“A stunning set of switchbacks on Yosemite Valley's south wall.”
— Tom Robson
Birding · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The Four Mile Trail follows a series of switchbacks down the south wall of Yosemite Valley. Although lacking shade during the heat of summer, this trail has no lack of viewsâ€”El Capitan
and the Cathedral Rocks tower to the west, while Yosemite Falls
plummets in the north and Half Dome
looms eastward. The trail ends about a mile west of Yosemite Village, which is accessible by riding the El Capitan
Shuttle (summer only) or by crossing the Merced River on Swinging Bridge.
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 run 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 run 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
can purchase a tour bus
ticket from any tour desk to ride the bus to Glacier Point
(running 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.