Hike,  Places

Taft Point & Sentinel Dome, CA

These are two of the coolest places and you can see both in a single half-day hike. This loop hike is a must see. You could complete this hike in a couple of hours but you will want to spend a fair bit of time at each location soaking in the views and taking photos. Be sure you have a camera for this hike and be sure to carry bear spray for protection.

At the parking area you are faced with a tough choice. The trail to the right goes to Sentinel Dome and the trail to the left goes to Taft Point. Each trail is 1.1 miles one-way and each location is spectacular. A rim trail connects the two destinations creating a loop from the trailhead. I HIGHLY recommend seeing both and doing the entire loop. Hike Sentinel Dome first and then take to the loop to Taft Point.

After completing the loop a tourist asked me which trail I recommended. I advised him to do the entire loop. He said that he only had time to do a single hike and I was torn over providing a recommendation. Both places are spectacular but both are completely different. I said that he could choose by flipping a coin because both places are worth seeing. In the end I think he chose Sentinel Dome.

Getting There

Turn on Glacier Point Road and drive for 13.6 miles towards Glacier Point. The trailhead will be on your left. This is a popular trailhead so the lot may be full. There is an outhouse at the trailhead. After completing the trail be sure to visit Glacier Point just up the road. I recommend starting the hike early since it is so popular. Sentinel Dome was much more populated when I went. I recommend seeing the Dome first so that you can avoid some of the crowds.

  • Distance (one-way): 1.1 miles
  • Trailhead Elevation: 7,700′
  • Sentinel Dome Elevation: 8,100′
  • Elevation Change: 400′

Half Dome is probably the most photographed piece of granite in the world. You get awesome views from Glacier Point but almost every visitor to Yosemite gets that same view. If you want a different view of Half Dome as well as a personal dome experience then take the short hike to Sentinel Dome. This easy hike provides some seriously good views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. In addition you can climb to the top of a granite dome.

From the parking lot take the Sentinel Dome trail to the right. The trail is not too difficult but it gets moderately steep as you approach the dome. The dome is a bit steep but the granite provides good grip and is easy to climb. It is only an easy to moderate trail but the thin air at over 8,000′ caused me to stop a few times to catch my breath. This trail is suitable for all ages and is well marked and well traveled.

The Loop

Seeing Sentinel Dome without seeing Taft Point would be like having a extraordinary dining experience and skipping dessert. Yes, the meal was fine but the dessert would make it just that much better. Sentinel Dome is magnificent but Taft Point would make the experience just that much better. From Sentinel Dome continue on the loop trail to Taft Point. This trail roughly follows the rim offering you some nice views of the Valley. I am guessing that the trail is about 2 miles with a slight descent overall.

Taft Point

  • Distance (one-way): 1.1 miles
  • Trailhead Elevation: 7,700′
  • Taft Point Elevation: 7,500′
  • Elevation Change: 200′ descent

Taft Point is spectacular and is an easy 1.1 mile from the trailhead or 2ish miles from Sentinel Dome. When you arrive it does not look too impressive. As you walk towards the railing you notice fissures that give you small glimpses of the valley below. You see a small railing, walk up to it, and then look straight down the granite cliff to the valley. The view and the drop are quite impressive.

From the railing you walk to the left and then forward. This places you on a large rock outcropping that gives you an even better view of the entire Valley. This outcropping looks hazardous from the railing but is much less intimidating when you get there. Look for trees growing majestically in solid granite. Walk around the Point for different views of Yosemite Valley.

Be very careful around the edges at Taft Point and the Fissures. The cliffs are extraordinarily steep and if you slip and go over the edge you will be traveling a long time before making a sudden stop (the results of which would be BAD). One ranger advised me to get prone to the ground and shimmy to the edge if you want to look over. He said that visitors have walked to the edge, gotten vertigo, and fallen over the edge. I don’t know if this was true or an urban legend to promote safety. In either case I would heed the advice of the ranger.

Complete the Loop

From Taft Point it is about 1.1 miles back to the trailhead and parking lot. The trail back well-marked and easy. Look for wildflowers, snow plants, and wildlife. This part of the trail is just a very pleasant stroll through forest and meadows. The loop is probably about 5ish miles and of moderate difficulty.

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