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4 Mile Trail to Glacier Point & Sentinel Dome Hike

I once heard the 4 Mile Trail described as a three hour long Stairmaster session from start to finish. We accomplished that plus a bonus hike up to Sentinel Dome for views of snow covered Half Dome and other surrounding peaks. And, we were the only people up at Glacier Point, which is normally pretty crowded in the summer!

Where: Yosemite National Park

Distance: 12 Miles

Elevation Range: 3,963 – 8,112′

Date: November 26, 2012

Highlights: As we began the climb, we had views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and the Valley Floor. At the upper parts of the trail and at Glacier Point, we looked into Tenaya Canyon.

The views of Half Dome from Glacier Point felt like you almost reach out and touch it. Snow covered peaks surrounding Half Dome were frosted with snow and we had the place to ourselves!

The 4 Mile Trail begins in the Yosemite Valley Floor, just west of the Swinging Bridge area, and climbs up a switch back trail 4.8 miles to Glacier Point. You will gain about 3,200 feet in elevation by the time you get to Glacier Point.

You are probably asking why it is called the 4 Mile Trail if it is 4.8 miles in length. When this trail was originally constructed in 1872, it was 4 miles but in the early 1900’s, the trail was reconstructed, resulting in the increased distance. The trail is closed during the winter because of icy trails and down trees that routinely occur.

As we started up the trail, we caught a view of Yosemite Falls flowing water gain, with a rainbow.

4 Mile Trail 2

This picture gives you an idea of the steepness, as we looked down at the valley floor and at least 4 sets of switchbacks directly below.

4 Mile Trail 3

The trail wasn’t all switchbacks and climb. There were stretches of shady trails under large trees.

4 Mile Trail 4

And here was that view that we were rewarded with when we reached Glacier Point. I am looking up Tenaya Canyon to the snow covered Tenaya Peak and Clouds Rest with Half Dome to the right.

4 Mile Trail 5

And looking to the south of Half Dome, we could see Nevada Falls, with Star King, Merced Peak and other far away mountains.

4 Mile Trail 6

My hiking buddy, Gail, took this picture of me at deserted Glacier Point. We had the place completely to ourselves.

4 Mile Trail 7

We continued up the trail to Sentinel Dome, another 1.5 miles or so over snow and ice covered parts of the trail. I was tempted to put my microspikes on my boots but didn’t and we made it just fine.

4 Mile Trail 8

The view from the top of Sentinel Dome. I took this shot over an icy puddle in a rock, looking up Tenaya Canyon and at Half Dome.

4 Mile Trail 9

Looking back up at Sentinel Dome as we made our way down.

4 Mile Trail 10

I don’t know which was more difficult, going up or coming down. It was a real workout and felt good to have accomplished it and been able to see the snow covered peaks that I love to wander through.

4 Mile Trail 11


  1. Great photos, and your comments make me want to try it myself, although I am more of a spring/summer kind of person. How long did it take you to hike this? Thanks!

  2. Julie, it took us about 3 hours on the uphill portion to Glacier Point, a little less than an hour from Glacier up to Sentinel Point. That is hard walking without breaks. We were a slow going on the Glacier to Sentinel leg because of the icy and snowy trail. Hope that helps!

  3. This trail is usually closed in the winter, snowy/icy conditions make it very dangerous. Your best bet is to go in the spring after it re-opens. The Panoramic Trail is longer, less steep and also very beautiful.

  4. Julie, we hit the trail about 0730 and got back to the car about 430. Our moving time on the hike was 5 hours 53 minutes. Hope that helps!

  5. Julie, sorry it too me so long to get back with you. It took us 7 hours 11 minutes to complete this adventure. 5 hours 54 minutes of that was moving time.

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