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Yosemite's Glacier Point Road reopens

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National Park Service officials in Yosemite National Park reopened Glacier Point Road to vehicle traffic yesterday, April 14 -- a sign that fair season access to the backcountry will soon be available. The road closes annually due to winter conditions and had been closed to vehicles since November 18.

Glacier Point Road was cleared of snow and open to bicycles as of Friday, April 11. Vehicles are now also permitted to use the road, which could still close again temporarily if spring storms bring snow to the higher elevations of the park. Glacier Point sits at an elevation of 7,214 feet (2,199 m).

Yesterday's re-opening is among the earliest for Glacier Point Road and is a telltale sign of California's serious drought conditions that haven't spared the high country. The snowpack in Yosemite National Park was reportedly just 33 percent of average as of April 1, and with the exception of 2012, when Glacier Point Road reopened on April 20, the road hasn't opened until at least May during the last decade.

Plenty of snow and ice still cover the higher elevations of the park. The Four Mile Trail from the valley floor to Glacier Point remains closed, for example, the cables on Half Dome are still down and no date has been set for the reopening of Tioga Road, which restores access to Tuolumne Meadows and officially starts the fair-weather backpacking season in Yosemite. Still, the opening of Glacier Point is definitely an annual harbinger of sunny wilderness days to come.

For now, visitors to Yosemite can again drive up and enjoy the views from Glacier Point. Note that vault toilets are available at Glacier Point, but there is no running water. Backpackers wanting to build a little fitness while they await high country access should find hiking opportunities on the Panorama Trail. Be prepared for cold-weather conditions, however.

Plowing to open Tioga Pass begins today, and progress reports will be forthcoming. Visitors can check the status of all roads in the park and get information on current conditions by calling (209) 372-0200 (press 1 then 1).

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