Tuolumne Meadows Campground closure impacts the PCT and JMT starting in 2022

A major project to rehabilitate the Tuolumne Meadows Campground is underway. This $20 million dollar project will rehabilitate the 329-site Tuolumne Meadows Campground, including walk-in, drive-in and fully accessible sites designed for RV, tent, backpacker, group, and equestrian use. This project implements a portion of the 2014 Tuolumne River Plan.

The campground will be closed until at least 2023, and possibly 2024 and 2025 (depending on length of construction season, weather delays, etc.). No camping of any kind will be available in Tuolumne Meadows, including at the backpackers’ sites in the closed campground.  The Grill will be closed, while a modified store and post office will function at the Tuolumne Lodge. PCTA and the Park are recommending hikers and equestrian users plan ahead in a way that avoids dependency on those services and doesn’t require camping in Tuolumne Meadows.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

No camping in the area

There is a four mile no camping zone on each side of Highway 120 and Tuolumne Meadows. Since there will be no lodging or camping options in Tuolumne Meadows, that’s eight miles between places you can camp. If you are traveling north on the PCT, you must camp at least 4 miles south of Highway 120 in Lyell Canyon, then cross Highway 120 and continue for at least 4 miles until the first legal camping at Glen Aulin Backpackers Camp.

Food and resupplies

Plan resupplies and campsite locations in a way that avoids dependency on Tuolumne Meadows services, as a modified store may not have essentials that hikers have utilized in the past. As usual, there is no set opening date for Tuolumne services including the post office and store.

To avoid resupply in Tuolumne, Southbound hikers (including folks on the JMT) leaving Yosemite Valley will need to travel roughly 56 miles before reaching Reds Meadow or Mammoth Lakes for resupply. If traveling north of Tuolumne, the communities of Kennedy Meadows North and Bridgeport will be your next resupply locations. For thru-travel, the distance between Reds Meadow and Sonora Pass is about 110 miles. If you travel further than Sonora Pass it’s a long way (170 miles!) from Reds Meadow to the next resupply at the Kirkwood General Store.

While resupply via Highway 120 into Lee Vining can be an option when Tioga Road is open, be warned that lodging and campgrounds are usually full. From Tuolumne Meadows, you could travel by car or YARTS bus (reservations are strongly recommended, check for seasonal schedule) to Lee Vining. Note that park shuttles have not been operating due to the pandemic. Also, the road over Tioga Pass generally does not open until late spring or early summer, so this option is unlikely to be an option for early season travelers.

Visiting Yosemite Valley during your trip

People wishing to visit Yosemite Valley from Tuolumne Meadows will need to plan carefully as good options are hard to find. A PCT Long-Distance Permit does not cover walking to Yosemite Valley. Reservations are very competitive for Yosemite Valley and generally need to be made months in advance. If you wish to hike to Yosemite Valley, you can try for a first-come, first-served wilderness permit by going to the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center. These wilderness permits are also very competitive and space is limited. As a popular National Park, know that there are limited places to stay in Yosemite Valley and camping regulations are enforced.

This project is undoubtedly a benefit for Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne Meadows, and the PCT-JMT corridor in the long-range but will pose some logistical challenges in the short term—plan accordingly!

 

Author: Ben Barry

Ben is PCTA's Southern Sierra Regional Representative, acting as the primary staff facilitator for the region. Formerly a seasonal employee of many places, including three other National Scenic Trails, he can now be found climbing high in the Sierra or untangling his fly line on the banks of the Kern River.