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Hiking to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Before the Storm Rolled In

Yosemite National Park had plans to close Tioga and Glacier Point Roads temporarily due to a storm rolling in. What “temporarily” meant was yet to be seen but I had this need to get somewhere where I could see and feel that storm coming in but had to move quickly to beat that road closure.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 4.51 Miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevational Range: 7,245′ to 8,107′
Date: November 19, 2019
Map: El Capitan Topographic Map
Dog Hike: No

Little did I know that this hike would be the last one where I could access Tioga Road or Glacier Point Road by car this season because Yosemite National park ended up announcing season road closures  on November 27. You never really know when that magic date will be announced as weather starts coming in.  Sometimes it seems like it never will occur and sometimes it happens suddenly. I wanted to get a hike in before I was shut out, so I headed out bright and early to Glacier Point Road, parking at the Sentinel Dome Trailhead. I couldn’t believe that I was the only vehicle in the parking lot. It was 28 degrees so I put a light jacket and gloves on, heading up the well-signed trail to Sentinel Dome.

As I got closer to the top, I was anticipating what I would see. Would I see a thick band of clouds heading my way or the leading edge of cirrus clouds before the storm?

Sentinel Dome (8,107′ elevation) was full of beautiful views every way I looked and it was breezy.


It was still early in the day and I had plenty of time before the roads were planned to close at 3 pm so I headed back to the car, shed a layer and headed up the well-signed Pohono Trail to Taft Point.



Before I reached Taft Point, I checked out “The Fissures.” There is no guard rail around these dangerous fissures that drop off about 3,000′ straight to the valley floor. As you begin to catch sight of these fissures, you realize how monstrous they are. So, what caused these giant cracks? Here is what YosemiteHikes.com has to say (link at end of blog just in case you think I am making this up):

These immense vertical gashes in the valley wall were caused, it is now believed, by an epic battle between Mothra and Godzilla, during which Mothra slashed at his scaly foe but missed and raked his talons against the cliffside instead. (What, you didn’t know that Mothra has talons? Check with your vet.)

I could see Taft Point ahead of me, named for William Howard Taft, who was serving as the President (1909-1913) at the time that Robert Marshall, Chief Geographer for the United States Geological Survey, named it. John Muir guided President Taft through Yosemite for 3 days back in 1909. Did you know that President Taft walked down the four-mile trail from Glacier Point to the Yosemite floor?

It seems the big topic of discussion on that visit was water and Hetch Hetchy. San Francisco wanted that water and had a proposal to dam up the Tuolumne River to create a reservoir out of Hetch Hetchy Valley. John Muir found an ally in President Taft but Congress passed the Raker Act in 1913 which gave San Francisco the right to build the dam and develop hydroelectric power in the valley. Taft lost his re-election to President Woodrow Wilson who signed the bill. Many issues arose regarding Hetch Hetchy but it was eventually completed in 1934.

The views from Taft Point (7,500′ elevation) are incredible. There is a rail but it was still a bit scary to me to be very close to that edge. It isn’t much of a rail. El Capitan looks a little different from this point of view and I also could see the Three Brothers, where Yosemite Falls would be falling if there were water coming out of it, Mt. Hoffman, Mount Conness and many of our other mountainous friends. I could also see the Merced River way down there in the valley.

There was still wiggle room before the road closed so I drove down to Glacier Point (7,200′ elevation) to check out the views.

I didn’t have time to head to other locations off of Glacier Point Road before the road closed but how could I top what Glacier Point had offered? I made it home just in time to receive a few raindrops, hoping that the road closures are only temporary but knowing that we really do need that rain and snow.

At this point I don’t know when I will be able to drive to Glacier Point again, not only because of the storm(s), but the Glacier Point Rehabilitation Project is scheduled to begin this spring, continuing through the fall in 2021 and 2022. If you weren’t aware of this, this link has some preliminary information from the comment period.

I know it is mean of me to share a hike when you can’t quite get there to do it but there are other ways to access this area after Glacier Point Road is closed for the season.

  • You can take the Tunnel View Trail up and follow the Pohono Trail as far as you wish. Depending on the amount of snow and ice, we pack our snowshoes and ice traction devices for this.
  • If they haven’t closed the Four Mile Trail, you can head up it to Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome. They do close it during the winter though and there can be some very icy stretches of this trail.
  • Of course, when they open up Badger Pass, you can snowshoe or cross country ski up Glacier Point Road, taking the trails over to the Pohono Trail.
  • And here is an easy option that you can do online. Yosemite Conservancy’s Yosemite High Sierra Webcam is located on Sentinel Dome and you can check out the beautiful views from there.

Dog Hike? No

Dogs are not allowed on this Trail.

Where Pets Are Not Allowed

  • On trails, including the trail to Vernal Fall (however, pets are allowed on the Wawona Meadow Loop)
  • On unplowed roads covered in snow
  • In undeveloped and wilderness areas
  • In public buildings
  • On shuttle buses
  • In lodging areas
  • In all walk-in and group campgrounds/campsites, including Camp 4
  • In any other areas, as signed

These regulations protect both pets and wildlife from disease and each other. The National Park Service has prohibited pets on trails for many years. In particular, some pets chase wildlife, pollute water sources, and can become defensive and dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings. Pet owners have the burden to assure their pet does not damage the park values for others in those areas where pets are allowed.


What is a Doarama?  It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Doarama Link

Map and Profile:

Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Topographic Map

Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Profile

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Hiking from Tunnel View to Dewey Point January 12, 2018

Hiking to the Fissures, Taft Point and Sentinel Dome October 29, 2014

Tunnel View To Dewey Point Hike January 8, 2014


The Fissures Yosemite Hikes

Sentinel Dome Yosemite Hikes

Taft Point, Yosemite Valley Place Names (1955) by Richard J. Hartesveldt

Days Gone By: 1909: John Muir accompanies President Taft to Yosemite Mercury News


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