Why hurry to Yosemite National Park when the journey can be as rewarding as the destination? The extremely dog-friendly Yosemite Region
encompasses four gateway counties, each with its own unique set of attractions. DogTrekker is celebrating Yosemite’s 125th anniversary with a look at places and diversions for DogTrekkers to check out along the major highway corridors leading to the iconic park.
Cody, Tioga Pass. Photo: Patti Thompson
Trek with us along Highway 120 through the East (Tioga Road) Entrance in Mono County.
Most travelers entering Yosemite National Park via the Tioga Road will already have filled their eyes with some of California’s most stupendous scenery. This route over the Sierra crest starts at scenic Highway 395, a north-south byway that ranks up there with coastal Highway 1 as California’s most scenic drive.
South of the 395/120 junction, the June Lake and Mammoth Lakes areas hold some of the state’s most stunning and paw-friendly high-altitude scenery. Just north of the junction, Mono Lake, with its distinctive tufa towers and rich bird life, welcomes leashed dogs on most trails, if not on viewing platforms and boardwalks.
At the junction itself, the community of Lee Vining sits at the nexus of an area rich in opportunities for hiking, fishing, photography and bird watching, which is at its peak in fall. The spic-'n'-span Murphey's Motel caters to explorers with dogs in tow, while that gigantic Mobil station harbors a surprise inside. The Whoa Nellie Deli is one of California’s most famous “road food” stops, offering gourmet surprises including buffalo meatloaf, Asian sashimi, “world famous” fish tacos and a generous selection of grab-and-go sandwiches and other picnic treats you can enjoy on the road with your dog at your side.
Once inside Yosemite National Park, hiking opportunities with your dog are limited. That said, dedicated trekkers who plan their time accordingly will find scenery along eastern Highway 120, just outside the park boundary, to rival anything within its borders. The Twenty Lakes Basin area, part of the Hoover Wilderness, features many scenic paths including the Saddlebag Lake Loop Trail skirting the lake of the same name. Saddlebag Lake Resort operates a dog-friendly water taxi that will cut 1.5 miles each way and get you into the scenery (and the hot-action fishing spots) faster than your feet.
Tioga Road/Highway 120 continues into the park and up, up, up to Tioga Pass at 9,943 feet. It exits 59 miles later at the Big Oak Flat portal in Tuolumne County. Although dog-friendly options along the route are limited to picnic spots, this is one scenic drive you don’t want to miss.