Glacier Point is about a 32-mile drive from Yosemite Valley but the view from this famous lookout more than compensates for the approximately 1-hour each way trip, depending on traffic.
Glacier Point is easily one of the 10 best viewpoints to see Yosemite and one of the most accessible by car.
Glacier Point is at an altitude of about 7,200 feet so unfortunately the Glacier Point road is closed in the winter when heavy snows make it impassable. However, a well-groomed cross-country ski trail is maintained from the Badger Pass ski area for the more adventuresome.
Glacier Point Lookout
Walk just 200-yards from the parking lot to the cliff edge and look down at a shear drop of 3,200 feet to the Yosemite Valley floor. The lookout is surrounded by a railing and is perfectly safe but not recommended for those with severe fear of heights.
Nearly the entirety of Yosemite Park is visible from this vantage. The Yosemite Valley floor stretches out below you and around you can be seen most of the major peaks and landmarks of Yosemite. You can easily identify Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Royal Arches, North Dome and others with the helpful plaques and exhibits. You may also spot several waterfalls not visible from the valley floor.[sam id=1 codes=’false’]
The Glacier Point Snack Shop provides basic refreshments and the Geology Hut will help educate you on the geological history of what you are seeing. Binoculars are available or bring your own to make out the ant-like hikers visible on the valley floor or climbing the various cliff walls.
Come here at sunset and watch the famous granite peaks change color with the setting sun. At night you will get exceptional views of the stars baring infrequent cloud cover. On Friday and Saturday nights telescopes are set up for the very worthwhile “Stars Over Yosemite” program.
Glacier Point History
Starting in 1872 a bonfire was built each evening at Glacier Point then pushed off the cliff edge at 9 pm. The spectacular “Yosemite Firefall” is a fond memory of many of the older visitors to the park.
It was discontinued in 1969 because of the visitor congestion it created as well as the pollution and fire risk.
The first road to Glacier Point was built in 1882. Previously the only way to the lookout was via a torturous 4-mile vertical trail from the valley floor.
The trail is still a beloved and challenging route up for in-shape hikers. Two hotels, The Glacier Point Hotel and the Mountain House Hotel, were located here until both burned down in 1969 and were never rebuilt.
Throwing things off Glacier Point is now illegal but was long a favorite activity of early visitors to the spot. James McCauley who built the trail from the valley floor in 1871 was fond of throwing off his pet hen who would flap its way down and survive and then hike wearily back up to the top.