Tenaya Lake is a magnificent High Sierra lake surrounded by granite domes, lodgepole forests, and Yosemite’s vast wilderness. It is the largest lake in Yosemite’s front-country. Because of its remarkable scenic qualities, its inviting blue water, and its proximity to Tioga Road, Tenaya Lake is one of the most popular destinations for summer visitors in Yosemite.
Problems associated with visitor use, visitor safety, and resource impacts have been occurring for decades. This planning effort undertook a comprehensive analysis of, and solution to these issues. Simultaneously, planning was underway for the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River and the Tuolumne Meadows area. Separated by only a few short miles, Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows have similar visitor use, resource impacts, and traffic problems. By working on the Tenaya Lake area plan concurrently with the Tuolumne Meadows plan, we were able to benefit from data that was already acquired for Tuolumne Meadows. The Tenaya Lake Plan provides a plan to guide management actions by the National Park Service in order to restore and protect resources while providing opportunities for appropriate high country visitor experiences at Tenaya Lake. The three main goals for the plan are to protect natural and cultural resources, improve visitor enjoyment, and increase visitor safety.
The environmental assessment was available for review and comment and ended on November 17, 2010. In the Tenaya Lake Area Plan Environmental Assessment (EA), the National Park Service identified a preferred alternative or recommended plan for the Tenaya Lake Area. The preferred alternative called for the restoration of 9.7 acres to natural conditions. Many existing trails located within ecologically and culturally sensitive areas were removed and restored to natural conditions. The trail systems around the lake and north of Tioga Road were realigned to avoid sensitive natural and cultural resources and support protection and restoration. Pedestrian bridges and boardwalks over waterways and wetland habitat help to restore hydrological function of major waterways.
Interpretive materials and improved connections to the trail along the southern edge of the lake and Sunrise and Murphy Creek trailheads help facilitate wayfinding, minimize visitor confusion, and reduce the potential for volunteer trails. This plan helped to increase accessibility through the creation of an accessible trail between Murphy creek and East Beach and a pedestrian sidewalk at the Tioga Road/Murphy Creek Crossing. Visitor parking was also improved with a capacity that did not exceed 232 spaces, including 177 spaces within designated lots south of Tioga Road, 40 designated roadside spaces north and south of Tioga Road, and 15 undesignated spaces on the northern side of Tioga Road near East Beach. The roadside parking includes designated long and short-term spaces. Roadside pullouts are now located in nonsensitive tree cover near restrooms and viewpoints where viewshed and resource issues are not considerations. The existing speed limit on Tioga Road was reduced from 35 to 25 miles per hour within the Tenaya Lake area. Signage and traffic calming devices notify visitors of the change and help create safer conditions. Improved pedestrian crossings also increase visitor safety. A shuttle stop was installed at each major node. Existing picnic areas were relocated and improved. A picnic area is located adjacent to the southeastern edge of the East Beach parking area.
Based on feedback received during a 30 day public review of the environmental assessment, the Tenaya Lake Area Plan Environmental Assessment Finding of No Significant Impact was completed in May 2011.
Last updated: September 16, 2019