Yosemite NP – Tioga Pass Tenaya Lake


What? : Tenaya Lake is the largest and probably the most spectacular lake in Yosemite located just along Tioga Pass Road. It is the perfect location for a break in your day trip, enjoy the view and you may even go for a swim in the lake cold water.

Where? : Tenaya Lake is easy to accessed from the Tioga Pass Road (highway 120).

Located just 2.1 miles east of Olmsted Viewing Point (another must stop location on Tioga Pass) and 7.1 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center.

Google Map Link


When? : If you are planning to drive Tioga pass road (highway 120), enter or exit the park east entrance or visit Tuolumne Meadows make sure to visit the park main page to understand if this road is open or close. The road is usually open from mid-May to end of October.

Follow the link below for history records of road opening and closing dates:



The recommended time if you plan to deep in the lake is at hot mid-summer.



Due note 1: Interesting to know that Tioga Pass (highway 120) that cross the Sierra east-west mark the north section of the largest contiguous roadless wilderness in the continental United States. From this road all the way 150 miles to the south of Mt. Whitney (highway 178), no other roads cross the High Sierra.


Due note 2: The nearby Tuolumne Meadows is the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada and probably also the most accessible one, Tioga pass road (highway 120) cross it east to west and there are many parking spots along the road.


Due note 3: Tioga Pass Road went under renovation so driving conditions are good.

Parking:  The main problem is that during crowded weekends and holidays it will be challenging to find parking spots at specific location near the lake, plan to be flexible.

After the road face-lift the number of road shoulders parking spots has reduced, there are still many locations, but they can be occupied. There are few parking lots just at the lake west and east side, look for Tenaya Lake Picnic Area.
last time I was here (Oct. 2022) it was not clear if Murphy Creek Trailhead parking lot is open for parking, or it is close.


Due note 4: The nearest Gas stations locations:

West: 31.4 miles at the junction with Big Oak Flat Rd.

East: 28 miles at highway 395 and the town of Lee Vining


Due note 5: Restrooms can be found at the visitor information center and near large parking lots along the way.


Due note 6: When I visit here, Oct. 2022 the grill & convenience store near the east end of Tuolumne Meadows was close and under major renovation. Not clear when this will be open.

 Tuolumne Meadows trails map:

Due note 7: There is a large campground in Tuolumne Meadows but from my experience it is fully booked early in the year. If you are planning to stay here, book your campground in advance.


Due note 8: Bring mosquito repellent with you if you are visiting here at spring or early summer.


Due note 9: Tenaya Lake was named after Chief Tenaya, who was the last chief of the Yosemite Indians.


My thoughts: This is indeed an amazing view to see Tenaya lake from Olmsted Viewing Point and then come closer and walk to the lake beach and enjoy the view up close.



The visit:

Tenaya Lake is an alpine lake in Yosemite National Park, located on Tioga Road not so far west from Tuolumne Meadows. Tenaya Lake has an elevation of 8,150 feet, It's a mile long and surrounded by several exposed granite rocks and domes carved by glaciers.


Few general hiking guidelines:

Stay on established trails, pack out what you pack in, Overnight backpackers need a wilderness permit, carry (and drink) plenty of water. Be sure to treat river, stream, lake, or spring water.



If you are coming from the west, you will first see the lake from Olmsted Viewing Point, once you start to drive east there is roadside pullouts, park safely and enjoy the view in the lake direction.

Once you reach the lake look for a small parking lot, try to find empty spot and head to the lake.

There are Picnic Area on both east and west sides of the lake, and you can also find road-side parking spots along the road.

The granite mountains and domes surrounding the lake on it east side provide the perfect background to this picturesque lake.

The lake sandy beaches are the perfect place for a stop on your day drive relax and enjoy the view.

At hot summer day the proximity to Tioga Road transform Tenaya Lake into one of the most popular destinations for summer visitors in Yosemite. It is quite popular for picnicking, kayaking, and swimming.


There are few trails near and around the far side of the lake, but I did not hike them.

The lake west parking lot also serves as a starting point to Clouds Rest hike.

Link to my blog about this long day hike.


The lake outlet is located on the west side, a flow of water into Tenaya Creek that at this location, near the parking lot, flowing in a flat meadow but when it is heading west it runs down into the deep Tenaya Canyon all the way to Yosemite Valley.





Additional Pictures: