Okay, they say a photo is worth a thousand words, so I have, by way of the photos here ALREADY written 5,000 words ^O^.
But if you have the time, take the road up to Glacier Point, it is one of those "Kodak Moments" that you will not regret nor forget. I can only imagine what these panoramic vistas look like in the winter when they get their cloak of white.
Nothing prepares you for what you see when you get to Glacier Point in Yosemite. It is a high point way above the valley floor. From the gate, it is about a 25-30 minute drive. There is parking and one view point prior to getting to the actually Glacier view point. My family and I spent 3 nights in the park, during which we toured and hiked the main highlights of the park.
There is a very exciting, challenging and adventurous hike to the valley floor which we attempted, but only did a mile and a half each way as we had my 15 month old with us. It is a tough hike, I shall not lie. The down hike is the easy part, getting back up literally requires rails or a chain for one to pull him/herself up with.
The views from glacier point are nothing short of breath-taking. Since we went in may, it was supposed to be cooler, but unfortunate for us, the heat picked up a day before and we literally got in at 90 degrees plus in temps. At such a high altitude though, it was cooler and the giant pine trees gave much needed shade.
The half dome and three different waterfalls are vivid from this point.
A very popular destination in the park and well worth the drive. The pictures speak for themself. I went late afternoon and had no problem finding a parking spot. There are bathrooms at the location and a store.
Glacier Point is a spot high above the Yosemite National Park valley floor. If you are really adventurous you can hike up a trail to the top or if you are less then adventurous or don't have a lot of time (at least that was my excuse this time around, although I think it would be an interesting hike) you can take some very winding and twisting roads up to the top and enjoy some scenery at a couple of other spots on the way up.
Once you arrive by car at the top their are a number of viewing points to take in some incredible sights and take some pictures. We were up top just before sunset and to see the colors change in the valley below and Half Dome was simply spectacular.
Photos can never truly catch the awe inspiring time when you get your first glimpses.
Drive up to Glacier Point, (a good 45 minutes from Yosemite Valley), the view is spectacular with view of the Half Dome mountain and a few waterfalls. Many hike trails start from up there, one that takes you down to Yosemite valley in about 4-5 hours depending on your hiking level, I didn't take it because i have a 3 year old daughter who wants to be held all the time, but my husband did and I watch the video, it was very nice!!
Mmmm, what can I say that hasn't already been said about this lookout? Nothing I suspect. Stunning one minute, unforgettable the next, it's one of those places that lives up to its hype and then some.
Someone once said, "If you only have time to see one national park in America, then it should be Yosemite." They were obviously standing at this lookout when they said it.
It's a clear case of sensory overload, mainly visual but sound and the caressing of the wind play their part as well.
I would suggest sunrise would be an excellent time to visit, followed by sunset. While the former is happening you have a better percentile chance of having a clear sky in this weather ravaged area.
One of my panoramas now resides on my computer as my screen saver and, trust me, it takes some special memory to get that status.
We decided to head to Glacier Point and enjoy "Sunset Ranger Talk". The talk began at 19:45 and lasted for about 1/2 hour. It was a good introduction to the park and gave us time to sit down and just enjoy the scenery.
The Ranger gave a informative and interesting talk about the area and was certainly worth missing dinner for. we snacked on half a sandwich and a bag of nuts each as we watched the sun go down.
We spent a few hours at Glacier Point and it gave us some spectacular views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.
Glacier point should never be missed when visiting Yosemite. The views are breathtaking! Personally, I think the best time would be nearing sunset. You can listen to the Ranger Sunset Talk and watch the sunset change the colors of the vista in front of you.
You do not have to do a "strenuous" hike to get here. You can drive (It's about an hour's drive from Yosemite Valley). But if you are adventurous, you could always take the Four Mile Trail to get here from Yosemite Valley, but with about three thousand feet of elevation gain.
The Panorama Trail is one of the top day hikes in Yosemite. The 8.5 mile one-way trail crosses some of the most stunning scenery in the park and while it is more dramatic to do it from the Valley floor to Glacier Point, this requires you to have a second vehicle so you can get back to where you started or to hike back down. This combined distance of 17 miles is not impossible but keep in mind you will pick up 3200 feet and your knees might question your sanity about half-way back. Another option is to buy a one-way ticket for the Glacier Point Tour Bus. You get to do the tour on the way up and the hike back down. Though there are two departures, you would want to take the morning bus to ensure enough time for the hike and stops you will want to make. The one-way ticket cost $25 per person.
Since we were planning on doing Half Dome from the Valley, we knew we would see the part of this trail from there to Nevada Falls so we hiked down from Glacier Point to Nevada Falls, enjoyed ample time there, and then hiked back up which brought us to Glacier Point late in the afternoon when the light was better for photos. This was also a good workout and pre-backpacking training hike, as we got a fair amount of both ascending and descending. It covered 10.5 miles and 1400 feet. The views heading to the falls are fantastic and the falls themselves, while crowded, are very pretty too.
Glacier Point Road is only open seasonally (generally May-Oct) and if open when you are there is not to be missed. The drive itself doesn't offer many views along its 16 mile length but once at Glacier Point, you know the hour's drive was well worth the effort. The road begins off of Wawona Road, about ten miles north of town and about equidistant to the Valley Loop Road. There is a small concession on top selling beverages and snacks but be warned, it closes early if you are waiting for sunset. You get a stunning view of Half Dome from one of its more alluring angles, and can see upper and lower Yosemite Falls better than anywhere in the Valley.
If you do not care to drive up, they run bus tours up to Glacier Point. Adults pay $41 and kids $23 with one-way fares available for those wishing to take one of the many trails down back to the Valley.
Glacier Point is a long drive from the valley. First, you have to take the road up and out of the valley. From there, it winds through the forest until you reach Glacier point. Here, is the most spectacular view of the valley that I remember. Below, the valley reaches far to the east and west. The north rim appears as if across a small ocean. Between is the open sky. Here, you're so far above the valley bottom that birds don't venture over the rim.
The Ranger picture is from the 1970's, the way I remember it. There were/are ranger talks at the top of the point and at night there are talks in the campground at the bottom of the point. Experience the height of the valley from both the top and the bottom.
The other is from 1915, when you could take your life in your hands and stand on the edge of eternity. Today, you should visit Half Dome and take the hike to the top for this experience. Oh- Half dome can be seen on across the valley in the 1915 picture.
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 !!!