California Motorcycle Routes. Yosemite, Tioga Pass

California Motorcycle Routes. Yosemite, Tioga Pass

Route: Mile for mile, probably some of the best 186-miles of motorcycle roads in the country. Or if you’re not a believer , at least in Cali. The road is paved with a few options to pull off onto the dirt.

Time: The bare minimum would be one day. However, there is so much to see and do that you should spend a night or two in the park to really enjoy it.

Roads: Most everything in the park is paved and you should have no problems riding it on any kind of bike. The road is seasonal though, so check to be sure it’s open before setting off. Typically open from late May into the fall.

Google Maps full route guide: HERE  

 California's beauty is like a Victoria Secret runway show, the beauty is endless, and you never want it to end. This Yosemite route through the Tioga Pass is the modeling example of how stunning the roads are around here and this one you won't want to miss.

Image: Pinterest    A look at Gregory and his 11-foot-tall, World’s Largest Motorcycle. I wonder how well it corners?

Not picking favorites, Stockton for the win!

    The points from where you could start this route of all California routes are many. Just a bit north is inviting Sacramento. Directly to the west is artsy San Francisco, and a touch to the south is busy San Jose. To avoid picking favorites, will go with the middle of the road option in small-city Stockton.

If you're meeting your multi-city-buddies here, a nice crowd-pleasing place is the Cast Iron Trading Company. For food and drink, they check all the boxes with good coffee to well-priced and delicious lunch items. A great place to meet in the city before heading out.

Stockton also has a monster motorcycle worth checking out if you happen to be rolling through the town where there is a major event going on. Even if you thought that Kawasaki Vulcan 2000cc you were on was a big bike, you'd be quickly outdone by the Guinness Book, worlds largest motorcycle in Stockton. Resident Gregory Dunham built an 11-foot-tall, 20-foot-long road-beast that's powered by an 8.2-liter V8. The bike is drivable and can usually be seen on display at motorcycle events in and around Stockton. See what’s happening before you get here and you might get lucky and see it live.

Image: Super Hase via Google   Even from the outside of the Iron Door Saloon, the place pretty much screams eclectic drinking establishment!

Stockton to Big Oak Flat 70-miles

    After some bites and big bikes, head out of the city on the 4 towards Big Oak Flat, just outside the Yosemite National Park. Your primary reason for stopping here is to get fuel before heading into the Park. There is a fuel station inside the park, but it's not always open, and the prices are reflective of what your options are. It’s best to fill up with fuel in Big Oak Flat.

    Anyone who’s looking to fuel up themselves before heading into the park, a stop at the “Oldest Saloon in California”  is a must. The Iron Door Saloon looks like it’s reminiscent of the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid days. The outside is a series of murals capturing the wild west, and the inside is a partly decorated by the dollar bills of many a passing patron. Then it’s topped off with the odd animal head of those that once roamed the area. Overall the food is good, prices reasonable, and historically well worth saddling up to.

Image: Giuseppe Milo Flickr   An amazing shot of the road cutting through the rocks in Yosemite National Park

Big Oak Flat to Crane Flat Gas Station 13 -miles

    Crane Flat Gas Station. Why is a fuel station with no guarantee to be open noted on a list of stops for a route guide through Yosemite? It’s symbolic really. The fuel station is the fork in the road where you can toss a coin to continue straight through the park on this scenic route. Or, venture deeper into the heart of the Yosemite National Park into the Yosemite Valley. If riding the Tioga Road through Yosemite National Park is one of California’s most visually delicious rides, then getting a taste of the Yosemite Valley is the shaved truffle view on top.

Image: Cord Roadfeld Flickr     The view of the gripping Half Dome peaking out from the surrounding mountains

Crane Flat Gas Station to Yosemite Valley 16-miles

    The eye-capturing beauty of this area alone is enough to warrant caution that it is best to pull your bike over and enjoy the stimulating sites, so as not to be distracted from the road in front of you. Once you’ve made your way down towards the Yosemite Valley, the list of optional activities reads off like a fruitful Christmas wish list.

    You can hike into the Yosemite waterfalls that come crashing down from over 2,400-feet in the air. Take a drive to the lookout at Glacier Point for a panoramic view towards the Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, the Falls, and deep into the high country of the Yosemite landscape. Take the Cook’s Meadow hike for a view of the Half Dome. The Half Dome is carved at an almost entirely vertical angle, only sitting at seven degrees from straight, an incredible site to see live. And lastly, be sure to drop into the Yosemite Visitors Center for a look at the historical museum, to enjoy the theater, and get helpful tips on the trails and area from the park rangers.

