How to Visit Glacier Point at Yosemite

Visiting Glacier Point, Yosemite

Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park
©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Don't get all excited when you read Glacier Point, thinking there's a glacier in Yosemite National Park. There used to be one, but that was millions of years ago. 

Today, the name Glacier Point refers to the point you'll be standing on and the glacier-carved valley below it.

Why Visit Glacier Point

To get a better view of the Yosemite Valley than the one from Glacier Point, you'd have to learn how to fly or how to suspend yourself in mid-air.

Standing at 3,214 feet above the valley floor (and 7,214 feet above sea level), you truly get a chance to soak in all the valley has to offer: The panoramic view from Glacier Point takes in Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and three waterfalls. If you go at night (or stay until it's dark), you can see the Milky Way spread across the sky like a diamond necklace.

What to Expect

It's well worth going anytime Glacier Point is open, both for the panoramic views and for a chance to see what the valley looks like from above. 

You'll probably spend a half hour or so looking around and taking photographs. And you're not alone in wanting to have your photo taken here. People have been doing that since President Theodore Roosevelt and naturalist John Muir posed for a portrait at Glacier Point in 1903, a few years before Yosemite became one of the country's first National Parks.

Since you'll be spending quite a bit of time taking in the sights and snapping photos, take an extra layer of clothing along. It's always colder at Glacier Point than in the Valley. If you're hungry, you'll find a snack area next to the gift shop, where you can grab a bite to eat while enjoying nature's beauty. 

If you're concerned about getting around to see the views, the short, paved trail to the overlook is wheelchair-accessible.

Hiking to Glacier Point

You can also hike from Yosemite Valley up to Glacier Point, but It's an extreme challenge trek that few choose to tackle. To do it, take Four Mile Trail, which gains more than 3,000 feet (and starts at almost 4,000 feet) — enough to leave most people breathless.

Most hikers travel the four miles from Glacier Point to the valley downhill instead. To do that, you'll need to have two cars, one parked at each end of the trail. An easier option is to buy a one-way ticket for the Glacier Point bus tour and hike back down to the Valley.

A longer, six-hour hike from Glacier Point to the Valley follows the Panorama Trail to Nevada Falls and then takes the Mist Trail to Happy Isles in the valley.

Getting to Glacier Point

In Yosemite Valley, you'll be right below Glacier Point. They're separated by only a few miles as the proverbial crow flies, but the road between them is 32 miles long. You can see where it is on this Yosemite map. You take a paid bus tour to Glacier Point, but most visitors drive.

To reach it from the valley, expect to take about an hour to get up to the point. Drive out of the valley on Northside Drive, turn left across the Pohono Bridge onto Southside Drive, then take Wawona Road toward Bridalveil Fall and turn off at Glacier Point Road.

On the way, you may want to stop at Washburn Point, which has similar views, but with a more direct look at Vernal and Nevada Falls.

You probably wouldn't travel to Yosemite just to see Glacier Point. If you're planning a trip to the national park, know everything to expect, what to pack, and how to get there. Then you can decide if this is a journey that you too would rate as one for the bucket list. Use this guide to Yosemite Valley to get tips and find out what else in at Yosemite.

Glacier Point Schedule and Closures

Glacier Point is open from late spring through early fall, with the exact dates depending on when snowfall begins and ends.

From mid-December through March, you can get to Glacier Point on cross-country skis, a 10.5-mile trip each way from the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area (formerly Badger Pass Ski Area).

Ranger programs are held at Glacier Point in the summer. On selected dates, you can take a stargazing tour to Glacier Point from the Yosemite Valley.