Glacier Point: Breathtaking Views of Yosemite Valley

December 14, 2020 /
glacier point yosemite

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

Glacier Point is one of the most popular viewpoints in Yosemite National Park and offers unparalleled views of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls and the famous Half Dome peak. It is located at an altitude of 7215 ft and 2953 ft above the Half Dome Village.

Once you’ve reached Glacier Point by car, bus or via the Four Mile Trail, you can contemplate the incredible landscape along the short paved trail. The overlook at the end of the trail is partly surrounded by stone and wooden barriers, so you can safely enjoy the view.

For those who want the perfect picture and an adrenaline rush, just head slightly to the right of the part bordered by the barriers. Find a place on the rock face, sit down and breathe the fresh air. But always pay attention! There’s also a snack (and ice cream) shop at Glacier Point, ideal to get refreshments as you wait for the sunset.

How to Get to Glacier Point from Yosemite Valley

By Car

how to get to glacier point yosemiteGlacier Point is located about a mile and a half as the crow flies from Yosemite Valley, but to get there you have to drive for an hour and drive more than 25 miles into the park. Like any drive in Yosemite, however, it won’t be boring. Let yourself be enchanted by the trees and use this time to relax as you drive.

Specifically, Glacier Point can be reached from May to October/November via Wawona Road (usually closed in the winter months) to the junction with Glacier Point Road (also closed in winter), which you’ll need to stay on for about 16 miles until you reach the parking lot. If you plan to visit the park in low season, check out our article on Yosemite in the winter, but to keep an eye on the road conditions, check out this page of the National Park Service.

Tip: If you’re planning your trip and want to have a look at Google Maps, keep in mind that you’ll need to select your departure date in the summer months, otherwise if you select “Start now” (and you are planning for example in February) you won’t see any options available due to road closures.

Hiking on the Four Mile Trail

glacier point hikeYou can get to Glacier Point also by hiking on the Four Mile Trail, which is quite challenging (especially if you start from the valley) and not many people dare to make the round trip.

You have two options:

  • For the more athletic hikers, consider the more scenic and challenging option. Take the Four Mile Trail from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point, then go down the Panorama Trail. It’s about 13 miles in total.
  • For those who are in good shape but not looking for anything extreme, take the Four Mile Trail on the way back from Glacier Point. Park your car down in the valley, take the one-way bus to Glacier Point (below you’ll find all the information) and once you’ve visited the overlook, walk back.

What to expect from the Four Mile Trail and the Panorama Trail?

  • The Four Mile Trail, as its name suggests, is 4.8 miles long and takes about 3-4 hours. The elevation gain is 3199 ft. Overall, it is a narrow winding trail and it offers views of El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. The trailhead is on Southside Drive.
  • Panorama Trail is almost twice as long, 8.5 miles (13.6 kilometers), increasing the duration of the to 6-8 hours. The elevation gain is 3937 ft and you’ll have the chance to see multiple waterfalls, including Illilouette, Nevada and Vernal.
    Along the trail, you will also find the junction with 2 other trails, the John Muir Trail and the Mist Trail. The latter is very steep and slippery. At the intersection with the John Muir Trail, near Nevada Fall, you can choose to take this path (on the left for 3.4 miles) to get to the valley and avoid the steepest part of the Mist Trail, or continue to the right and cross Nevada and Vernal Fall for 2.9 miles.
    The Panorama Trail ends near the Happy Isles stop, just after the Happy Isles Bridge, from where you can take the bus to Yosemite Lodge.

By Shuttle Bus

If you have children in tow or simply want to get to know the park better, you can choose the Glacier Point Tour, which not only serves as a one-way shuttle for hikers, but also offers a 4-hour guided tour (round trip). Among the attractions seen on this bus ride are El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Tunnel View and, of course, Glacier Point.
The bus leaves at 8:30 am and 1:30 pm from late May to early November from the Yosemite Valley Lodge lobby. Tickets can be purchased online and should be picked up at the Tour Desk in the lobby.

Prices:

  • Roundtrip – Adults $57 Children (5-12) $36.50
  • One way – Adults $28.50, Children (5-12) $18.25

Free admission for children under 5.

Sunset at Glacier Point

glacier point sunsetThe ideal is to reach Glacier Point just before sunset for a beautiful end to the day in Yosemite National Park. Seeing the sun illuminate the tip of the Half Dome with a reddish light will be one of the most exciting moments of your California road trip.

Glacier Point Stargazing Tour: “Star Parties”

Actually, the show doesn’t end there. If you’re not too tired, wait for the sky to get dark and the light to disappear completely. Glacier Point is perfect for admiring the stars and, in the summer, astronomers bring their telescopes to look for constellations in the sky and share their passion with visitors. Californian Astronomy Clubs that organize the so-called “star parties” in the open-air amphitheater at Glacier Point. Here are the details.

Where to Stay in the Area

Glacier-point-trailWhen you visit Glacier Point, the closest accommodations are those within the park, but you can also take advantage of the many accommodations in the towns outside the park. For a complete overview of the areas and accommodations inside and outside the park, take a look at our article on lodging in Yosemite National Park.

Giorgio Nardini
Giorgio Nardini

I am a travel blogger, social media specialist and dreamer and I love the United States.

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