The Tuolumne River through Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)
Tioga Road, the east-west ribbon of roadway that accesses Yosemite National Park's back country, will open for the season at noon Monday, the earliest opening date for the road since 1987.
Last year, the road that leads to Tuolumne Meadows didn't open until June 18 because of higher-than-average snow pack, thwarting Memorial Day plans for hikers and backpackers. But this year it's the complete opposite.
California is experiencing a very dry year, with snow pack about 50% of normal, according to a park statement. The road, which usually becomes blocked by snow in late fall, remained open until Jan. 17.
The light snow year allowed crews to clear the road and get a jump on the summer season. However, campgrounds, the gas station, store and other facilities along Tioga Road will remain closed with no opening date set.
And the park warns visitors to be prepared for icy and snowy conditions at high elevations in the back country even though the road will be open.
The park's website shows May 2, 1987, and May 8, 1985, among the earliest opening dates for Tioga Road since 1980.