Annual overnight parking restrictions started today on two of Yosemite National Park’s main roads. Fresno backpackers making the short drive to Yosemite will be unable to park their vehicles overnight on Tioga Road or on the Glacier Point Road beyond Badger Pass until spring.
The National Park Service enacts these parking restrictions each year to prevent vehicles from becoming stuck along these roads or at trailheads if significant snow closes the road for the season while their drivers are on trail. Snowfall already closed Tioga Road briefly this year during a winter storm that began around October 5. The road reopened on October 7 and remains open but will eventually close for the season when high country snow and the onslaught of winter storms makes keeping the road open impractical.
The seasonal closure of Tioga Road usually begins in mid-November. It closed last year on November 19 but has closed as late as December 6 (2001) and as early as October 17 (2004). Incidentally, Tioga Road was closed briefly last year between October 4 and October 7, owing to an early season snowstorm much like the one that occurred earlier this month.
Overnight parking restrictions and seasonal closures on Glacier Point Road go into effect on the same day as those on Tioga Road. The parking restriction applies to the portion of the road beyond Badger Pass.
Backpacking during the parking restrictions
The final weeks of October can be a great time to go backpacking, but parking logistics will need to be part of the plan. Access to backcountry trails is possible from Yosemite Valley, which has plenty of free parking and bus service through all seasons. Hikes out of the valley are strenuous, especially with a full pack, but the views make the effort worthwhile. Trailheads remain open along Tioga Road and Glacier Point, so backpackers can be dropped off at the start a trip. Because snow is becoming likely at this time of year, however, trip plans should factor in the possibility of a road closure.
The Hetch Hetchy Road remains open year round, and backpackers can access trailheads in that region of the park when the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station is open (currently 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.). These trailheads provide access to some beautiful lower-elevation areas that will be a bit warmer than the high country at this time of year. Be sure to check current fire conditions, however, as late-season fire activity has closed several trails in this area. Yosemite’s wilderness can also be reached from starting points outside the park.
Checking weather forecasts and current conditions in Yosemite is always a good idea before hitting the trap, but as winter approaches, weather becomes a critical element of safe backpacking trips. Surprise snowstorms can catch backpackers unaware and unprepared, often with serious consequences. Backpackers should check the weather and throw the chains in the trunk before before leaving Fresno and ask for an updated forecast when picking up permits once they reach the park.
A little extra planning and preparation is all you need to enjoy the tail end of three-season backpacking in Yosemite.
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