Trail

Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

El Portal, CA
Length: 2.20 mi.
Type: Out & Back

About This Trail

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ACTIVITIES: Hiking, climbing, camping

LENGTH OF HIKE: 2.2 miles round trip

OUT AND BACK OR LOOP: Out and back

DIFFICULTY OF TERRAIN: Moderate

ELEVATION GAIN: 400 feet

PARKING FEE/PASS: Yes

TOILETS: Yes, at trailhead

CHANGING TABLE: No

NURSING BENCHES: No

DOGS ALLOWED: No

CELL RECEPTION: Unknown

DRINKING WATER AVAILABLE: No

POTENTIAL CHILD OR BABY HAZARDS: Steep cliffs

GEAR SUGGESTIONS: Sun hat, hiking poles are useful.

Looking for stunning views of both Yosemite Falls and Half Dome on a trail hike instead of a pavement “highway” that most of the tourists are on? This is a short venture that is not accessible in the winter because the road is closed, so you will want to check road conditions and make sure all snow has melted before venturing in.

It’s a short out and back that will put you at just over 2 miles with 400 feet of  elevation climb but it over 2 miles with 400 feet of elevation climb, but it
will be well worth it for the amazing views. Right on the dome, there’s the sad  remains of the famous tree from Ansel Adams’s photos. The dead, twisted tree at the top was one of the most well-known trees in the world and photographed by many. Sadly, it died from drought in the 1970s despite people hiking in water to try and save it.

From here, you can also hike to Glacier Point, or Taft Point is also accessible from the same parking lot if the hike wasn’t long enough for you. If you do this hike, try to get to the dome when the sun is in the east or overhead. You can get a good look  at the middle section of Yosemite Falls, which is completely hidden when you see it from the valley.

While this hike might be a carrier hike for some families, it is walkable for a confident 4-year-old with the short distance. “We did this one when our little guy was a baby, but I’m pretty sure he’d like the challenge of the final ascent now at 4 years old,” says Hike it Baby ambassador Ryan Idryo.

The trail itself is well marked and well trod. There are many interesting sections with rocks and trees that will keep your toddler interested. When you come to the end, the climb will be a challenge for a hiking toddler. But it’s pretty short, so bring a carrier for this section and expect to go slow if you are carrying.

Another thing to consider with a little one on this hike is that it’s very exposed at the top and can be windy and sunny. Ryan says this initially upset his 9-month-old, but once they got him over the fear of the whipping wind, all was well. A piece of  advice: Keep a close watch on a walking kid in the steep sections.

As the parking lot serves two semipopular trails, it is frequently full in the summer and you have to park where you can. This isn’t a drive-up viewpoint, nor is it in the valley, so it will be less crowded than the most popular locations. May through October is a good time to visit Yosemite, but keep in mind that there are around 4
million people visiting this park a year with the peak time being between June and August. Consider hitting the shoulder months like April, when snow is melting and the crowds haven’t come yet. Camping requires planning, so if you are unable to get a spot right away, keep calling back until you can secure a cancellation.

WHY IT’S A FAVORITE
“The top of Sentinel Dome has an amazing view. You can see out of Yosemite Valley into central California as well as deeper into Yosemite and  all of the surrounding mountains, and some of the Valley’s key sights—Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Nevada Falls, Cloud’s Rest, and North Dome. Some of the views are similar to Glacier Point, but this area feels a lot wilder because you didn’t just drive up to it. There are lots of places to explore and plenty of room to get a little space to yourself.” — RYAN IDRYO

INSIDER’S TIP
There’s a huge Jeffrey pine tree along the trail. If you stick your nose into the cracks in the bark, it smells just like butterscotch. Heading to the dome, the tree is on the  left side about 2/3 mile from the trailhead, just after a thick fallen tree also on the left side.

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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, and Summer
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 400 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains No
Bathrooms Yes
Cell reception None
Pet friendly No
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles
No

Trail highlights

Camping Nearby

Trail Contributor

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Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.

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