you through the byway or simply drive by car and enjoy what you can see along the way. If you plan to stay, the area offers many hotels, including the Redwoods in Yosemite or the Tenaya Lodge. Bass fishers will love the area, including Bass Lake, with plenty of fish. Take a trip away from stress and relax among giant trees and incredible meadows.

More California Byways

You can check out additional Byways in California by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the California Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.