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Views of Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Valley await hikers, topped off with a panorama of Half Dome and Sierra mountain peaks from Glacier Point.
Four Mile Trail is a moderate to strenuous trail leading from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. The trail begins at the valley floor west of the Swinging Bridge recreation area, and climbs the south side 4.8 miles (7.7 km) up to Glacier Point, an elevation change of 3,200 feet (1,000 m).
Four Mile Trail was originally constructed in 1872 and was 4 miles (6.4 km) in length. In the early 1900s the trail was reconstructed and lengthened to 4.8 miles (7.7 km), yet the original name remained. This trail is remarkable because it offers views of most of the Yosemite Valley landmarks. The trail begins at the base of the Sentinel Rock. The first four miles are full of grand views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, as well as the Merced River as it runs through the valley. The second half of the trail provides several good views of Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon.
The trail becomes dangerous in winter conditions and is closed December through May, and the upper quarter of the trail (about a mile walk to the Glacier Point) remains extremely hazardous and is usually closed through May. There is no potable water along the trail.
Distance: 4.8 mi (7.7 km) one way to Glacier Point. 9.6 mi (15.5 km) round trip.
Elevation: 3,200 ft (975 m) elevation gain
Time: 3-4 hours one-way, 6-8 hours round trip
Begin at: Four Mile Trailhead along Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley
This trail begins near the base of Sentinel Rock and climbs to the top of Yosemite Valley at Glacier Point. The trail maintains a continuous steep grade, following the path of an old toll trail that was completed in 1872. The trail has changed a bit over the years; it is now closer to five miles than four (and of course there is no more toll). Spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and, eventually, Half Dome await those willing to tackle this strenuous trail. Don’t skip the side trip to enjoy the view of Yosemite Valley from Union Point, located a bit over two-thirds of the way up.
The Four Mile Trail ends at Glacier Point, where restrooms, parking, and a snack stand (summer only) are available. You can choose to hike back to Yosemite Valley by reversing your route or by continuing on the Panorama Trail, which brings you to the Happy Isles Trailhead in another 8.5 miles (13.7 km).
If you want to hike one way, make sure you have another member of your party available to drop you off or pick you up at the other end. There is no free shuttle system between Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley. The park concessioner runs three daily guided bus tours that include a stop at Glacier Point—you can purchase a tour bus ticket from any tour desk to ride the bus to Glacier Point (hiking back to the Valley). You should purchase this ticket in advance to guarantee your space, but advance tickets are only available if riding the bus from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. There is no way to guarantee space riding from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley; tickets in this direction can only be purchased in cash from the bus driver if space is available.
The Four Mile Trail typically opens for the season sometime in May and closes below Union Point due to treacherous conditions after significant snow accumulation (usually by November or December). After major snowfalls, the entire trail may close. When partially closed, only the lower three miles (5 km) are open to the gate below Union Point; good views of Yosemite Valley are still possible, although Glacier Point and Union Point would not be accessible. This lower section is also very icy and slippery during winter and early spring.
- Start your hike early; this trail can become very hot mid-day. By starting as early as possible, you will be able to spend more of the hike in shade and less in the sun.
- Stay on the trail and resist the temptation to cut switchbacks. Cutting switchbacks is illegal, and there are many drop-offs and ledges hidden by brush.
- Sprained ankles are common on this trail. It is partially paved and has loose sand on top, which makes for slippery footing in places.
Drinking water is not available along the trail. When the Glacier Point Snack Stand is open (late May through mid-October), food and beverages are available for purchase at Glacier Point. A drinking fountain is also available at Glacier Point (late May through mid-October). Bring 2 quarts/liters of water if hiking this trail one way (or 4 quarts/liters if hiking round trip).
Restrooms are not available at the trailhead in Yosemite Valley; vault toilets are available just to the east at the Swinging Bridge Picnic Area. Restrooms are also located at Glacier Point near the parking lot. (Flush toilets may be open from late May through mid-October, otherwise vault toilets are available.)
Parking is available along Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley (signed as “Four Mile Trail”). Parking is also available at Glacier Point, near the trail’s end.
The El Capitan Shuttle (9 am to 6 pm) serves this trailhead (stop E5) from late May through early October. You can also ride the Valley Visitor Shuttle (7 am to 10 pm year-round) to shuttle stop #7 and follow the bicycle path to Swinging Bridge, then walk west a few minutes to the trailhead. (This adds about 0.5 mile (0.8 km) to the total distance.)
If you want to hike one way, make sure you have another member of your party available to drop you off or pick you up at the other end. There is no free shuttle system between Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley. The park concessioner runs three daily guided bus tours that include a stop at Glacier Point—you can purchase a tour bus ticket from any tour desk to ride the bus to Glacier Point (hiking back to the Valley). You should purchase this ticket in advance to guarantee your space, but advance tickets are only available if riding the bus from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. There is no way to guarantee space riding from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley; tickets in this direction can only be purchased in cash from the bus driver if space is available. Do not miss the bus; you will have no choice but to hike back yourself if you do so. Do not start hiking with the expectation of taking a bus back to the trailhead.
Pets, bicycles, and strollers are prohibited. Do not shortcut switchbacks, which causes rapid trail erosion and results in injuries. Keep your food within arm’s reach at all times and do not feed the wildlife. Carry out all trash and food waste (fruit peels, shells, etc.).
- Trail Measurement: 4.8 Miles
- Compass Latitude: 374357N
- Compass Longitude: 1193453W
- Numeric Latitude: 37.732426
- Numeric Longitude: -119.5812749
- Elevation in Meters: 2162
- Elevation in Feet: 7093
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