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Chowchilla Mountain Road to Yosemite

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Chowchilla Mountain Road to Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:03 pm

I've read about this road for the past couple of days and was thinking about giving it a try. Apparently you can take Chowchilla Mountain Road from Highway 49, and other various locations (I would get on it from Fish Camp) to Yosemite National Park. It comes out across from the Wawona Hotel. I guess in a sense it's a free entrance to Yosemite, but nobody takes it due to it being an old stagecoach road that isn't maintained and only suitable for 4x4 vehicles.

With that said, there is a gate about a mile from Wawona give or take that is sometimes opened and sometimes closed according to reports I've read. Does anyone know what the exact deal is with this gate? Is it for the horse riding they do out of Wawona? Is it always open in the summer and just closed in the winter? Is it hit and miss? (That's what I've heard).

I don't care about the lack of a fee as I own the Unlimited Access Pass, but thought I'd take a stroll down history a bit and was wondering if I should prepare for the gate to be locked being there's no way to find out.

Anyone ever take this road and familiar with is? Should I be expecting something like Kaiser Pass Road? The Sierra Scenic Vista Byway?

Thanks



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Re: Chowchilla Mountain Road to Yosemite

Postby WarrenFork » Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:46 pm

I have friends who own property on the road down at the Bootjack end. I've only come up from there and don't know the connecting road to Fish Camp. It's not really terrifying or anything but it is one lane at best, deeply rutted on some of the steep sections, and extremely slippery when wet. I think the gate is closed through the winter but should be open May to November. At least it used to be. It is pretty cool, similar to the old Coulterville Road before the fires of the last 15 years. Not a lot of spots to turn around and tension galore when encountering oncoming traffic.

You could phone the Wawona Ranger Station to ask about the gate. Or else call Donna Davis at Moore's Redwoods AKA The Redwoods in Yosemite. She would know and would not try to scare you off the road unless warranted, unlike the NPS.

It is a much worse road than Kaiser Pass. But on the other hand there is much less traffic.
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Re: Chowchilla Mountain Road to Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Sun Jul 12, 2015 11:06 pm

WarrenFork wrote:I have friends who own property on the road down at the Bootjack end. I've only come up from there and don't know the connecting road to Fish Camp. It's not really terrifying or anything but it is one lane at best, deeply rutted on some of the steep sections, and extremely slippery when wet. I think the gate is closed through the winter but should be open May to November. At least it used to be. It is pretty cool, similar to the old Coulterville Road before the fires of the last 15 years. Not a lot of spots to turn around and tension galore when encountering oncoming traffic.

You could phone the Wawona Ranger Station to ask about the gate. Or else call Donna Davis at Moore's Redwoods AKA The Redwoods in Yosemite. She would know and would not try to scare you off the road unless warranted, unlike the NPS.

It is a much worse road than Kaiser Pass. But on the other hand there is much less traffic.



What makes the road worse than Kaiser Pass? I assume because it's one lane it's practically the same as Kaiser Pass in that essence, but are there more cliffs? Just the road is in worse shape? All of the above? I think I nearly gave my girlfriend a heart attack on Kaiser Pass due to the cliffs, so I don't want to run into that issue again.
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Re: Chowchilla Mountain Road to Yosemite

Postby WarrenFork » Sun Jul 12, 2015 11:37 pm

I just meant that the physical condition of the road is rougher. There's nothing as cliff-y on Chowchilla Mountain as some of the exposure on Kaiser Pass. A lot of times when there is a steep drop off it's camouflaged by the forest.
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Re: Chowchilla Mountain Road to Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Sun Jul 12, 2015 11:42 pm

WarrenFork wrote:I just meant that the physical condition of the road is rougher. There's nothing as cliff-y on Chowchilla Mountain as some of the exposure on Kaiser Pass. A lot of times when there is a steep drop off it's camouflaged by the forest.


Okay great. I thought that's what you meant, but then felt it'd be better to double check than to hear the yelling in my ear haha. I think I might check out Coulterville Road as well sometime. Does that also lead into Yosemite without technically paying? I found a guys route and it appeared that way? But I wasn't 100% sure.

Here's the link: http://brnav.com/wordpress/?p=2980
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Re: Chowchilla Mountain Road to Yosemite

Postby WarrenFork » Mon Jul 13, 2015 11:21 am

The route on the link you included would definitely get you into the park without passing through an entrance station. Quite a bit of the first half coming from the north is actually not the Old Coulterville Road though. Just about dead center in the Google map the marked route veers sharply north then south in an "A" shape. Zoom in on the apex of the "A" using the map tool and you'll see that the route joins the labelled Old Coulterville Road just after crossing Fox Creek. The true OC Road is the one that you can follow up Fox Creek to the Merced Grove and beyond to a T intersection with what the map labels the "Old Yosemite Coulterville Road." The right fork is a short cut to Highway 120/Big Oak Flat Road. The left fork eventually winds westward to the marked route at a point near the beginning before it loses the actual historical road.

The original OId Coulterville Road went right through the Merced Grove. In fact the grove was "discovered" during the road's construction in the late 19th century. Years ago the NPS re-routed the OC Road away from the grove because a cabin was built there as a summer home for the Park Superintendent. That old section through the grove is now a gated fire road that connects uphill with Highway 120. The cabin is still there. If you drive the true OC Road you should definitely park where the gated road turns off to the Merced Grove and take the short walk up there. The reason I noticed that the route on that link was off is that it's too far away from the grove and I would consider that the highlight of the entire drive. It's very peaceful and beautiful with actual forest duff around the tree trunks instead of the heavily compacted soil you see at the Mariposa and Grant Groves. I've had some pleasant picnics creekside there in the shade beneath the big trees.

The road up to 120 from Foresta that is marked on the linked route map is not the true OC road either, but the old road's descent from Foresta into the Merced Canyon near Elephant Rock is impassable to cars. Probably just as well for your girlfriend's sake because it was built with a downhill grade of 40% which is four times as steep as the steepest grade considered acceptable by modern highway engineers. The route is walkable and takes off from the paved road in Foresta behind the obvious group of dumpsters where the OC Road intersects the El Portal Rd. There are still remnants of asphalt in the roadbed but in places it has eroded away to the width of a narrow trail. There is a huge rock slide near the bottom that requires routefinding. It's definitely worth walking partway down.
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Re: Chowchilla Mountain Road to Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Mon Jul 13, 2015 11:39 pm

Thanks for that information, I'll definitely have to give all of that a look sometime. Always like adventuring off the main road where most people don't go.

I got a very late start today so I wasn't able to take the Chowchilla Mountain Road into Yosemite like I had planned, however when I got to Wawona I decided I would go towards the entrance, being the gate was only a few miles off from that end. As you suspected, it was open. I actually didn't find the road to be as in bad of shape as I thought it might have been. Definitely thought it would have been worse than Kaiser. Definitely had some rut areas though, but nothing too bad. The CR-V did a pretty good job.

Thanks for the info again!
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