Only have a day in Yosemite Valley? Head up to Glacier Point via Four Mile Trail to get the best bang for your buck. Unparalleled views of Yosemite Valley, front row seats to Half Dome and beyond await you at this magical spot.
You can access Glacier Point by car or by foot. The road to Glacier Point opens some point in May and closes in November after a good snowfall. But why make the twisty drive when you can take 3300’ of scenic switchbacks?
The trail starts just off on the right of Southside Drive. If you’re at the Swinging Bridge parking lot, you’ve driven too far, but you can park there and take the Valley Loop trail to the Four Mile Trailhead.
The majority of elevation gain is in the first three and a half miles with just about 1000’ per mile. You’re greeted with a bird’s eye view of the valley you just drove through to get to the trailhead. In the last half mile or so to the top, the trail winds through a lovely forest of incense-cedar trees.
The name Four Mile Trail is deceiving; my GPS track put me at just under five miles (4.8 to be exact) to Glacier Point. On the trail, it was three miles to Union Point.
The best time to hike this trail is when Glacier Point Road is closed in late November. You’ll have this spot all to yourself. The best time of day to make it up here is for sunset. Half Dome and the surrounding peaks look so beautiful lit up with alpenglow.
At the top, unobstructed views of Half Dome and the Yosemite high country await. It’s no wonder this spot is mobbed with visitors.
From here, you can continue down to the Glacier Point Road parking area to access Taft Point or Sentinel Dome or head back down to the valley. I opted to go back; Thanksgiving dinner awaited.