Yosemite is truly one of the most amazing places you will ever visit and is filled with countless trails, views and photographic opportunities. And Glacier Point provides one of the best places to view the wonder of the Yosemite Valley.
If you have never been to Yosemite, it is hard to image a place this beautiful. Granite valleys cut from glaciers with breathtaking views and formations at every turn. Standing at Glacier Point, you are face to face with Half Dome and able to witness the majesty of the Yosemite in all her glory. From here you can see the Yosemite Village, Vernal & Nevada Falls, Olmsted Point and the granite mountains surrounding the valley.
And at sunset… when the sun paints the mountain tops with an amazing salmon colored glow – the moment is simply unforgettable.
Trail Difficulty - EASY
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 1 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The hike from the parking lot to the end of the Glacier Point viewing area is an easy 1/4 mile walk on a paved walkway. The hike has some minor undulations, but for the most part it is a modest hike.
Download KMZ Trail File
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GPS Coordinates & Elevation
7,214 Ft. Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to Glacier Point parking area
The closest community to Glacier Point is the Yosemite West and Yosemite Village.
From Yosemite West
Drive out of Yosemite West and turn left on Wawona Rd. Drive for approx. 1/2 mile until you see a split in the road toward Glacier Point. Take a right on Glacier Point Rd and drive 15.7 miles on the paved and winding road until you get to Glacier Point. At 15 miles you will pass Washburn Point - which is a small pullout / parking area with a view of Half Dome very similar to the view of Glacier Point. However, this is not Glacier Point. Continue on the road until it dead-ends into the parking lot.
Even though the drive is only 15.7 miles, it will take you between 50 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic.
From Yosemite Village
Drive west on Northside Drive like you are leaving the park and take the exit toward Tunnel View. From Tunnel View drive 7.7 miles on Wawona Rd until you see a split in the road toward Glacier Point. Take a left on Glacier Point Rd and drive 15.7 miles on the paved and winding road until you get to Glacier Point. At 15 miles you will pass Washburn Point - which is a small pullout / parking area with a view of Half Dome very similar to the view of Glacier Point. However, this is not Glacier Point. Continue on the road until it dead-ends into the parking lot.
From Yosemite Village the drive will take you between 75 - 90 minutes depending on traffic.
Once you arrive at the parking lot, walk toward the rest rooms and follow the paved walkway to the Glacier Point viewing area. There are tons of locations along the walkway and ridge to shoot. Walking east will slightly reduce the view of the face of Half Dome and walking west toward the end of the walkway will provide the classic shot shown above.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
Even though you can shoot Glacier Point any time of day, in my opinion the VERY BEST time to shoot is toward sunset. At the very end of the day, just before sunset (if there are no clouds blocking the sun) you will be presented with this heavenly pink glow on the peaks of the Yosemite valley and Half Dome. It is truly a site to behold.
Best Time of Year to Shoot
The road to Glacier Point is only open from approximately the first week in May through November (historical opening dates for Glacier Point Rd). You can get a great shot from Glacier Point anytime the road is open. In the summer months (May - Aug) the sunset will be almost perpendicular to the face of Half Dome which provides for the fullest illumination.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
As mentioned, there are many compositions for Glacier Point ranging from grand vista (to include Half Dome with Vernal & Nevada Falls) to a nice medium to full compression shot focusing on Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley toward Olmsted Point. Bring lenses ranging from 16 – 70mm.
The above shot was taken with at 30mm.
Glacier Point is located in Yosemite National Park. As of the writing of the summary (June 2019) the entry fee was $35 per vehicle. Once in the park there are no other permits required.
Direction of the Shot
There are many compositions at Glacier Point, but mostly you will be shooting northeast around 60°.
Special Nuances of Shot
As mentioned, there are many, many locations and compositions to shoot the view around Glacier Point. You can walk up and down the area around Glacier Point to find the composition you like best. For me, this shot is all about timing and weather. As landscape photographers we usually love clouds, but if the sunset is blocked by clouds the magical pink glow won’t happen. Without any clouds, the shot feels empty.
For me, I would arrive to Glacier Point with several hours to explore and find your preferred composition and wait for the sunset. In the summer months, the sun will set to the left and in the late fall months the sun will set behind you.
Other nuances to consider is whether you want to include Vernal & Nevada Falls (just to the right of Half Dome) in your shot. Also, there are similar views from Sentinel Dome and Washburn Point. Sentinel Dome is about 3/4 miles southwest of Glacier Point with a similar angle to Half Dome and the Yosemite valley, but with different view. The best way to get to Sentinel Dome is to driving back about 2 miles and hike to the dome.
Special Equipment Needed
Other than a tripod, no special photography equipment is needed unless you plan on taking a panoramic shot. I would also suggest bringing some bug spray as you will be standing in the woods around sunset.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
Glacier Point has many visitors each day. And in the summer, at sunset it is a destination spot for lots of tourists and photographers alike. If you gather around the viewing area, it can be very crowed and is hard to get a great spot. Luckily there is plenty of room along the rim (both west and east of the viewing area) to get a great shot. I would suggest you arrive an hour so before sunset to make sure you can secure a good spot.
The weather is Yosemite varies by where you are. The Yosemite Valley is 3,000 ft below Glacier Point and will always be warmer. Glacier Point is over 7,000 ft is elevation and the temperatures will most likely be lower that the ones shown on the weather apps for Yosemite.
I use Verizon, and the cell service in the park is available, but spotty.
There are many lodging and camping opportunities in Yosemite - ranging from a simple tent only campground to The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. I would simply direct you to the National Parks Service for Yosemite website to explore the options. I however, would encourage you to visit The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formally the Ahwahnee). The hotel was built back in the 1930’s and has a wonderful old majestic feel about it.
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
There are numerous restaurants and places to eat in the Yosemite valley. However, most of the eating establishments are just national park food. However, there are a few exceptions. My favorites are the dining room at the Majestic Hotel and the half dome village (Curry Village) pizza patio. Breakfast at the Majestic Hotel is special (especially the blueberry pancakes).
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
The Majestic Yosemite Dining Room
There is a nice laundry mat at the Curry Village
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest major airports to Yosemite are Fresno-Yosemite FAT (2.5 hours), Oakland OAK (3.5 hours) and San Francisco SFO (4 hours). Each airport services most of the major airlines in the US.
Area Guides and Workshops
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.