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Self-guiding Auto Tour of Yosemite National Park (1956) by Richard P. Ditton and Donald E. McHenry


YOSEMITE VALLEY TO PARK BOUNDARY AT CARL INN (CRANE FLAT ROAD) (“C”)

(Total driving distance 17.5 miles)

C-1 THE BIG OAK FLAT ROAD. ’ This road leads to Crane Flat junction in the park where you may either continue ahead to Manteca and U. S. Highway 99 or, turning to the right over Tioga Pass, to Highway 395. The Big Oak Flat Road was named for the small community of Big Oak Flat 45 miles distant where an unusually large and beautiful oak tree once grew. The original road ran along the wooded slopes above. It was a toll road completed on July 17, 1874, one month after the completion of its competitor, the Coulterville Road. These were the first roads into the valley. The Big Oak Flat and Yosemite Company, with a 50-year franchise, organized in 1867 to build a wagon road from Colfax Springs to Yosemite Valley, engaged a company of Italians to construct the road down the cliffs. No cement was used—the rocks being wedged in such a way that it was rare for any part of the road to slide. However, a big rock slide where switchbacks descend the rocky slope into the valley closed the old road permanently in the spring of 1945. The present high-gear Big Oak Flat Road, dedicated June 1940, was built at a cost of $1,200,000 as compared with $40,000 for the original road.

(1.6 miles)

C-2 VIEW OF COULTERVILLE ROAD. Below you along the wooded slope down-valley is the scar of the Coulterville Road. Park off the road just ahead if you stop here. (More about the Coulterville Road under W-4, page [80.]

(0.3 of a mile)

C-3 CASCADE CREEK - TAMARACK CREEK. Both creeks drain a relatively small forested area northwest of the valley. The two creeks join to form Cascade Falls which can be seen from the valley floor (V-4) and from the Wawona Road (W-3). Both streams are stocked with eastern brook trout. “Tamarack” was the local name given to the lodgepole pine, the tree common to the headwaters of the streams. WILDCAT CREEK — Flowing in the spring and early summer only, this stream drains a small area to the southwest of Tamarack Creek.

(0.4 of a mile)

C-4 VIEW OF HALF DOME, EL CAPITAN AND THE WAWONA ROAD. From here is one of the impressive views of Yosemite Valley with El Capitan in the middle left foreground, Half Dome in the middle background, and the Wawona Road cut through the forest on the slope across the gorge. Below is the Merced River with the Merced Road paralleling it.

(5.3 miles)

C-5 BIG MEADOW. The small open area in the forest below is known as Big Meadow. It is (in 1956) a privately owned area within the national park. Ponderosa pine, incense-cedar and black oak, typical of medium elevations on the west slope of the Sierra, make up the forest surrounding the meadow. These same 3 trees are the

Old Big Oak Flat Road c. 1900
[click to enlarge]
Old Big Oak Flat Road c. 1900
most common ones immediately around you here. The old Coulterville Road (W-4) into Yosemite Valley skirts the left margin of this meadow. Over the ridge beyond Big Meadow is the Merced Canyon.

(2.8 miles)

C-6 CRANE FLAT. Crane Flat was named from reported cries of sandhill cranes said to have been surprised in this area in early days, probably a mistaken observation. The great blue heron is seen here occasionally to this day. Upon leaving Crane Flat entrance station you will be on a road which is steep, narrow and full of curves. In a 2 mile stretch you will drop from an elevation of about 6,500 to 4,800 feet.

(1.3 miles)

C-7 TUOLUMNE GROVE OF BIG TREES. The giant sequoias are thought to have been seen first by white men when this grove was discovered in 1833 by Joseph Walker expedition seeking a route across the Sierra Nevada. The grove covers about 20 acres and has approximately 25 large trees. The spur road to the right passes through the tunnel cut in the Dead Giant in 1878, one of 3 tunnel trees in the park.

(4.5 miles)

C-8 HODGDON MEADOWS. In the early 1860’s the Hodgdon family operated an overnight stopping place here for stage coach passengers This enterprise continued until the late 1890’s.

(0.6 of a mile)

C-9 THE ROCKEFELLER SUGAR PINE FOREST PURCHASE. In 1939 the Rockefeller Foundation with matching funds from the Federal Government, purchased this, one of the world’s finest remaining virgin sugar pine forests for $3,200,000 and added it to Yosemite National Park. Its 20,000 acres also included practically all of the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias.

(0.7 of a mile)

C-10 CARL INN. In the large meadow to the right just before you leave the park was Carl Inn, a popular resort owned and operated by Donna Carlon. It was a regular stop on the Hetch Hetchy Tour. The Inn was purchased and razed in 1940 by the government after being destroyed twice by flood, once by fire, and once by snow. Cross the bridge over the South Fork of the Tuolumne River just beyond the park boundary you can follow the road to the Hetch Hetchy section of Yosemite National Park.

Hodgdon’s historic ranch and stage coach stop on old Big Oak Flat Road (running along fence) present Crane Flat Road runs at right angles to it at lower right
[click to enlarge]
Hodgdon’s historic ranch and stage coach stop on old Big Oak Flat Road (running along
fence) present Crane Flat Road runs at right angles to it at lower right.

Carl Inn before its removal in 1940
[click to enlarge]
Carl Inn before its removal in 1940


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