Top 5 Things to Do in Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Kenny Karst.

Tioga Road is open for the summer and the weather is fine in Yosemite National Park. With so many options to choose from, how do you decide where to go and what to do during your visit? Certainly any area of Yosemite can provide experiences filled with wonder, but one area in particular provides the opportunity for a summer filled with memories of the High Sierra: Tuolumne Meadows. Located on Tioga Road CA 120 at an altitude of 8000 feet, the Tuolumne Meadows area is inaccessible in winter when the road is closed. This limited accessibility creates a short but sweet summertime window of opportunity to visit high alpine meadows and streams, along with some of Yosemite’s highest peaks. Though services are available in Tuolumne Meadows, the High Sierra views are unobstructed.  In addition to camping and tent cabin lodging, Tuolumne Meadows has a visitor center, wilderness center, store, a grill restaurant, a gas station, a stable and an outpost of the Yosemite Mountaineering School. The following top five list of things to do in Tuolumne Meadows gives you an overview of this stunning slice of the Sierra Nevada in Yosemite.

1. Hiking: Tioga Road is littered with trailheads that can take you deep into Yosemite’s backcountry or offer simple sightseeing. Soda Springs and historic Parsons Memorial Lodge, Lembert Dome, Mount Dana, May Lake, Pothole Dome, the John Muir Trail, Cathedral Lakes, Twin Bridges, and Elizabeth Lake are among the hiking options in this area. These high-elevation hikes range from an afternoon stroll along the Tuolumne River to Twin Bridges to traversing the Sierra Nevada on the John Muir Trail.

2. Camping: Tent cabin lodging and family-style dining is provided at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and the Yosemite High Sierra Camps. Traditional camping can be found at the national park system’s largest campground in Tuolumne Meadows. Camping allows you to experience the Yosemite landscape up close with opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, photography, fishing, swimming and more. But no matter where you lay your head in the High Sierra, the access to the night sky filled with stars will fill you with wonder.

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

3. Dining at Tuolumne Meadows Grill: Menu favorites include burgers & fries, veggie chili, breakfast, and ice cream cones. You won’t find a dining room at the rustic Tuolumne Meadows Grill, but you will find tasty take-out options after a long summer hike in the high country. Picnic tables are available outside the restaurant and store, where you can trade adventure stories with other hikers and climbers.

4. Photography: Tuolumne Meadows are beautiful alpine meadows riddled with wildflowers in the summer, Tenaya Lake is an easily accessible alpine lake with sand beaches made for summer swimming, Mount Dana provides amazing views of the Sierra Nevada at 13,000 feet of elevation, the Tuolumne River carries snow melt from the High Sierra to points below and the night sky is brilliant with exceptional opportunities for night sky photography.

TM Wildflowers

Tenaya Lake. Photo by Kenny Karst

Tenaya Lake. Photo by Kenny Karst

5. Trail Ride: Take a day trip on a mule at the Tuolumne Meadows Stable and visit Tuolumne View on the Young Lakes Trail, an ideal lookout point for Cathedral Range, Johnson Peak and Mammoth Peaks or take a half-day ride and visit Twin Bridges on the Tuolumne River just above Tuolumne Falls. If you can’t bear to leave the beauty behind, commit to an extended backcountry experience with a saddle pack trip to one of five High Sierra Camps (or take the 50 mile loop and visit them all!).

Sunrise High Sierra Camp

Sunrise High Sierra Camp

This article was published in the Yosemite in Focus newsletter for the month of June. Get stories about Yosemite delivered right to your email inbox every month by signing up here: Yosemite Newsletters.

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The Story of Ranger Gabriel in Yosemite National Park

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Gabriel Lavan-Ying, an eight-year-old from Gainesville Florida suffering from Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, wished to become a national park ranger. With the help of Make-A-Wish Central California, Yosemite National Park endeavored to make Gabriel’s wish come true on Tuesday June 3, 2014. Make-A-Wish Central California grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2½ and 18 who currently have a life-threatening medical condition which is defined as a progressive, degenerative or malignant and has placed the child’s life in jeopardy. Gabriel wanted “to see cool stuff like waterfalls”, and he is a history buff who loves nature. So the rangers at Yosemite National Park put Gabriel through extensive training in order to ensure his success as a national park ranger. Gabriel arrived in Yosemite with his family – mother Tara, father Kon, twin sister Angelica and older brother Dominic – and stayed at Tenaya Lodge just outside the south gate of the park. On Tuesday, Gabriel and his family traveled to Yosemite Valley for his training and swearing-in ceremony.

Ranger Gabriel learns to use the radio before boarding the NPS firetruck.

Ranger Gabriel learns to use the radio before boarding the NPS firetruck. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Gabriel was dispatched to fight a wildland fire with the Yosemite Fire Crew, attended naturalist walks in Cook’s Meadow, was also dispatched to a search and rescue operation involving an injured hiker and assisted the Yosemite medical team in transporting the patient to a rescue helicopter. After Gabriel’s full day of training, he was sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger in a ceremony at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Approximately 300 people, including Yosemite community members and Yosemite park rangers, witnessed the ceremony in which Gabriel received his badge and credentials. United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng and Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presided over the ceremony where Ranger Gabriel also received a flag that was previously flown over Yosemite National Park.

Ranger Gabriel assists with the rescue of an 'injured' hiker.

Ranger Gabriel assists with the rescue of an ‘injured’ hiker. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel assists with transport to the search and rescue helicopter.

Ranger Gabriel assists with transport to the search and rescue helicopter. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger by Judge Michael Seng. photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger by Judge Michael Seng. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

In addition to the training, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite provided some down time in the form of a pizza party at Degnan’s Loft in Yosemite Village. Ranger Gabriel relaxed at lunch with his family, the NPS rangers involved in his training and the Make-A-Wish crew. After the ceremony, The Ahwahnee kitchen staff celebrated Ranger Gabriel’s new status with a congratulatory cake created by Executive Pastry Chef Paul Padua. On the shaded back patio at The Ahwahnee, Ranger Gabriel wrapped up his first day as a Yosemite park ranger, sharing cake and lemonade with his family and dozens of his new friends. Returning the next day to Yosemite Valley, Ranger Gabriel escorted his family on a rafting trip down the Merced River, ever vigilant for those that may need the assistance or knowledge of a national park ranger.

Chef Paul Padua helps Ranger Gabriel cut the cake at The Ahwahnee. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Chef Paul Padua helps Ranger Gabriel cut the cake at The Ahwahnee. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel and family rafting the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel and family rafting the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel's parking spot in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel’s parking spot in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.