    Sitting at nearly 4,000-feet, you’ll want to be prepared for cooler climates, pack warm if you plan to camp for the night. Otherwise, if you're going to make this an overnight stop with a million dollar view and sleeping accommodations with a similarly high price tag. Check into the canvas tents or cabins in the Half Dome Village, the motel-style Yosemite Valley Lodge, or the upscale-marketed Majestic Yosemite Lodge.

    Yosemite Valley Must Do’s

  • Yosemite Waterfalls Hike
  • Glacier Point Lookout
  • Cook’s Meadow Hike
  • View Half Dome
  • Soak up some knowledge at the Yosemite Visitors Center

Image: Craig Howell Flickr   A motorcycle rides on across the wandering pavement inside the Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley to the Tuolumne Visitors Center 54-miles

    Once you’ve had your scenic fix for this section of the road. Pull yourself away from the rugged beauty and backtrack up the Big Oak Flat Road until you meet the 120 again. This time venture past the Crane Flat Gas Station, or fuel up if they’re open, and follow the winding roads towards the Tuolumne Visitors Center.

    This part of the Tioga Pass Road is full of continuous curves followed by the occasional straight shot. Hang on, as a slide over these edges will turn you steel horse into a flying pony.

    Once you find the Tuolumne Visitors Center, the options for activities open up again. In between here and the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center are an abundance of great hikes and even a couple of quick drives.

    You could hike out to the Tuolumne Meadows and nearby Parsons Memorial Lodge near Soda Spring. To make your hike here easier, drive up the Yosemite National Park Road that exits near the Lembert Dome Picnic area. You can even take a swim in the nearby river if the hike got you all worked up. Then further up the road is the exit to the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, with more hiking options from here.

    Keep in mind that you are over 8,500-feet from sea level at this stage of the drive. Hikes might seem more taxing then they do back at home and sunscreen will make life better for your nose.

For the best directions on what to do, drop into one center or the other for full details on what hike is best for the amount of time you have. Or if the short drives are more suited for how you want to spend your day.

Image: sonofabike Flickr      A classic red Ducati taking a break in the Yosemite park

Tuolumne Visitors Center to the Tioga Pass Entrance 8.2-miles

    Up the road and further up in the air will bring you to the Tioga Pass Entrance. There is plenty to see and more options for hikes from this area. One of the best hikes in the area if you don’t have time to venture off into the Valley. Is the Gaylor Lakes hike this is roughly 3.5-miles round trip from the parking area.

Touching close to 10,000-feet, this Gaylor Lakes hike will need more time to do than you're probably picturing in your head. If you're not up for the hike, just pull into one of the roadside pullouts and enjoy the scenery through your camera lens.

    If you were starting your motorcycle trip from this side, here would be where you’d stop and pay the fee to use the road and enter the park. For motorcycle's, it's around $10, and you would have already paid it if you're coming from the other side.

Tioga Pass Entrance to  Ellery Lake Lookout 3.1-miles

    Passing by the Tioga Pass Entrance, you come cresting around the Tioga Lake, and it's impressive views. Pull over for a look or take the quick drive into the campground here to get up close with the lake.

    For those with the exploration spirit, and looking to get your saddlebags dirty. Turn off onto Saddlebag Lake Road and follow it a little under 3-miles to Saddlebag Lake. There’ll be less traffic here than most of the stops on this route if you’re looking for a quiet picnic stop.

    If you’re hoping to keep the dust down, pass by the Saddlebag road and instead stop for a look from the Ellery Lake Lookout. It’s no better or worse than any of the other dozens of stunning views in the area, just a nice added point of interest for those who are keen to get more photos.

Image: Instagram     A couple of well-earned beers at June Lake Brewing

Ellery Lake Lookout to June Lake Brewing  22-miles

    From the Ellery Lake Lookout the road will continue to drop back down as you and your bike make your way off of this fantastic Tioga Pass road towards Lee Vining. Here you'll find fuel for you and the bike again, and you can decide what to do after this memorable ride.

    Going north, you can take the 395 towards Carson City or up to Reno for a chance with the poker chips. Or, you can take a right and head south on the 395 and make your way towards Los Angles. But for those of you just not ready to make the decision yet. You might instead, steer you bikes a bit South towards June Lake Brewing. This little microbrewery serves up pizza & pints and will buy you a couple more hours of decision-making time, or get you that well-deserved cold one at the end of a long drive.

As far as California routes on your motorcycle are concerned, this one should be added to the top of the list or even added as a bucket list drive. The whole Yosemite park area and all it has to offer will be a pleasant reminder of why you love to ride a motorcycle and why California is one of the best places to ride them.