While on our weekend trip to Yosemite National Park with Amy and her husband, we were able to get in a popular hike, the Four Mile Trail from Glacier Point to the Valley floor.
Distance: 4.7 miles one way (from Glacier Point to the Valley floor or the other way around)
Elevation change: 3,200 feet (gained, if going to Glacier Point and lost if you hike to the Valley floor)
Time: give yourself between 2 and 4 hours one way — obviously more time will be needed if heading uphill
Crowds: It’s super popular, especially during the summer weekends when the park is naturally crowded & when Yosemite Falls is flowing
What we did: The four of us drove to Glacier Point and began our hike down to Union Point, which is 1.9 miles from the trailhead and boasted amazing views. It was a warm day so we tried to start early, but the crowds beat us and it was already a little tight in the parking lot.
Pro Tip: There is a second level in the parking lot…keep driving and stop blocking traffic because you want princess parking. It is closer to the viewpoint if you drive around to the upper level and park near the exit anyway.
I won’t go on about the views, you don’t need to go far down the trail to get some great views that don’t involve a bunch of people holding up iPads to get a photo. In fact, take a 5 minute walk down the trail from Glacier Point and take a look. It’s shady, generally quieter, and being among the trees always makes me feel better.
The trail itself is very well-maintained and there are plenty of people walking in both directions. There are quite a few switchbacks, so if you’re like me and get mentally defeated by those, don’t hike up to the hike, just do the one way hike. There are some steep areas along the trail, so if you are nervous around heights, keep that in mind before going too far down the trail…because you need to get back up!
Are you already asking yourself…how did she drive to the top of the hike, walk to the bottom, and somehow get her car back?
I didn’t go all the way to the bottom. Here’s the thing: it’s a relatively long drive between Glacier Point and trailhead point in the Valley. In order for us to do this hike where we all make it to the bottom, we would’ve needed to caravan into the Valley from our campground, leave a car at the busy trailhead, jump into one car, drive to Glacier Point and park the second car, hike down, pile into the car at the bottom, drive back to Glacier Point to get the second car and either caravan back to the campground or back down to the Valley floor — more time spent in the car than I was willing to put up with. The other option was paying about $25 a person to get a tour bus to take us back to Glacier Point, but reservations are recommended and, seriously, $25 was not in my plan for the weekend.
So our group went to the 1.9 mile lookout point — which is itty bitty and while the views are nice, I bet they’d be more speculator if it wasn’t so hot and the waterfalls were flowing. Alex and Andrew wanted to keep going and make it to the bottom…so did Amy, because, let’s be honest, walking downhill in the heat is way nicer than walking back up, plus the views are different as you make it to the bottom. Following the rule to not travel alone, Amy braved the hike back to Glacier Point with me. I promised her some sort of ice cream/Popsicle at the top.
After resting on-and-off, Amy and I emerged from the trail and made our way straight to the store — where everybody else in the park seemed to be. Crowds aside, the ice cream was cheaper than expected (about $6 for a King Cone and a popsicle instead of the $15 I expected to pay!), and we were able to get to the car without delay and head out to pick up Alex and Andrew. By this time (maybe 2:15?) the road to Glacier Point was packed/jammed/precarious…go earlier in the day, folks!
Additional trail notes:
- Don’t cut the switchbacks – it doesn’t make you look cool and it pretty much sums up “why we can’t have nice things”
- There are restrooms at Glacier Point, use them! Honest to blog, we met a Ranger who had to stop and ask each person on the trail to please take their trash out with them…including toilet paper. If you can’t go on a 4 mile hike without pooping, stay home. Seriously. Also: if you have the space for TP, you have space for a pooper-scooper and a baggie to carry out your waste…don’t leave it for the Ranger to pick up! They only give her one pair of gloves and that’s just unnecessary. POOP BEFORE GOING HIKING
- Bring water – And not just your 32oz Aquafina from the shop, bring some extra people somebody is going to run out or try to ration to the point where they get sick. The great thing about carrying water? The more you drink (good!) the less it weighs (extra-good!)