Glacier Point via the Four Mile Trail undoubtedly ranks as one of the top day hikes beginning from Yosemite Valley. Climbing 3,200 feet from the valley floor to Yosemite’s most famous viewpoint on the edge of the south rim, the trail provides inspiring views of Yosemite’s most notable landmarks and an aerial vantage on the valley floor that culminates with the sweeping vista at Glacier Point.
The hike begins at the Four Mile Trailhead along Southside Drive under the towering north face of Sentinel Rock. The early portion of the trail passes by house-sized granite boulders, ponderosa pine and incense cedar, before beginning the gradual climb under a canopy of live oak. In a short while, the trail provides its first down-valley view toward El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks, a vista that grows in grandeur with each foot of elevation gained. Eventually, as the trail ascends eastward, it leaves the oak canopy behind and opens to the surrounding glacial formed landscape. Directly across the valley is Yosemite Falls, which at 2,425 feet is the tallest waterfall in North America.
Approximately three miles into the hike, a short side trail branches off to Union Point, providing a sneak preview of Half Dome and the views to come. Beyond Union Point the trail's incline subsides and cuts across some cliff sections. This shady section may hold snow and ice during early spring and fall, so watch your footing as it can be slippery!
Upon reaching the upper portion of trail, the northern and easterly vantages open with views of Tenaya Canyon, Half Dome and the Yosemite high country. The trail continues through stands of old-growth fir before reaching the Glacier Point Hut/Snack Bar, which is open during the summer months (Glacier Point Hut is also open as a ski hut accommodation during winter months. Access is via a 10 mile groomed ski trail from Badger Pass Ski Area). Glacier Point is 100 yards to the north, where you will get some of the finest views in Yosemite National Park. It was here that the famous Yosemite photograph of President Teddy Roosevelt standing aside John Muir was taken.
Plan to use the better part of your day for the 9.2 mile round-trip hike, especially since you will want to take your time to soak in the scenery. Hikers can opt to do the hike one-way and catch a tour bus shuttle up to Glacier Point from the valley floor during the late spring, summer and early fall when the road to Glacier Point is open and the Glacier Point bus is running. Note it is recommended for desiring Glacier Point shuttle-takers to look into reserving seats ahead of time as seats for the but tour can fill up in advance. More info on the tour and reserving seats can be found here. Because of the iconic views at Glacier Point and along the trail, the Four Mile Trail is a fairly popular one-way trip that sees most traffic during the summer months. Consider a hike in the spring or fall, when the road to Glacier Point is closed to experience a quieter and less crowded Glacier Point.