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Natural Wonders

Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park

One of the most incredible views in the park is at the end of Glacier Point Road with the curved tooth of Half Dome prominently in the foreground.

Arguably the most spectacular view in the park is Glacier Point, which is at the end of Glacier Point Road, about an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley. Here you can gaze out across the Sierra Nevada high country, with the curved tooth of Half Dome prominently rising in the foreground. It can be reached by hiking trail, shuttle or car.

Is Glacier Point Worth the Drive?

Glacier Point in Yosemite is definitely worth the drive. It’s one of the most spectacular views in the entire national park system. It’s about an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley on the way to the Wawona area of the park. This incredible landmark is accessible via Glacier Point Road, which usually opens in late May or early June once the snow has cleared and closes in November.

Because it is so popular, it can be very difficult to find a parking spot in the somewhat small parking lot. Try to get to the point early in the morning or later in the evening for an easier time parking. In years where Glacier Point Road is open, you can take a park shuttle up to the point, eliminating any parking stress you would otherwise experience in your car. However, there are no park shuttles going to Glacier Point Road in 2022 through May 2023.

Glacier Point Road with a view of Half Dome in Yosemite
Glacier Point Road with a view of Half Dome (Photo: Getty Images)

Is Glacier Point Open?

Glacier Point Road will be closed to all traffic in 2022 through May 2023 because the park service will be doing road construction to rehabilitate and improve the road. This means you will not be able to drive there nor take a shuttle. The only way to reach Glacier Point in 2022 through May 2023 during road construction will be via three strenuous hikes: Four Mile Trail, Pohono Trail and Panorama Trail.

When the road is open, full moon nights are a magical time to visit where conservationist John Muir and U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt once camped out. During summer, amateur astronomy clubs host star parties at the amphitheater in cooperation with the National Park Service.

Check for current road conditions at www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

What Is Special About Glacier Point?

What makes this iconic Yosemite landmark special is its extraordinary views. When you are there, you feel almost like you are peering out over the valley from a high-perched bird’s nest.

The View Terrace gives you a view of the eastern side of Yosemite Valley. From left to right in the video above you can see Half Dome, Liberty Cap, Vernal Falls (bottom), and Nevada Falls. In the background you can also see Mt. Florence (center) and Mt. Clark (right). And finally, on the right is Mt Starr King.

The Upper Terrace gives you a view west of Half Dome, including left to right in the below photo, Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Village and Curry Village (looking straight down), plus the Royal Arches and Mirror Lake below Half Dome. In the background you can spot Mt Hoffman, North Dome and Basket Dome. Way to the left of the Upper Terrace is Overhanging Rock, a place to take photos if you’re careful and don’t have a fear of heights.

View from Glacier Point's Upper Terrace looking down at Yosemite Valley. Way to the left is Overhanging Rock.
View from Glacier Point’s Upper Terrace looking down at Yosemite Valley. Way to the left is Overhanging Rock. (Photo: Gloria Wadzinski)

How Long of a Hike Is Glacier Point?

Glacier Point is a scenic viewpoint, not a hike. But there are three trails that you can take to access it from the Yosemite Valley or from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley.  They are the Four-Mile Trail, which is 4.8 miles one way and 9.6 miles round trip, the Panorama Trail, which is 8.5-miles one way and 17 miles round-trip, and Pohono Trail, which is 13-miles one way and 26 miles round trip. All three of these out-and-back trails are strenuous. They are even more strenuous in 2022 through May 2023 because Glacier Point Road is closed, meaning there is no option to hike one way and take a car or shuttle the other way.

In “normal” years, all three of these trails can be hiked one way because you can take the hiker’s shuttle or park shuttle the other way. However, the hikers’ bus and park shuttle are not running to Glacier Point in 2022 through May 2023 because Glacier Point Road is closed for construction. This means that if you hike up to Glacier Point via one of these three strenuous trails, you have to hike all the way back down, too. Which also means all three of these hikes are extremely strenuous and time consuming, involving significant uphill and downhill stretches. Unless you are in excellent shape, start way early in the morning and are ready to take on a ton of miles, don’t try to hike Panorama or Pohono trails.

Hiking Four Mile Trail in Yosemite National Park
Hiking Four Mile Trail in Yosemite National Park (Photo: Grant Ordelheide)

Can You Park Overnight?

You can park overnight at Glacier Point if you have a wilderness permit and are backpacking when the road is open, but from Oct. 15 until the roads open in the spring, you cannot park there. Glacier Point Road is a seasonal road. Furthermore, the road is undergoing major construction and will be closed all of 2022 through May 2023.