Author Topic: Sierra Cascades  (Read 4137 times)

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Offline philnv

Sierra Cascades
« on: October 10, 2011, 10:05:36 pm »
We are a couple from New Zealand planning a Sierre Cascades trip from south to north in the spring of 2012.
Our initial intention is to start mid to late April.
Does anyone have advise on this start date and the sort of weather conditions we might expect.

Offline valygrl

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2011, 01:33:55 am »
The gating factor will probably be Tioga Pass, which is Hwy 120 between Yosemite and Lee Vining.  That road is closed in winter, and *typically* opens for Memorial Day, which is the last Monday in May.  However, if there is a big snow year, it can open later.

Here's the historic dates:
There's a link to the plowing updates on that page, which will be useful next spring to keep an eye on the progress.

Next winter they are predicting a "La Nina" weather pattern, which is what they had last year, and might lead to extra snow in the mountains and a later opening date. 

So, given all that, I would try to arrange your schedule so you were in Yosemite no earlier than Memorial Day, and ideally at least a week later, as you don't actually want to be there on the holiday, because it will be more crowded. 

The other possibility is to get really lucky and time it so that you are there just before the road opens to cars, but after the plowing is complete.  You can go through illegally with no cars.

Services in Tuolumne Meadows (up in the Yosemite high country, between Yos. and Lee Vining) will not be comletely open yet - camp grounds may be snowy/flooded, the store won't be open, you may need to filter water.

Other than that - in April and May you can get rain, which will be cold at the higher elevations.  Be prepared for cold and rain, but you'll probably get more nice weather than bad.

I haven't done that trip yet, or planned it, but I would say early May is ideal, late April is OK, early/mid April is probably too early.

These guys started June 3rd and were too hot

Offline philnv

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2011, 03:37:59 am »
Thanks for your prompt reply. Will keep looking and planing. Ideally what time of year and direction would you do the ride

Offline staehpj1

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2011, 07:02:03 am »
Valygrls link was to my journal.  I don't know how typical our experience was but the heat was brutal and the route is nothing but climbing and descending.  The climbs and descents are long and steep.  That makes it pretty tough when it is really hot as well.  My daughter handled it better than I did, but it really kicked my butt!  The rewards are pretty great though too.  Sequoia and Yosemite were amazing.

I am not sure how this route is best done, but I am thinking that the best chance for decent weather is to start in the north as late in the year as you can be reasonably sure of getting over the passes and hopefully the desert will be cooler by then.  That is pure speculation on my part though.

If starting in the south just go as early as you can and still get over the passes (Tioga in particular).  The NPS link in valygrls post is helpful in that regard, but it also demonstrated how much this varies from year to year.  As the date approaches there is always discussion of the likely opening date on the supertopo climbers forums at

Edit: I just noticed that the folks who probably have as good an idea on this as anyone (Adventure Cycling) will do their self contained ride from May 26, 2012 - Jul 25, 2012.  They start in San Diego.  I'd say that is a pretty good endorsement for that time.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2011, 08:16:07 am by staehpj1 »

Offline philnv

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2011, 03:43:10 am »
Thanks for that we did notice that tour and thought it was as good a reason as any to plan for around then

Offline JHamelman

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2011, 01:59:27 pm »
Another resource for checking seasonal road closures in California is found on their Department of Transportation website:


Jennifer Hamelman

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring and empowering people to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x205

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline sam21fire

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2011, 12:02:54 pm »
Another factor to consider... if you start too late you're likely to run into some seriously hot/dry desert when you get farther South. The stretch from Tehachapi till you get into the mountains near Big Bear is usually brutally hot in the summer (100-115F, RH less than 10%).  From there the weather isn't usually too bad until you get South of Cuyamaca when it'll start getting more into the desert conditions again.  I'm not saying that it's not advisable to ride through there in the summer just be ready for the conditions.