Added by Greg Owens
Glacier point is a great escape from the crowds, especially in the winter where you can get a new perspective of Half Dome and Vernal, Nevada, and Yosemite Falls
Known for its breathtaking vistas, towering granite faces, and thundering waterfalls, Yosemite National Park truly is one of the world’s most astounding landscapes. Though the park covers nearly 1200 square miles, the vast majority of the ~4 million annual visitors spend almost all their time around the 18 square miles of Yosemite Valley. Especially between mid-April and mid-September, the valley can be very crowded, and camping spots are all but impossible to find. You can get a bird’s-eye view of the valley and an escape from some of that crowd at Glacier Point, which sits 3200 feet higher, but even that gets crowded. In winter and early spring, though, it’s a completely different story. Near-solitude and sweeping vistas of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite Valley far below await the everyday adventurer who snowshoes or skis the Glacier Point Road, which closes to vehicles in November and is groomed for Nordic skiing throughout the winter.
From Badger Pass, California’s oldest ski resort, the route is 10.5 miles one-way to Glacier Point, making this an intermediate trip. March is an excellent month in which to make the journey; in most years, the snowpack is good, and the temperatures are milder than in January and February. I’ve made separate trips on cross-country skis and on snowshoes; choose your gear according to your skill/comfort level and the trail conditions. At Badger Pass, there’s plenty of parking, a ranger station where you can check the latest trail conditions and get your backcountry permit (required for overnight visits), and a shop that rents gear at decent rates.
The route winds through forest for most of the first 10 miles and has a gentle grade, making for easy skiing and snowshoeing. Once you reach Washburn Point, you get a truly outstanding view of Half Dome, and the road descends steeply to Glacier Point. Unless you have excellent skills and backcountry skis with metal edges, it’s a good idea to walk the steep parts, especially if you’re carrying a heavy overnight pack or towing a sled. Glacier Point is only 0.75 mi past Washburn, and there are great places to pitch a tent near the visitors center, which serves as a lodge in winter. Outstanding vistas of Half Dome, Tenaya Canyon, Cloud’s Rest, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and Yosemite Falls can be had all around the rim, and you may very well have to share those views with nobody else. Nearby is a marked trail leading to the summit of Sentinel Dome, just over 1 mile away and up 400 feet. The combination of good but not crushing exercise, incredible views of many of the park’s most iconic features, and the quiet and solitude of having this spectacular part of Yosemite virtually all to yourself makes this an unforgettable trip.
- Nordic skis or snowshoes
- Sleeping bag and pad camera
- Backcountry essentials
- Bear canister (available for rent at Badger Pass)
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