Tioga Peak is a really nice little peak found near Tioga Pass just east of the Yosemite boundary. I climbed it on Friday, August 20th on my way out to Bishop to meet my friend Sooz for a nine-day backpacking trip. I had the whole day to make the 6-ish hour drive, so I decided to break it up with a short hike to stretch my legs. Another motivating factor was to work on my acclimation – I had just returned from the Mineral King trip three days before so I knew that a quick hike at over 11,000 feet wouldn’t be too difficult and would help with my acclimation when starting off on the long trip the next day.
Tioga Peak is an excellent and easy short climb. Much like Gaylor Peak, the effort to payoff ratio is great – a couple of hours and very simple cross-country travel will get you to a summit with incredible views. The hike I did was approximately three miles round trip with about 2000 feet of gain – not quite as easy as Gaylor but definitely easy by Sierra standards.
To access the peak, follow 120 east through Yosemite. Once past the Tioga Pass gate, look for the turnoff to Saddlebag Lake (just past Tioga Pass Resort). Turn left on this rough dirt road and follow it about 1.5 miles to the parking for the Gardisky Lake trailhead. Park here, then find the trail across the road. Follow this steep dusty trail up the hillside until you reach the meadows before the lake (about 0.5 miles into the hike). From here you leave the trail and head cross-country to the summit of Tioga Peak.
The peak will be obvious, the prominent point to the southeast. The route is simple – just hike on up the slope to the summit. If you follow the northwestern ridge (see the descent part of my track below) you will find a nice use trail. If you decide to continue on the trail to the lake first and then head up the slope, you’ll have to navigate through some brushy overgrowth (my ascent path). Although any approach is easy, the easiest way to attain the summit is to follow the northwestern ridge.
From the summit, the views into Northern Yosemite, Mount Conness, the lakes along Tioga Pass Road (Tioga and Ellery), and across to Mt Dana are amazing. There is even a peek at Mono Lake. It’s a great perspective on the layout of this part of the Sierra. Another great thing about this hike is the lack of people. I saw a few people hanging out at Gardisky Lake, but only ran into one person on my descent – and it ended up being a friend, neither of us knew the other would be on the peak that day!