Yosemite national park, ca
Distance: 2.2 miles roundtrip (out and back)
Elevation Loss: 381 feet
Seasonality: Glacier Point Road is closed May - November (click here for season restrictions)
Trailhead: Two trailheads, but the recommended one is at the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead off of Glacier Point Road.
Parking: Approx 21 parking spots at the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead off of Glacier Point Road, but there is space along the side of the road where you can also park.
Facilities: Pit toilets at trailhead. No potable water at the trailhead or on the trail.
Difficulty: Easy for adults, might be a lot for children.
If you are not able (or willing) to hike to the top of Half Dome, the Sentinel Dome Trail is a great alternative that gives you 360 degree views of Yosemite Valley and the rest of the park. From the Sentinel Dome peak you can see Nevada Falls, Half Dome, North Dome, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, a reverse view of the famous Tunnel View, and a gorgeous backdrop of the Sierra Nevadas, often times capped with white snow. It is also the home of the famous Jeffrey Pine, the most photographed tree that lived on top of the solid granite dome for nearly 400 years. It is now fallen, and the pine needles are long gone, but the trunk still rests atop the granite dome. The trail is dog friendly, moderately trafficked and a must see in Yosemite National Park.
Trip Planner Details:
For this hike, you will not be driving down into the Valley, instead you will turn off on the Glacier Point Road Junction, approximately 7 miles before the tunnel into the Valley. There are two trailheads for this hike, however, the trip described here is for the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead, which is slightly easier than the trailhead found at Glacier Point.
If you are looking for a more scenic, and slightly more difficult route to Sentinel Dome, park at Glacier Point. It may be difficult to find parking if you arrive after 10 a.m. as there are approximately 120 spots at the Glacier Point parking lot, but many visitors come to park here to view Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from the Glacier Point lookout. Pit toilets, potable water, and snack shop available at Glacier Point, and the trailhead can be found southeast of the Glacier Point Snack Shop, parallel with the cliff’s edge view of Half Dome and Vernal and Nevada Falls.
There is a park entrance fee of $35 to enter Yosemite National Park. For more information about what else you can do in the park, visit the Yosemite National Park website.
When You Do Your Research:
Depending on which trailhead you choose to take, the elevation gain and miles trekked will differ. The easier route is from the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead. If you choose to take the trail from Glacier Point, expect the trip to be nearly 3 miles and gain approximately 900 feet in elevation. Although this is the more scenic route, that gives you views of Yosemite Valley as you hike along the rim of Glacier Point, it may not be the best route for those looking for an easier experience.
There also is a service road that is shown on many maps that appears to be an even shorter/easier way to get to Sentinel Dome. It is a dirt road that could be hiked along, however, the entrance off of Glacier Point road is blocked off, and there is no good place to park near there. You would end up hiking much more to access the service road than you would to take one of the two trailheads.
Tips From One Who Hiked It:
This hike is a must-see for anyone who visits Yosemite National Park and doesn’t get enough recognition for how great a hike it is. Bring a picnic lunch and spend some time up on the top of the dome.