Yosemite National Park: Sentinel Dome

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Sentinel Dome

After our visit to Glacier Point and a bit of lunch, we decided to spend the afternoon of Thursday, May 26 doing some hiking on trails along Glacier Point Road south of the Yosemite Valley rim. Our first destination was the trail to the top of Sentinel Dome, at 8,211 feet the highest overlook on the Yosemite Valley rim save for Half Dome.

The top of Sentinel Dome is most easily reached by a 1.1-mile trail with a 460-feet vertical rise from the Taft Point/Sentinel Dome Trails parking area.

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We lucked out getting a parking spot since someone was pulling out just as we were pulling in. Others were parking along both sides of Glacier Point Road. Even though it was the middle of the week, the trailhead was busy because people were jumping at the chance to experience the sights along Glacier Point Road, which had just reopened the previous day.

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The first bit of trail was sandy/gravelly as it crossed a gentle decline from Glacier Point Road toward Yosemite Valley’s south rim.

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The path crossed a small, unnamed stream via a little railless wooden bridge before emerging as a cairn-marked path along open granite, where a lizard sun-bathed.

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Western Sagebrush Lizard

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After we rounded the granite slope and entered a mixed pine and fir forest, we got our first glimpses of Sentinel Dome rising ahead of us through the trees.

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Ponderosa Pine

The trail was fairly busy with other hikers passing on their way back from the dome or being passed by us or passing us on their way there.

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A fallen Ponderosa Pine blocks the trail.

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Sentinel Dome

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Greenleaf Manzanita

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Jeffrey Pine

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Spreading Phlox

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The trail cut across a fairly steep slope as it wound its way toward Sentinel Dome.

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Ponderosa Pine

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Soon we emerged at the southwest base of the dome. As we walked up the exposed granite, we caught glimpses of the north wall of Yosemite Valley and El Capitan opposite.

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El Capitan

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Sentinel Dome

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Ponderosa Pine

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The trail wound along the southern side of Sentinel Dome where the approach to the top was too steep. Instead, the trail led us around to the accessible eastern approach.

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Lodgepole Pine

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Soon the trail turned and led directly northeast to the valley rim.

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And then it led up to the top of Sentinel Dome.

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Sentinel Dome

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Yosemite Falls

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El Capitan

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Yosemite Falls

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Tenaya Canyon and Half Dome

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Half Dome

The wind was whipping at the top of the dome, and it took a moment to get my sea legs once we were up there. But the views! 8,211 feet above Yosemite Valley.

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Jeffrey Pine

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And the ancient, gnarled, twisted, gorgeously deformed trunks of ancient Jeffrey Pines were like sentinels up above this place that was created long before humans were there to appreciate the view.

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Cathedral Spires, El Capitan, and the Merced Gorge

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Jeffrey Pine

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Upper Yosemite Fall. Image: Sean M. Santos

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Mount Starr King

Up on the top of Sentinel Dome we got talking to a couple (the ones ducking in the video above) from Spokane. The wife was, like me, a touch wobbly kneed. They were wondering about the altitude of Sentinel Dome, and I verified it in my hiking guide for them. This delightful couple was on the same afternoon’s adventure as we were, and we would encounter them multiple times between Sentinel Dome and Taft Point.

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Image: Sean M. Santos

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Half Dome

Clouds began to sail across Yosemite Valley with a certain earnestness, including one that seemed to snag itself on Half Dome. Which isn’t even to mention the clouds that, well, came to rest on Clouds Rest behind Half Dome.

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Half Dome

It was an extraordinary National Park moment to be able to pivot from a lofty vantage point from a view almost as high as Half Dome to a view above the sloping forehead of El Capitan. Just a slight twist of the waist between two extraordinary views…not to mention Yosemite Falls crashing and blowing in the wind in between the two great monoliths. Writing the captions on the images in these posts is like breathing some sort of National Park incantation…Half Dome…El Capitan. But there they were in solid, real life.

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El Capitan

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Mount Starr King

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Mount Starr King

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North Dome, Basket Dome, and Mount Washburn

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Tenaya Canyon and Half Dome

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Little Yosemite Valley, Liberty Cap, and Nevada Fall

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Jeffrey Pine

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El Capitan

After a while, the clouds became a touch more earnest around Half Dome, and other, lower cloud cover began to float toward us from the northwest over El Capitan. I pointed out that if there were clouds snagged on Half Dome, clouds certainly could settle on Sentinel Dome. So we decided it was time to descend.

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Upper Yosemite Fall

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North Dome, Basket Dome, Mount Washburn, Clouds Rest, and Half Dome

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North Dome and Basket Dome

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Yosemite Falls

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Upper Yosemite Fall

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North Dome and Basket Dome

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El Capitan

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Upper Yosemite Fall

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Jeffrey Pine

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Jeffrey Pine

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Greenleaf Manzanita

Soon we were back on the the trail through the forest.

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Jeffrey Pine

As we walked along, stopping to capture images, we were overtaken by the couple from Spokane. We and they encouraged a pair of retirees huffing and puffing up the trail toward Sentinel Dome that they were almost there and it was worth it to keep going.

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As the trail curved south of Sentinel Dome, the sky actually cleared quite a bit, but it wasn’t worth it to head back up. It had seemed so certain only a few minutes before that that heavier clouds were coming. Oh well.

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Map Lichen

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Ponderosa Pine bark

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Ponderosa Pine across the trail

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It took us very little time to return to the footbridge across the little stream and then to the trailhead. It was time to go hike to Taft Point.

 

One thought on “Yosemite National Park: Sentinel Dome

  1. Pingback: Yosemite National Park: Taft Point | As They Are: Exploring the National Parks

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