Camp at Glacier Point
Yosemite › Four Mile Trail
Added by Sarah Vaughn
Get breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. And most importantly, bring your tent and get Glacier Point all to yourself.
Everyone that knows Yosemite, knows Glacier Point. An overlook that attracts thousands of people per day that drive up via Glacier Point Road is rarely vacant of the hustle and bustle of people. However, there is a loop hole here, and when the stars align you can have Glacier Point ALL to yourself as your campground. Of course you can always cross-country ski to the point and camp, but if weather allows during the winter season, trails leading to Glacier Point will open, and park rangers issue wilderness permits to camp there.
Four Mile Trail and the Mist Trail are typically closed in the winter, but every now and then they will be open, and so will your chance to camp at this sought after spot. We visited the park in March when it is typically snow covered and found ourselves with much more hiking trails open. So we decided to jump on this opportunity. We started at the Four Mile Trailhead. This trail can definitely be strenuous, especially with carrying packs. It is 4.7 miles to Glacier Point from here, with about 3,200ft elevation gain. Although it may get your heart pumping it will also give you fantastic views of Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. A few little glimpses of Half Dome will keep popping through getting you pumped for what you will be seeing at Glacier Point. Finally, you will triumphantly reach the top and be rewarded with breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome itself. The park rangers will let you know you can set up camp anywhere as long as it is 100yds away from any trail. If climbers are out you will probably be able to see their headlamps climbing up the west face of Half Dome via Snake Dike.
After a lovely night under the stars, you will want to think about what route to take down. Going back down Four Mile is an option but can be really rough on the knees. Another option that will show you a bit more of the park is taking the Panorama Trail down to the Mist Trail and ending at Happy Isles where you can take a shuttle close to the Four Mile Trailhead. This option is about 8-9 miles depending how much you venture off, and is a little easier on your knees (at least until you reach the Mist Trail descending 1,900ft in about 3.5 miles). Taking this way will bring you by some of the parks gems such as Illilouette Falls, Nevada Fall, and Vernal Falls.
Lastly, you will arrive at Happy Isles. Again, you can take the shuttle to the edge of the Valley towards the Four Mile Trailhead, or if you are feeling hungry stop by Curry Village Pizza Patio for some well deserved pizza and beers in the heart of Yosemite Valley.
- Ten Essentials
- Water Purification
- Backpacking Gear
- Layers (Winter temps at night Spring during the day)
- Wilderness Permit (Can obtain in Yosemite Valley)
- Bear Can
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Takes your breath away
Camping here in the winter is a well-kept secret! Normally it falls within Yosemite's no camping zone (within 4 miles of a developed area), but in the winter, Glacier Point Road closes and the area converts back to wilderness. As mentioned, there's trails leading to Glacier Point from the Valley that might be closed in the off-season. If so, you can hike or snowshoe longer mileage from the Glacier Point Road area. Can't wait to get back out here! Literally breathtaking views of the night sky.
Icing on the Cake
After recovering from a sever case of going snowbind in the High Sierras, I nearly forwent the opportunity to camp atop Glacier Point. Thank God, my senses kicked! The main trail was still closed for the season, though the rear route was open. A bit longer, though the reward at the end was surreal. Having this commanding view to yourself is a sensation that is very challenging to articulate. Having the view and falling asleep, exposed on a granite peak in the middle of a thunderstorm...also hard to describe.
Best Winter Camping Ever!
This was the most epic camping spot ever! We hiked the 10.5 miles from Badger Pass down Glacier Point Road, camped at Glacier Point the first night, then Taft Point the second. This was my first time to Yosemite, but I can only imagine all the crowds this place sees during the summer! We had the spot all to ourselves mid-week. After getting a wilderness permit from the ranger station at Badger Pass, we were set (didn't need skis or snow shoes in February, but definitely check the weather as sometimes they are necessary). Camped near Taft Point the second night and it was a perfect 3 day winter adventure!
I did this with a group of eight in January this year over a few days starting from tunnel view and hitting glacier point. We brought snowshoes, however it was a dry winter and only needed micropikes. Wonderful sunrise and sunet. Even saw three wing suit flyers jump from glacier point at sunrise! Pretty much had the whole trail to ourselves. Probably much more snow this current season.
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