Allow a full day—or more, if time permits—for the long but scenic drive back to Sacramento via Highway 120 over Tioga Pass Road through Yosemite National Park. But don’t set off without checking conditions: As of mid-June, the high-altitude artery, buried last winter under some 50 feet of snow, was still in the process of being cleared (estimated opening is early July).
From the gateway town of Lee Vining, you’ll climb and crest the Sierra Nevada at 9,943-foot Tioga Pass, exiting the park 59 miles later at Big Oak Flat in Tuolumne County. Although dog-friendly options in Yosemite are largely limited to paved areas and roadside picnic spots, this is one scenic drive you don’t want to miss.
Our suggestion: pack a lunch and take a side-of-the-road break at Tenaya Lake, where you’ll likely be entertained by the sight of stand-up paddle-boarders practicing their sport against a snow-shrouded alpine backdrop. Unless you have a pass (senior or otherwise), you’ll have to pay a $30 entrance fee to drive through the park. Considering it’s good for a week and there are few other routes over the mountains, the "toll," in our dog-centric opinion, is hardly worth growling about.
Once you’ve exited the park, be patient: You have miles of winding road to navigate (and lots of sightseeing options) before hitting the Highway 99 straightaway back to Sacramento.
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Photo Credit: @rowl0067