[Trail Guide] Searching for an amazing view of Half Dome? Hike to Yosemite Point (8.4 miles / 4,200′ / 6-8+ hours)

Hike details last updated May, 2017. 

If you’re searching for an incredible view of the Yosemite Valley, its peaks and especially Half Dome and are also willing to put some work in for it, I can’t recommend Yosemite Point enough.

Half Dome from Yosemite Point

Climbing over 4,200′ (2,969′ elevation change + ups and downs) in 8.4 miles, the trail to the Point is a nearly direct path out of the heart of the valley. Along the way you’ll pass Yosemite Falls and enter into the high country with incredible views for nearly the entire day. With each level you ascend the view gets that much more impressive until you reach the railing at the point and look out over much of the valley now below you. Throw in the effort of the strenuous hike and it combines to make for one heck of an adventure (and without the fuss of a parking lot at say Glacier Point.)

Begin the Adventure by Heading to Upper Yosemite Falls

The route to Yosemite Point from the Valley floor starts by taking the Upper Yosemite Falls trail out of Camp #4. Essentially the Point is a continuation the Falls hike and it’s just a quick walk over  to the Falls viewpoint along the way making it easy to experience both in one outing. Reaching the falls viewpoint does require a little downclimbing to add to your day’s work but with just 500 vertical feet and 0.8 miles (each way) between the two, it’s well worth it.

Upper Yosemite Falls from the Trail

Upper Yosemite Falls from along the trail beyond Columbia Rock.

Since the initial trails are the same, I suggest starting with my Yosemite Falls Trail Guide; this guide covers the hike from the Yosemite Falls junction to Yosemite Point and back.

What to expect for your hike

If hiking Upper Yosemite Falls is a big day then hiking the Point is a really big one. The hike is pretty much akin to a moderate mountain climb with a consistent elevation gain on the way up and then some extra climbing on the way back so if you’re not use to big efforts, prepare to go all day.

Yosemite Falls Trailhead in Winter

The trailehad information sign after a winter snowstorm blanketed the valley.

With no facilities along the way, a trail that’s exposed to the elements and the potential for either very hot or very cold days (maybe both), having a safe hike requires a fair amount of gear plus ample food and water. In the early season you may find water along the trail to refill (treat before drinking!) but as summer rolls on don’t expect to have anything except what you bring with you.

From the Falls to Yosemite Point

After making a visit to the top of Yosemite Falls head back up the stairs and back down the trail you took for just a couple minutes. You’ll pass between the two large rocks and should see a trail to your right that’s headed downhill. That trail will quickly open up to a view of Yosemite Creek and a bridge over it and is of course where you want to head. If you go too far not to worry, a sign post for Yosemite Point and another fork in lie a little closer to the main junction and will get you back to the same place.

Yosemite Creek Bridge

With less than a mile between the falls and Yosemite Point it’s not a long walk from one to the other and not a whole lot of climbing either. Yosemite Point is not entirely obvious at first but essentially it’s across the creek and up, nearly parallel with the falls just higher and a bit further out.

Yosemite Point Trail Map - Google

Yosemite Falls to Yosemite Point as seen on Google Maps (click for map)

The trail is well defined and follows the Yosemite style of stone walls to keep you on track (and off the fragile land) though in early season it’s quite likely that snow will cover some if not all of the route up. If this is the case a GPS or even Google Maps comes in very handy though with lots of visitors, boot paths are reasonable to expect… just be sure to watch where you step, the conditions of the snow and what’s under your feet.

Hike Details: The Trail to the Top

Follow the trail (Snow Creek Trail) down to the bridge and across it. You’ll stay by the creek side for a few moments but it’s not long before the trail launches in to a couple of wide turns to start taking you up the hillside and eventually back out towards the valley. After climbing up above the creek, the trail will head out basically straight ahead (the Yosemite Falls trail is now off to your far right) until you junction with the actual Yosemite Point viewpoint trail to your right.

The Trail to Yosemite Point

Take that trail towards the large rocks you can see ahead and make the final push (it’s all far more gentle than what you hiked to get up to the falls) straight ahead. In just a few minutes the railing at Yosemite Point should come into clear view and next thing you know you’ll be at the end.

Approaching the Point

Yosemite Point is a rather wide spot and all rock so there’s plenty of room to sit on down and enjoy lunch with a view. If you do want to explore around there’s an unguarded but well traveled point off to your left with a killer view of Half Dome but do be sure to watch the edge and use caution walking over the loose, slick dirt thats around.

View From Yosemite Point

When you’ve had your fill of Yosemite Point simply return down the way you came, cross the bridge and hike back up to the Yosemite Falls trail.

Half Dome from Yosemite Point

You can skip the viewpoint and head back down towards the main junction and switchbacks to return to Yosemite Valley or select one of the many other trails there to continue exploring if you were smart enough to get a wilderness permit and bring along your backpacking gear!

Quick facts about the trail

  • Official Rating: Strenuous
  • Start point: Camp 4 / Shuttle Stop #7
  • Distance: ~8.4 miles roundtrip as an out & back
  • Duration: 6-8+ hours
  • Climb: Approx 4,200′ effective gain
  • Crowds: Moderate – Heavy
  • Recommended time: Late Spring, Early Fall
  • Facilities: Vault toilets at Camp 4
  • Water: At Camp 4 (treat anything you drink along the trail)
  • Parking: Road side lot, shuttle bus
  • Fees: NPS Pass to enter Yosemite
  • Permits: None for day hikers

Additional info & links