Sentinel Dome is a short trail on the south end of the Yosemite Valley plateau. This short hike wanders through alpine forests, bald granite peaks, and offers stunning views of the Yosemite High Sierra and Yosemite Valley below.

Hiking Sentinel Dome Trail

One of the many things that Yosemite National Park is known for is its large granite domes. These large domes were were formed by molten rock beneath the surface of the ground over sixty million years ago. The molten igneous rock bubbled up from the surface and as it cooled, large dome like rocks were formed. Sentinel Dome is one of these large domes and sits tall above the southern side of Yosemite Valley between Taft Point and Glacier Point.

In pop-culture, Sentinel Dome is known for what’s probably the most famously photographed Jeffrey pine in the entire world. The lone pine stood growing alone at the top of the dome for many years. The tree became incredibly popular after a photographer, Ansel Adam, took a stunning black and white photo of it in 1940. Unfortunately, the tree succumbed to drought in 1977. The tree stood tall until 2003 when it finally fell over. The remains of the tree can still be found at the top of Sentinel Dome.

Popular pines aside, Sentinel Dome has some of the best views that can be found in Yosemite National Park. From the top of the dome there is a complete 360-degree panoramic view of the entire area. One can see the high Sierra, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls, the entire portion of Yosemite Falls, El Capitan and on an incredibly clear day, all the way to the coastal mountain ranges to the west.

One A Personal Note:

Of all the views I’ve experienced of Yosemite Valley thus far, Sentinel Dome has been the best views that I’ve ever taken in. Without better words, the panoramic sights are breathtaking and astounding. This vantage point also puts into perspective the raw power of Yosemite Falls. The mighty roar of the creek during the spring along with boulders falling from the top of the waterfall can be heard. I highly recommend doing this hike in the late spring and early summer to see all the snow topped peaks and waterfalls at their best. 

This trail begins in the same parking lot for Taft Point. Taft Point is a very popular and nervewrecking viewpoint just south of Sentinel Dome. If you’re looking for a little more adventure in the day, this hike can be paired as a loop trail with Taft Point. Including Taft Point will add an approximated two and a half miles of distance.

Do you have any updates to the hiking trail or want to share your hike/pictures? Please leave a comment below.

  • Overall Difficulty: 45% 45%
  • Overall Views: 100% 100%
Sentinel Dome Trail Quick Facts:
  • Elevation: 8,091 feet.
  • Elevation Gain: 395 feet.
  • Estimated Distance: 2.1 miles.
  • My Actual Distance: 2.7 miles.
  • Estimated Time: 1-3 hours.
  • My Time: 1 hour 45 minutes; 1 hour 22 minutes moving.
Sentinel Dome Trail Directions:
Open in maps. Cost is admission to Yosemite National Park. An America The Beautiful pass will also work. Access to the trailhead is very easy. It’s about two thirds of the way up Glacier Point Road and the trailhead is on the left side of the road. There is a small parking lot that does fill up completely during the busy season by the early morning. If the parking lot is full, you will either have to wait for a parking spot or find parking on the side of the narrow two lane road. This trailhead is also the same for Taft Point.  

During the winters this road is closed due to heavy snowfall. Glacier Point Road does tend to open up earlier in the year than Tioga Pass. Please check with the park on the current road conditions if you plan on traveling when there may be snowfall. There is no cell phone service in this area so know where you’re headed before you head deeper into the park. 

Sentinel Dome Trail Pictures:
Who Sentinel Dome Trail Is For:
Novice Hikers: This is a great trail for beginner hikers. There is very little elevation gain and the distance is short as well. The bulk of any elevation comes in the short hike up the dome which is less than fifty yards. Do use caution here as a slip and fall could be potentially catastrophic.

Advanced Hikers: Although short, this trail is a must do for some phenomenal views of the park. If you do want to include some more mileage, include visiting Taft Point. Taft Point can be made into a loop trail from the parking lot. 

Expert Hikers: Add this trail to your Yosemite National Park bucket list. Consider adding Taft Point if you’re looking for something longer. 

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

Best Time Of Year To Hike Sentinel Dome:
Sentinel Dome is inaccessible by car for half the year from around November to sometime in May. This is because Glacier Point road closes after the first major snowstorm for the season. The road does not reopen again until winter is over and the road is cleared from snow. For those looking to hike the trail during the winter, snowshoeing is an option from the Yosemite Snow and Ski Area (formerly Badger Pass).

If this trail is done from mid-spring to early summer, the waterfalls visible from the dome will be at their peak flow. The high Sierra peaks will also still be capped with snow. Depending on how much snow came down during the winter, the north side of Sentinel Dome may still have some snow and ice until June so use caution.

During the summer avoid being out on Sentinel Dome during a thunderstorm. Thunderstorms can pop up in the higher elevations during the summer and particularly in the afternoon hours. If you hear thunder, seek shelter. It’s not a good idea to be the tallest thing standing on the dome with the threat of lightning around. 

Always be prepared by checking the weather conditions before a hike.

Sentinel Dome Trail Conditions:
This trail is in great condition and is maintained by the National Park Service. The trail begins at the same trailhead for Taft Point. Instead of heading west, follow the signs for Sentinel Dome to the east. The first portion of the trail winds through an alpine forest. There is a small seasonal creek and a footbridge along the way. The forest eventually gives way to granite slabs before reaching Sentinel Dome.

Hiking up Sentinel Dome is the most difficult part of the hike. From what I gather, there is no clear defined path to get to the top. I highly recommend shoes with good grip. If there is snow on the ground, trekking poles do come in handy. However, this the only part of the trail that they would come in handy. Once at the top, take some time to explore the views that surround you.

The odds of seeing a rattlesnakes alone this trail are pretty small. However, always keep your eyes open and be alert. There will be an opportunity to see bears and deer here. Where the seasonal creek lies is the best bet for any wildflowers. Keep an eye out for the beautiful snowflower that likes to spring up near pines after the snow is gone.