It happens every year, but no big announcement is made. As spring weather begins to melt the snowpack in the upper-elevation areas of Yosemite National Park, routes get cleared and park staff begin to ready the 48 miles of Tioga Pass Road they closed for winter. And before the public can drive toward Tuolumne Meadows, there's still a lot for rangers to do: checking utilities, clearing campgrounds, making sure plumbing and sewage are operational at visitor centers and other structures, and so much more.
Basically, crews need space on the narrow, windy road that will eventually handle the massive crowds that flock here, one of the most popular national parks in the country. But one mode of transportation doesn't take up much space and is welcome during this special period between snow and tailpipes: bicycles.
The road is traditionally closed for 48 miles between Crane Flat Gas Station and the eastern park entrance atop Tioga Pass, but due to the dry winter this year, drivers can cruise past Crane Flat until a gate stops them at Yosemite Creek. That still leaves a distance of 28 miles for cyclists. Not bad.
The road has already been open to cyclists for a handful of days -- remember, no big announcement is made -- but it could be a relatively car-free experience for another week, according to Park Spokesperson Kari Cobb. She told KCET that the road will open up to more park staff on Wednesday for administration purposes -- bringing in supplies, rangers moving into homes -- and when that happens, it generally takes about a week before the road opens to the vehicle-driving public. No guarantees, but that could mean another weekend for cyclists to pretty much own an intensely beautiful stretch of Yosemite National Park. (Update: Tioga Pass Road will open on Monday, May 7, 2012. More details here.)