Sentinel Dome at Yosemite National Park

Part of the You Can Learn Travel series.
By Ken Brown
Editor, You Can Learn Series
June 13, 2008

If you are looking for a great little adventure while visiting Yosemite National Park, then you want to take the hiking trail to Sentinel Dome. It is not a long walk, maybe a mile from the parking lot to the top of the Dome.

Sentinel Dome Stands 8,122 Feet Above Sea Level

Sentinel Dome stands 8,122 feet above sea level and gives you great views of the Sierra Nevadas, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Tenaya Canyon and The Giant Staircase.

Take the road to Glacier point and the Sentinel Dome parking lot will be on the left side of the street, about a mile before you reach Glacier Point. You can find a parking space early in the day. I can't guarantee it will be easy after noon. We drove by one day on our way to Glacier Point and the parking lot was full.

After you park there is a toilet facility there. Walk past the toilet and as you go down hill the Sentinel Dome path goes off to the right and the Taft Point path goes down and angles to the left.

Take Path to the Right to Reach Sentinel Dome

So take the right path to Sentinel Dome and you will be going up most of the time. But, it is a gentle up that covers 370 feet in height. It is about a mile before you get to the Dome. I think the path is fairly uneventful, but like the rest of Yosemite National Park it is a pretty walk. The easiest way up the dome is from the back of it so you have to take the path around the dome before you start going up.

Once you get to the base of the Granite Rock then you can see the clear path to the top. It might be a little busy on the rock as it is a popular little hike. If it is raining, lightning, hailing or snowing be careful or don't go up at all.
Click on Sentinel Dome photo.
This is the view of the base of Sentinel Dome.
This is the view before walking to the pinnacle of Sentinel Dome
Click to see larger photo.
This image shows the view of Yosemite Valley as seen from Sentinel Dome
Great View of Yosemite Valley from Sentinel Dome
Looking from the base of the rock it appears fairly forbidding especially if you are afraid of heights. But, once you begin to ascend to the peak you realize that it is very doable. Most places it is just a gentle incline, though a couple of places you have to step up.

Reach Out and Touch Half Dome

Upon reaching the pinnacle you will be afforded some great views of the surrounding area. Half Dome will be so close you feel you can reach out and touch it. Clouds Rest is the ridge running behind Half Dome. The Tenaya Canyon extends from Yosemite Valley past Half Dome, past Clouds Rest and into the Sierra Mountains. The view of Yosemite Valley from Sentinel Dome is not as nice as you get at Glacier Point.

The top of the dome is mostly flat with no vegetation. It was windy the day we were there and it was cold. Take some warmer clothes with you. It will probably be 20 to 50 degrees colder on top of the dome than what you will experience in Yosemite Valley.

Take care coming down off the of the rock. If you are interested in going to Taft Point when you reach the base of the dome then turn left instead of right. Read more about this path below.

Great Views of Yosemite Falls on the Path to Taft Point

If you want some great views of Yosemite Valley and especially the ability to see the entire view of the three falls of Yosemite Falls, then take the path between Taft Point and Sentinel Dome. There is very little traffic on the path, but some of the views are outstanding. You walk in the forest and sometimes the path opens up to the valley and the view takes your breath away.

Click on Sentinel Dome Half Dome photo.
You can see Half Dome, Clouds Rest and Tenaya Canyon from the top of Sentinel Dome.
Half Dome as seen from Sentinel Dome.
Click to see larger photo.
This image shows Yosemite Falls from the path between Sentinel Dome and Taft Point.
Yosemite Falls from Path Between Sentinel Dome and Taft Point
To reach this path from Taft Point then hike to Taft Point and the Fissures first. Take in the great views to be found there. Then as you are heading on the path back to the parking lot the Sentinel Dome path angles off to the left.

A Quiet Path Through the Forest

I wasn't watching the time so I don't know exactly how long it took to get to Sentinel Dome. But, the path was quiet. It meanders through a forested area and gently angles up. Make sure you have water with you because at the higher altitude you are working harder than you think. Pretty soon you come to a section of the path and you look up and say, I am going to the top of that?

As you get closer to Sentinel Dome the path begans a series of switchbacks. You definitely know you are climbing. Pretty soon you are at the base of Sentinel Dome. Climb to the top of Sentinel Dome and take in the great views. To reach the parking lot again turn right when you reach the base of the dome.
Click on Sentinel Dome Base photo.
You can see Sentinel Dome from the path between Sentinel Dome and Taft Point.
Sentinel Dome as seen from path.
Click to see larger photo.
This image shows the forested path between Taft Point and Sentinel Dome.
A forested path between Sentinel Dome and Taft Point

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