If you only do one thing in Yosemite, this has to be it. Drive up the 27 km to the top and then walk out on to the promontory over the valley. The stupendous panorama extends for miles, even the Sierra Nevada comes into view. Sublime !!!
Rain or sun, glacier point is a must. We drove to the place with a heavy rain and almost snow, thinking we were the only crazy people to hope to enjoy something new, or to hope being able to see something majestic... so... We reached the point, everything foggy and rainy, but a bunch of tourists still on their way, and surprisingly at some point everything cleared out, the rainbow came and we were so happy and satisfied. It is unbelievable how you can stand there and times goes by and you just want to keep on admiring all that powerful force of nature brought together by water and trees and rocks, and still wonder how that perfect can be :)
Glacier Point places you on the edge of most breathtaking view in Yosemite!
This phenomenal outlook is over 3200 feet above the Yosemite Valley, allowing a birds eye view of Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, Illilouette Falls, Half Dome and many other important landmarks of this national park.
At the overlook, an illustrated map identifies the various formations (picture 2).
Glacier Point is located 32 miles south of the Yosemite Valley. Around 1990, a fire devastated quite a bit of this area (picture 4), but it is recovering.
As you travel Wawona and Glacier Point roads, you'll see pretty meadows and the splendid rock formations of the Sierra Nevada.
The Glacier Point Snack Stand offers hot dogs, sandwiches, beverages and snacks for hungry travelers; some souvenirs (picture 3). Restrooms are located outside by the parking area--some were closed when we stopped by.
You can see Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls, the Libery Cap, Clouds Rest and the valley from Glacier Point. If you walked up, you might even spot your car in the parking lot down below.
There are several ways to get to Glacier Point. You can drive, take a shuttle or hike. If you hike, you can take 4 Mile Trail, which is a steep but short trek up 3200 feet, or you can take the beautiful but long Panorama Trail. We did the Panorama Trail -- parked at Curry Village and hiked up from the Happy Isles Trailhead (8 hours at an easy pace with stops).
Accessible through Glacier Point Road, the view point is at the end of a 45 min drive from Hwy 41. The road takes you right up to the view point. It's a worth while drive to take. This place contains the most breath taking view of the valley you can imagine! You can see the valley floor from the top and all the features of Yosemite. Half dome, vernal falls, nevada falls, upper and lower yosemite falls, el capitan, liberty cap are just some of the features you can see from the view point. Whether you spend a day or a week in Yosemite, this is a must visit place. Of course it only opens between late May and October depending on the weather. In the winter and early spring the road is still covered with snow! Check with the yosemite government website for road conditions.
Don't forget to visit the Geology Exhibit. It's right of the trail to the view point. It's a small stone hut containing pictures on how the valley was formed.
Don't forget to bring a binocular. You can actually see people on top of vernal falls and nevada falls! Amazing!
I visited this place on the day before I took the mist trail up vernal and nevada falls. It's stunning to see the trail you're about to take from far away on top of the world!
It's a windy, 16 mile road to the top of Glacier Point from Route 41, but there are some fantastic views which make it very much worth it. It's a slow going road, with limited turnouts, so stay patient. At the end, you are rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view of the valley, including some of the larger waterfalls and Half Dome. There are restrooms up here as well as plenty of standing areas to take in the landscape. Half Dome is the highlight - you'll feel much closer to it here than in the valley.
Please see my travelogues for more pictures from Glacier Point.
A short spur from the main path to Glacier Point leads you to the Geology Exhibit, a stone hut with a description inside of how Yosemite Valley formed. It starts with the upllift of the Sierra Nevada, and then the canyon cut into the range by the Merced River. Later, glaciers blanketed the whole area; in fact, at one point, all of Yosemite Valley except the top of Half Dome was glaciated. Later glaciers eventually carved out the steep cliffs and walls of the valley. After the last glacial retreat, terminal moraine created a giant lake that eventually silted up into today's flat Yosemite Valley. After seeing the exhibit, walk out onto it's viewpoint for a view of Half Dome, the Giant Staircase, and Tenaya Canyon.
As far as viewpoints you can drive up to, there is none greater than Glacier Point. From the large parking lot at the point, you just have to walk a few hundred yards to the viewpoint. The ampitheatre also has a wide view, but it does not compare with Glacier Point itself. From here, the grand face of Half Dome dominates most of the scene; there's a good view of Clouds Rest, Mt. Watkins, Tenaya Canyon, North and Basket Domes, Royal Arches, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap, Mt. Hoffman, Tenaya Peak, and Mt. Starr King. Then look down 3000 feet to the floor of Yosemite Valley. You can spot Mirror Lake, the Merced River's winding course, the grand Ahwahnee Hotel, and the various meadows of the valley floor. Nearby, there's also Overhanging Rock, a famous icon where many visitors used to pose at the cliff's edge. The rock is now off limits, for everyone's safety. Click on my Glacier Point photo for a larger panoramic view.
The Glacier Point Road is generally only open from Memorial Day (late May) to October, and is closed in winter and spring due to snow. Plowing of the Glacier Point road begins April 15 each year; check the national park service website if you plan on driving to Glacier Point before July. From the junction with the Wawona Road (Hwy 41), the Glacier Point Road climbs a ridge above the valley of Grouse Creek. It eventually crests at Badger Pass, where you'll find the little-known Summit Meadow. Since it is so close to the road, you'll hear many cars going by, which is unpleasant; but not many people stop at this meadow. It doesn't have the most spectacular setting, but you can find wildflowers and wildlife near this meadow.
Whatever you do in Yosemite, Glacier Point is DEFINITLY worth a visit. It sits on top of a 3,200 foot almost sheer cliff rising from Yosemite Valley below and offers the most spectacular views over the valley and to the mountains beyond. My adivce would be to make it one of the last things you do in the park. We came on our last day (although this was mainly because they only opened the road that day!) We spent ages there admiring the views, taking photos and trying to figure out which waterfall was what. It was really nice to be able to piece everything together, identifying waterfalls, peaks and trails that we'd seen during the previous couple of days.
For those with plenty of stamina, Glacier Point can be accessed by the VERY steep (3,200 foot ascent!) Four Mile Trail - which, according to my guide book, is actually 10 miles long! Alternatively, you can get the Glacier Point Hikers Bus ($15 each way) from the valley floor, or you can get there by car along the Glacier Point Road.
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