Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Trails, Yosemite National Park, California

To get more of a spacial perspective on all the huge granite mountains (El Capitan, Half Dome, The Three Brothers etc.) that surround Yosemite valley from a higher elevation, we hiked the Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Trails. So today we made the scenic 1 1/2 hour drive on Glacier Point Road that is full of terrific view points to the trail head which is about 6 miles before Glacier Point at the end of the road. From the parking area you pick up the Sentinel Dome trail on the right and head through sparse forest with many large granite sheets that you walk across. About 1.1 miles of moderate hiking takes you to the base of this huge dome where you can see the Yosemite Valley floor, El Capitan to your left and Half Dome through the trees on your right, all from the opposite side of the valley. From here we scrambled up the dome to an elevation of 8122 ft where you are above the trees. This vantage point provides 360 degree unobstructed views of not only looking down upon Yosemite Valley and its famous mountains but you can see the rest of the Sierra Mountains. Since it is so late in the season, the surrounding Sierras were not snow capped but spectacular nonetheless. Look for a large stone at the top that has a metal plate map of all the surrounding mountains. It was truly surreal with the views being impossible to capture with a camera but we tried. Also on top is an old dead twisted tree trunk that someone mentioned was made famous by Ansel Adams. I'll have to do some investigation to verify this.

We hiked back down the dome and picked up the trail to Taft Point. This trail is north east of Sentinel Dome and follow the ridge of Yosemite Valley. This moderate hike wanders through more heavily forested areas so there aren't many open views. But there are places that you can go a few hundred yards off trail and get those incredible and indescribable views of the valley. Also, throughout the forest along this trail are very large granite stones that you have to maneuver around. It was interesting to see these large rocks throughout the forest and it made the hiking more interesting as well. This hike from Sentinel Dome to Taft Point is about 2.5 miles. Taft Point at 7503 feet is an open outcropping of rock literally overlooking the valley from a further west vantage point then Sentinel Dome. The view from the very edge of the rock is straight down to the valley floor. Also at Taft Point is The Fissures - these are huge cracks in the mountain where some seem to extend all the way from the top where you are standing to valley. It was a strange sensation to look down the fissures (from a safe distance of course). I can begin to understand how these places can be spiritual for some people. From Taft Point we followed another trail for around 1.1 miles that end back at the parking area. The total round trip was around 7 miles and it took us 6 hours with Font sizea lot of picture taking and chatting with fellow hikers. I would say the hike out to and up Sentinel Dome is a must hike in this national park. If you have time adding the Taft Point leg is a great bonus.

Tip - Be sure you do this hike like we did - go counter-clockwise, so most of your hike is downhill.

Next, we made the 6 mile drive to Glacier Point. This is at the end of Glacier Point Road. Here you will find large parking lots and very accessible sidewalks up to Glacier Point. This is where all the tour buses are destined, so be ready for the crowds. A quick .5 mile walk from the parking lot will get you to the view point. Glacier Point give you views straight down on Yosemite Valley village and views of Half Dome, however you are too far northeast to see El Capitan. It would be great to go to Glacier Point early to see the sun rise on Half Dome or to go here on a full moon night. Our bonus here was seeing a Lynx sitting below the sidewalk not more than 10 yards from the parking lot. There were several deer in the area when we first got there so maybe he/she was thinking about dinner. It was remarkable to see the elusive and mostly nocturnal animal.


Anonymous said...

did you get a pic of that gnarly old tree trunk? haven't looked in your album yet.

that is TOOO cool that you saw a lynx. i'm jealous. actually, i have a story about a patient who had a *pet* lynx. remind me to tell you that one sometime.

Denise :)

Suzanne and Brad said...

Hi ya!!!
We'll be posting some pics of Yosemite this weekend - will let you know whe -been too busy hiking!!!

A pet lynx...........hmmmmm.... :-)

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