Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point: Four Mile Trail


The Four Mile Trail (actually 4.8 miles) is one of Yosemite Valley’s most strenuous trails. It climbs up to Glacier Point – an ascent of nearly 3300-ft in just under five miles. After the grueling uphill slog, hikers are rewarded with unparalleled views of Half Dome and the rest of Yosemite Valley. Glacier Point can also be reached by car or shuttle, but the view feels much more rewarding when you walk. We hiked this on a rainy Saturday in late September. Though summer is over, there were still plenty of people out and about. You can’t expect much solitude on this trail, but you can look forward to a great workout and some good people watching!

Red Tape:  The park entrance fee is $20.  If you plan to stay in the Valley, reserve accommodations well in advance!  There is limited parking at the trailhead, but it is along the El Capitan shuttle route.  The shuttle runs from June through October, 9am to 6pm. When you enter the park, they will hand you a fairly decent map at the kiosk. The trail is on this map. There are no junctions, so it’s basically impossible to get lost.

[map style=”width:100%; height:400px” kml=”http://www.norcalhiker.com/maps/FourMileTrail.kml” download=”no” elevation=”yes”]Note: GPS based distance is approximate. Download gpx of this routeDownload kml of this route.

Trail Description: The hike described here is actually a repeat of the beginning portion of the 20-mile John Muir hike we completed last October. On that trip we hiked half this trail in the dark, then continued on towards Sentinel Dome, the Panorama Trail, Liberty Cap and the Mist Trail. This time around we decided to “take it easy” and enjoy the Four Mile Trail on its own.

Packing up before the hike at Curry Village.
Getting ready to hike! Saturday morning in Curry Village.

We slept late, ate breakfast at the Curry Village Coffee Corner, then drove the loop around Yosemite Valley to reach the trailhead.  The trail has a huge sign, so it’s difficult to miss.  There was no parking (at 10:00 am on a Saturday), so we drove a little further up the road and parked at the Swinging Bridge Picnic Area.

Somewhere near the beginning of the trail...
Somewhere near the beginning of the trail…

We started up the trail and were quickly passed by several people walking much faster.  I think we are just slow, but I will blame our heavy packs.  We carried lots of food, a couple of beers, warm clothing and rain gear.  All proved to be very useful and/or delicious.  Many of the other hikers were wearing shorts (or jeans!!) and not carrying jackets.  It was cold and rainy – seems like poor preparation (but who am I to judge?)

Moss on all the rocks.
Moss on all the rocks.

The trail climbs at a steady, relentless grade with many switchbacks.  Soon we had glimpses of El Cap and the Valley through the trees.  About halfway up, we started catching views of Half Dome.  We also began encountering quite a few hikers coming down the trail. Some had taken the shuttle up and were now hiking down.  Others had already hiked to the top and were on their way back.  I’m not used to this because we are usually the first people to hit a trail!




When we were about a mile from the top, the wind picked up and it started to rain.  We switched to rain gear at which point it (of course) stopped raining.

We were all pretty tired when we reached the top, but the view as worth it!  So many people up there!  It was fun seeing all the tourists.  We sat on the tallest rock and ate lunch.  Eventually, Rob got really cold.  After snapping a few final photos we headed down.


About a mile and half below Glacier Point, there is an overlook called Union Point.  I was feeling lazy and cold, but the point is only 220-ft from the trail, so we made our way down to it.  It was worth it.


Best photo of the entire day, taken with an iPhone 6 (no filter) at Union Point.
My favorite photo of the entire day, taken with an iPhone 6 at Union Point.

The remaining three miles down to the valley floor passed quickly.  As soon as we reached the car, it began POURING.  It felt great to be off the trail when the rain hit.  Back in Curry Village, we sat in our tent cabin and enjoyed the sound of rain on the roof. After sharing a bottle of wine, we all slept soundly.

More Info:
Yosemitehikes.com is a great resource for all hiking around Yosemite NP.  The site has lots of good information on The Four Mile Trail (along with some great photos!)

The official National Park Service website is always a great source of info.

3 thoughts on “Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point: Four Mile Trail”

  1. When I was a kid one of my first hikes was starting at Happy Isles to head up the JMT then by the Panorama Trail past Illouette Fall, then to GP. I shot movies, but never got them scanned, as I think they were lost or destroyed. My brother took a clip of me collapsing as I got to the finish (perhaps clowning), my initial intro to gain. Never doing the Four Mile Trail to this day, I think it is now perhaps beyond me, I don’t know. There was the Ledge Trail which is now closed that I would have also loved to do, but as it goes for me, no partners to try anything, even for pay, so the op is forever lost. Hike while you can, old age s****.

    1. Wow, that sounds like a difficult hike for a kid, maybe you were only half-joking when you collapsed. The Glacier Point shuttle makes the Four Mile Trail accessible for many as the one-way trip is five miles and a few hours. My cousin was telling me about a time they hiked down in the dark because they missed the last shuttle. The Ledge Trail (jokingly called the One Mile Trail) sounds a bit crazy – an exposed and poorly marked Class III route. Though it’s a way out of the valley that I didn’t know about, I don’t think I’ll be trying to climb something like that when there’s a much easier route to the same destination.

      1. Well about that time, I was bicycling 100 mile days, even with 100 degree highs! But I tended to clown for the camera, and I finished the hike (one-way). The year after, we attempted Half Dome, and got to the base of the cables when the weather turned bad. Yosemite in the 1960’s was a fun, friendly place, with happy hikers, and rock climbers who were national heroes. President Kennedy visited, which I remember, though I think not too long before, we might be turned away due to not yet passed civil rights legislation. One of my ideas was a climb up the Apron, but with nobody in the old peak or climbing club who did aid, or that would have me along, that went to zilch!

Any thoughts?