By Kayley Cox
This past weekend I explored a new hike in Yosemite National Park! I hiked to two beautiful lookout spots off of Glacier Road: Sentinel Dome and Taft Point.
In my book, there’s no place quite like Yosemite. It’s my favorite National Park that I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many. I think it’s so special to me because I’ve visited it so many times (about once a year ever since I was little) that it has nostalgic value. Plus, you just can’t beat the majestic landscape.
The Trailhead and Parking:
You’ll find the trailhead for both of these points about 2 miles before the end of Glacier Point Road. Keep in mind this road is only open from May-November. It’s a clearly marked paved parking lot that says Taft Point/Sentinel Dome. The parking lot can get really full, but there’s plenty of dirt parking alongside the road. Also, FYI there is one bathroom here. There are a couple food storage lockers here as well.
Sentinel Dome Trail:
We started the day by taking the fork to the right for Sentinel Dome. This is a 1.1-mile long trail to the base of the dome. It’s a relatively level trail, which makes for an easy warm up, which is good since we needed to get used to the elevation difference. Climbing the dome will get your heart pumping, and there’s no real trail, it’s really just a hike up the rocks. But it’s a short incline and the view is so worth it.
At the summit, the elevation is 8,100 feet, which makes it the second highest point in Yosemite Valley! The first is Half Dome at 8,839 feet, if you’re wondering. You can see all the surrounding peaks and well-known landmarks. It’s a unique view of Half Dome as it’s more of a side view. There’s a metal plaque set into one of the boulders of at the summit that names all the visible peaks, which was a highlight for my mom to see. Also at the summit is what remains of the famous Jeffery Pine. In it’s prime, this was one of the most famous trees in the world since Ansel Adams took a stunning image in 1940.
The Loop to Taft Point:
Unfortunately, my mom and I missed the loop trail and ended up just retracing our steps to the initial trailhead. Not going to lie, my mom and I always get lost when hiking together. But there is a loop here, and I think you take the left immediately at the dome’s base. It’s confusing though because there are two arrows for Taft Point. We followed the one on the bottom of the sign but I think now that it’s the one on the top of the sign. The loop should make this trail 4.9-miles round-trip.
Taft Point Trail:
Once back at the initial trailhead, we took the junction to the left for Taft Point. This is also an easy 1.1-mile trail. Though the trail to the point is nothing spectacular, the actual Taft lookout is amazing. There are crazy cool fissures (vertical gashes in the valley wall) that you need to watch out for while walking near the cliff edge.
Plus, the actual Taft Point has rails so that you can walk right up to and peer down the cliffside, which made me remember just how afraid of heights I am. The elevation here is 7,500 feet! This means that you’ll be higher than the massive El Cap when you’re looking at it.
There’s a lot of exploring to do around this area. For example, if you walk to the furthest point you can clearly see the backside of the Cathedral Rocks, which was a highlight for me. Just be super careful here, as you are walking along an unfenced massive cliffside. Once we got back to my car we saw that because of our side-trail exploring, we had turned this 4.4-mile hike into 6.6-miles. Overall, it was two beautiful new lookout points that I’m glad I got to see.
I’m Kayley Cox and I’m a recent graduate from the University of California San Diego. My joy is found when adventuring outdoors so that’s what I tend to do! Follow my adventures on TheEarthIsFull.com and Instagram @kayleycox.