Kevin's Hiking Page    

Eastern Sierra Trip 2009

Day 6 of 10

Previous Day | Trip Home | Next Day

Wednesday, July 1st
Drive to Tioga Lake campground, Tioga Lake hike

Today was our last day at Big Pine Creek campground. I could have reserved the camp site for another day, but I wanted to head up to the Tioga Pass area on Wednesday to make sure we secured a first-come first-served camp site on this 3-day weekend. Normally arriving Thursday would probably be fine, but I figured Wednesday would be better on the long weekend.

To that end, I wanted to get an early start and head straight to the campgrounds without doing a day hike first. We packed up and left the campground at 10:20am, stopping briefly in Bishop. We couldn't resist a brief tour of the Mountain Light Gallery. That's always a treat. It was nice to see that Galen's son Tony is a fine photographer himself, inspired by his father.

Originally, my first choice of campground was Saddlebag Lake. But after our hike to Crystal Lake with patches of snow, I started to have second thoughts. Maybe it'd be too cold or barren at the slightly higher elevation. I decided we'd first try Ellery Lake, then Tioga Lake, then Saddlebag Lake. We arrived at Ellery Lake on Tioga Road at 1:30pm. The campground was almost full already, with only one or two sites available, and neither of them looked appealing. The sites are not next to the lake itself, but rather just around the corner from it.

We then drove to Tioga Lake, just a mile up the road and just outside Yosemite. As soon as I drove into the campground and saw beautiful Tioga Lake backed by snow-covered mountains, I said out loud, "Please please let there be a vacant site!" And there was. In fact, we had 3 or 4 different sites to choose from. We eventually settled on site number 4. It's exposed to the wind, but has one of the best views and has direct access to the trail around the lake. I'm glad we arrived relatively early, as the campground was full by 3:30pm.

Tioga Lake Campground

View from our camp site

Having found such a beautiful site, we had no desire to try our luck with Saddlebag Lake. We settled in at Tioga Lake campground. It's a small campground, with only 12 or 13 sites for tents or small RV's. There's no running water or showers. Just pit toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and campfire rings. One downside is that the gravel area you're supposed to put your tent on is relatively small. We had a hard time fitting our tent in without placing it right next to the campfire ring. Eventually we decided to just live with it like that, and pull back the vestibule whenever we wanted a fire.

The campground does not sell firewood (or at least wasn't selling it yet at this time), so I made the short drive to the Tioga Pass Resort. I picked up some ice there, but they didn't have any firewood, either. I even checked the Ellery Lake campground, but to no avail. So we'd just have to do without a campfire tonight. Instead, after an early dinner, we went on a short hike along the shore of Tioga Lake.

By the time we went to sleep, the afternoon winds had died down. You might think that sleeping pretty close to Highway 120 would be a problem because of the car noise, but the sound of the water in the inlet stream drowned most of that out. And traffic grew light later at night.

Before sleeping, I snuck out of the tent and did a little night photography, taking some long exposures of the moonlit mountains behind Tioga Lake. I think a few of them turned out fairly well.

Mount Dana over Tioga Lake at night

Mount Dana over Tioga Lake at night (2 minute exposure)

Previous Day | Trip Home | Next Day

 Kevin's Hiking Page    
Copyright © 1995-2019 Kevin L. Gong