While most tourists who drive the Glacier Point Road are intent on going all the way to the popular Glacier Point, the Sentinel Trailhead is located roughly two miles from the end of the road and is the starting point for a hike to two scenic and easily accessible viewpoints. Taft Point is an amazing viewpoint along an exposed ridgeline with sheer vertical cliffs that offer amazing views down into Yosemite Valley. Sentinel Dome is the inconspicuous highpoint far above Glacier Point that offers panoramic views in all directions. A hike to either or both landmarks makes for a wonderful and not-too-strenuous day hike with even more inspiring views found along the connecting section of the Pohono Trail.
The Sentinel Trailhead is located roughly 2.2 miles from the end of Glacier Point Road. While parking is a bit limited at the trailhead, makeshift parking is available along the road. WARNING: If you are visiting the area early in the season and the area is still covered in snow, hiking these trails may be dangerous to the general public as it is easy to get disoriented and lose the trail. Snow and ice may make the exposed sections treacherous.
|Easy to moderately strenuous day hike
|Sentinel Trailhead (roughly 2.2 miles from the end of the 16-mile long Glacier Point Road)
|3-5 hours for total loop hike (1-2 hours just for Taft Point, 1-2.5 hours just for Sentinel Dome)
|6.4 miles for total loop hike (2.5 miles total just for Taft Point, 2.3 miles total just for Sentinel Dome)
|300-ft descent to Taft Point, 450-ft descent and ascent along Pohono Trail, 400-ft ascent to top of Sentinel Dome.
|Sentinel Trailhead: 7745'
Taft Point: 7460'
Summit of Sentinel Dome: 8123'
|Early summer to autumn (whenever the Glacier Point Road is open for the season and the route is not covered in snow)
From the Sentinel Trailhead, turn left at the trail junction and follow the Taft Point Trail as it heads due west through the pleasant forested high country. After less than a mile of mostly level hiking, the trail will descend into the open scenery of Taft Point. As you walk along the ridgeline high above Yosemite Valley, you will be treated to breathtaking views from the top of the sheer vertical walls of "Profile Cliff." (While hiking along the Taft Point ridge, look out for many narrow but deep cracks known as "the fissures," some of which could lead to fatal falls for hikers who aren't paying attention.)
An old metal railing at the top of the ridge functions as the official Taft Point viewpoint although you can continue to the end of the ridge for even more awe-inspiring views of El Capitan to the west. This viewpoint is a wonderful place to relax and soak in the views. Return the way you came.
If you are planning on doing the complete loop hike, back in the forest, turn left (north) at the trail junction to take the Pohono Trail to Sentinel Dome. The Pohono Trail heads north and descends into Sentinel Creek valley, offering several beautiful teaser views down into Yosemite Valley. As the trail nears Sentinel Dome, it's time to grind out some uphill as the trail makes its way up and around the north side of the dome. At the next trail junction near the radio facility, make sure you don't accidentally take the trail to Glacier Point (unless you intend to)!
Whether you approach Sentinel Dome from the Pohono Trail or from the Sentinel Trailhead, the hike up the northeast side of the dome is fairly straightforward. The uphill hiking relents sooner than you would expect and once you clear the trees to reach the bare top of the dome, you are treated to panoramic views in all directions. An old metal compass marker points to many famous peaks in the distance. Be sure to descend the way you came up!
|Map: Taft Point and Sentinel Dome
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map to return to this page.
The hike to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome is a classic, offering many amazing views without requiring that much effort or elevation gain to get to them. While everybody talks about the views from Taft Point and Sentinel Dome, the teaser views along this section of the Pohono Trail are well worth the effort of doing the full loop hike.