Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Enjoy fantastic Yosemite National Park views on Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop

Taft Point offers views of Three Brothers and
Yosemite Falls. Photo courtesy Yosemite NPS.
Day hikers can enjoy two sweeping views of Yosemite Valley on the Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop.

Located south of the valley along Glacier Point Road, summer through September mark the best time hike the 4.9-mile trail at Yosemite National Park. Because of the high elevation – part of this trail is at over 7000 feet above sea level, the road is closed during winter.

To reach the trailhead, take Wawona Road/Calif. Hwy. 41 into the national park. Turn right/east onto Glacier Point Road. A small parking lot for the trailhead is about 12 miles from the intersection, or six miles past the Bridalveil Creek Campground. If the parking lot is full, there are some nearby wide stretches of road that can be used.

The Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop trailhead is on the road’s west side. A short stem trail leads up to the loop; upon reaching the latter, go left/southeast.

Taft Point
The walk is fairly flat terrain as you cross Sentinel Creek, head beneath evergreen forests, and then through meadows that fill with wildflowers in July.

After about 0.55 miles, the trail comes to a Y intersection. Continue west on a gradual descent and in about 0.45 miles you’ll arrive at Taft Point and The Fissures.

Taft Point allows you to get right up to the edge of the valley rim, offering magnificent views of Yosemite Valley below and Yosemite Falls and El Capitan across the way. If you trust the metal railing, you even can lean slightly over the valley rim. Because of this, watch your children; they shouldn’t be allowed to step up to the edge or to horse around near it.

You’ll also get a great view of the Fissures, cracks and breaks in the mile-high granite rising from the valley floor to the rim. The fissure nearest the point is 1100 feet long; others stretch all the way to the valley below.

Sentinel Dome
Upon taking in the views, return the way you came; when arriving back at the Y intersection, go left/north. You’ll approach the valley rim again and skirt it for a while. The trail wraps around Sentinel Dome’s north side.

At about 2.4 miles from the Y intersection, on the dome’s northeast side, is a steep spur trail that heads to the granite dome’s peak.

The 360 degree views from the top of Sentinel Dome – which peaks at 8127 feet – are the hike’s highlight. Among the visible sights are Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, North Dome, and Basket Dome. Glacier Point sits to the northeast.

After taking in the sights, head back down the spur trail to the loop trail. Go right/south. In about 1.1 miles, you’ll reach the stem trail that leads to the parking lot; turn left/southeast onto it.

In addition to not allowing children to get close to the edges, avoid this trail during thunderstorms, as the ridgeline and dome naturally attract lightning. In addition, be aware of the altitude and don’t push yourself – there really is less oxygen up there than at sea level, and getting winded or even a headache is quite possible if you’re out of shape or not acclimated.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.