Joy celebrating at the top of Sentinel Dome
Sentinel Dome
Starting Elevation:
Ending Elevation:
Total Elevation Gain:
Topo Map:
2.4 Miles (roundtrip)
Half Dome
Taft Point / Sentinel Dome

Of all the short hikes in Yosemite National Park, this is our favorite.  The 8,122 foot summit is the second highest view-point in Yosemite Valley, only Half Dome is higher at 8,836 feet. Not only are the views incredible but this trail is not crowded.  We made this hike in October (granted October is never crowded) and there were only two other people at the summit, after 30 minutes of relaxation, we had the summit all to ourselves.

This trail starts from the same trailhead as the Fissures at Taft Point, the Taft Point / Sentinel Dome trailhead.  When you get to the first fork in the trail, go East (right).  Shortly after leaving the trailhead, you can see Sentinel Dome.  When viewed from the West it is rather impressive.  When viewed from the Valley or the tops of Yosemite Falls or Half Dome it seems insignificant.  But that's ok because it will be our little secret.

While approaching Sentinel Dome you often question if this trail is really going to the top.  The trail actually climbs Sentinel Dome from the East which is a very easy trail.  The route to the top isn't on an exact trail, but the goal is within sight so who needs a trail.

Sentinel Dome viewed from the trail

Joy's reaction to finding out she was going to the top 
of Sentinel Dome

Once on top, you are treated to the most wonderful 360 degree view of Yosemite National Park.  I know of no other spot which gives you a 360 degree view.  Half Dome gives you a great view which you truly earn, but the view from Sentinel Dome rivals that view (especially because you're not as tired so you can enjoy it) and definitely surpasses the view from Glacier Point.

Panorama from top of Sentinel Dome, scroll right to see image

There is a round 360 degree monument at the top which identifies all of the peaks and monuments around you.  The view includes, but is not limited to: El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, North Dome, Basket Dome, Mt. Hoffman, Mt. Starr King, and the Clark Range.

Famous Jeffrey Pine at summit of Sentinel Dome

Landmarker at summit of Sentinel Dome

While at the top you will notice a lone Jeffrey Pine.  We believe this tree to be the most photographed tree in Yosemite.  I personally took at least a dozen shots of the tree at various angles.  At one time, it was a living tree, but this tree fell victim to vandalism in 1984 is no longer living.

This trail is a good introduction to "Peak Bagging", the trail is short and the view is sweet.

Trip References:
Schaffer, Jefferey P. 1996.  High Sierra Hiking Guide Yosemite.  Berkeley: Wilderness Press, p. 47-48 (day hike #15).

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