Plan ahead, start early for the trek to Glacier Point

Plan ahead, start early for the trek to Glacier Point

Plan ahead, start early for the trek to Glacier Point
Awe-inspiring views await on the hike to Glacier Point. (Photos Kevin Parker)

Kevin Parker(Aug. 20, 2023) — Pancakes at 5 in the morning? I thought to myself as I filled the camp coffee pot and fired up the stove.

Every scout knows the importance of a hearty meal and I did my homework, so eating right and hiking early before the day’s heat were the way to go as we put our plan to summit Glacier Point into action.

Four Mile Trail starts on the valley floor far below Sentinel Rock and begins a gradual climb on a well-traveled trail through dense brush and trees. On a cool morning with hiking poles in hand and 4 liters of water in my pack, I was feeling good keeping pace with my mates on much younger legs.

The trail makes a few turns and then follows a neat cut into the hillside, with the views and sounds of Yosemite Falls rewarding you early in the hike. We counted every switchback on this trail, and the first nine were merely a warmup. As you continue into Yosemite Valley and increase elevation toward Union Point, the severity and steepness of the climb begins to show itself.

Putting your legs to a test

The next section of trail puts you into a rhythm and your legs to the test as the switchbacks continue past a well-deserved short detour to Union Point. Each right turn brought the entire valley into view, and each left turn had me wondering how many people it took to chisel, move and stack all of these trail rocks, walls and steps.

I’ve stood in Curry Village many times and stared straight up at the granite walls that make up Glacier Point, but as we moved past Moran Point, the trail took on a very different look. Granite, sand, rock steps and zigzagging suddenly became soft dirt, tree groves, greenery and a canopy of shade.

We dunked our heads in a small creek just before the final push to the top of Glacier Point at elevation 7,214. The Glacier Point Overlook has some of the most awe-inspiring views of Yosemite Valley, Nevada and Vernal Falls and, especially, Half Dome. We found some shade to grab lunch and rehydrate. (At the time of this hike, the road was closed to traffic, vault restrooms were open and no drinking water was available.)

We finished enjoying the view and retraced our steps back down Four Mile Trail. I’m still not sure if it’s easier going up or down, but this hike was worth the effort.

In researching this hike, the average round trip was 6.5 hours. With three teenagers of various ages, it took us about 2.5 hours to hike up and about 2 hours to make it back down.

Feeling adventurous? From Glacier Point, try Panorama Trail to John Muir Trail and finish at Happy Isles Trailhead. Adds some mileage, but it’s some of the best real estate in the park and no one around.

Get out there.

Yosemite’s ­Glacier Point

  • via Four Mile Trail
  • Trail: Four Mile Trail
  • Trailhead: Four Mile Trailhead (Southside Drive), very limited parking, Shuttle Stop No. 11
  • Distance:10.54 miles (one way is actually 4.8 miles)
  • Elevation gain: 3,389 feet
  • Switchbacks: 41 by my count
  • Time: 5.5 hours

Contact Kevin Parker with comments or questions by email at