Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Loop Hike in Yosemite National Park

Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Loop Hike in Yosemite National Park

Taft Point and Sentinel Dome is a beautiful loop hike in Yosemite National Park. This post shows you everything you need to know to hike to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome.

There are a ton of beautiful viewpoints and hiking trails in Yosemite National Park. It is no wonder Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks on the west coast if not in the United States.

Taft Point is actually the first viewpoint I knew about in Yosemite ever since it went viral on Instagram and only later on when I was planning the trip did I hear about Sentinel Dome.

Taft Point and Sentinel Dome are actually separate trails that you can do separately or loop together.

I did Taft Point and Sentinel Dome trail together as a loop, so this is what I will show you in detail in this hiking guide.

I will also provide other useful information throughout the guide and answer any questions you may have regarding this Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Loop trail.

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Pinterest Pin: Detailed Guide to Hiking Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Loop in Yosemite National Park with 4 photos. Top left is view of a girl standing in front of Half Dome in the background; top right is the fissures at Taft Point; lower left is a girl standing on the ledge of Taft Point; lower right is a girl sitting on a rock with the view of Yosemite Valley in the background.

Where is Taft Point and Sentinel Dome?

Taft Point and Sentinel Dome share the same trailhead along the Glacier Point Rd. in Yosemite National Park.

As long as Glacier Point Rd. is open and accessible, you can drive straight to the trailhead, named Taft Point Trailhead.

For road and trail conditions, check the official NPS website.

Both Taft Point and Sentinel Dome can be hiked separately or done as a loop trail as shown on the map below:

  • Teal part is the hike to Taft Point
  • Pink part is the hike from Taft Point to Sentinel Dome
  • Orange part is the walk back from Sentinel Dome to the trailhead
  • Purple part is to go to Glacier Point
Taft Point Sentinel Dome Hike Map in Yosemite National Park

How Long is Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Loop Hike?

Here is the breakdown of the distance of Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Hike as a loop and by themselves:

  • Entire Loop (all 3 colors in map above): 5 miles loop with about 1100 ft elevation gain
  • Taft Point hike by itself (teal color): 2.2 mile round trip with 350 ft elevation gain
  • Sentinel Dome hike by itself (orange color): 2.2 mile round trip with 450 ft elevation gain
  • Glacier Point to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point (purple): 7.2 mile round trip with 1900 ft elevation gain. <– not covered by this blog

Should You Hike Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Separately or do the Loop Hike?

As you can see, it is actually shorter and easier to hike Taft Point and Sentinel Dome by themselves rather than doing the Loop hike. If you want to hike from Glacier Point that’s even further so that’s not part of this blog.

So why in the world would you want to do the Sentinel Loop trail if it’s longer and more elevation gain?

For one, I hate out-and-back type of hikes because you are not seeing anything new. I much prefer doing a loop and seeing different sceneries.

Another reason why you should consider doing the loop hike is because you get to stop by Roosevelt Point, a pretty nice little viewpoint that is only accessible on the Sentinel Dome loop trail.

Roosevelt Point on Sentinel Dome Taft Point loop hike in Yosemite National Park with the view of Yosemite Valley, including El Chapitan.
Roosevelt Point

I really liked the view from Roosevelt Point since there was barely anyone and you get this amazing view.

What to Pack for The Taft Point Sentinel Dome Loop Trail?

Whether you only want to hike to Taft Point or do the entire Sentinel Dome Loop, you should still be adequately prepared for this hike.

At a minimum, you should wear comfortable shoes, at least 1-2 liters of water and some snacks with you to enjoy at the various viewpoints.

A few other things you should absolutely pack with you on this hike include:

  • Sunblock and a hat: there is no shade at Taft Point and Sentinel Dome (the hike itself is mostly in the woods though). I always recommend physical blockers for sunscreen since it is better for your health and for the environment and never get the spray kind as they are linked to lung cancer.
  • Bug spray is a must as there are a lot of bugs in the woods. I got 3 bites on my arms before I put bug spray. They are vicious so be prepared!
  • Head Lamp if you plan to hike to Taft Point for sunset. You are going to be hiking back in absolute darkness and could potentially get lost even though the trail looks easy during the day.

You also need to have your Park Admission in your car so you don’t get fined.

You do not need hiking poles for this trail. Hiking shoes are good to have but not essential.

What’s the Best Time to Hike to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome?

Taft Point and Sentinel Dome share the same trailhead on Glacier Point Rd. This means you can only hike to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome when Glacier Point Rd. is open.

Glacier Point Rd. is generally open from late May to October or November, depending on weather conditions. You can see historical open and close dates for Glacier Point Road here and the road status here.

During the months when Glacier Point Rd. is open, Taft Point is best during sunset because of the lighting and this is when most wedding photographers (and instagrammers) go to Taft Point.

Keep in mind that since many people want that jaw dropping photo at Taft Point during sunset, it could mean you need to wait for your turn and you will most likely be hiking back in the dark if you stay past blue hours (this is why you need to have a head lamp with you).

Sentinel Dome is also nice for sunset but since it’s a big area it is not as difficult to photograph during sunset.

Taft Point Yosemite National Park

Can You Hike to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome in the Winter?

Since Glacier Point Road is closed in the winter, you won’t be able to hike to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome in the winter.

What is the Parking Situation at Taft Point/ Sentinel Dome?

There are two small parking lots at the Taft Point/ Sentinel Dome trailhead. Both parking lots can accommodate about 30 cars each. If you go early like we did, you can park at the main lot (the lot closer to Glacier Point) and just start the hike directly.

If you go a bit later, then you might have to park in the second parking lot (a little bit further than the road if you are coming from Glacier Point) or park on the side of the road.

If you plan to go to Taft Point for sunset I suggest you get there early because parking might be an issue and you do not want to miss sunset.

There is a washroom at the Taft Point/ Sentinel Dome trailhead.

Should You Hike Taft Point First Or Sentinel Dome First?

Since Taft Point and Sentinel Dome share the same trailhead and it is a loop hike, you may be wondering if you should hike to Taft Point first or to Sentinel Dome first. Does it really matter which hike you do first?

In fact it does matter!

We went to Taft Point first because we were worried if we did Sentinel Dome first, Taft Point would get crowded.

Since Taft Point is downhill from the trailhead, it was almost an entire uphill battle going from Taft Point to Sentinel Dome and the entire loop felt steeper than 1100 feet elevation gain.

If you are not as concerned about the photo at Taft Point, I highly recommend you do Sentinel Dome first then Taft Point to save yourself from the relentless uphill.

Read Next ->: The Complete Guide to Hiking Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall via Mist Trail and John Muir Trail.

What to Expect on Taft Point Hike and Sentinel Dome Loop Trail

The hike starts at Taft Point/ Sentinel Dome Trailhead along Glacier Point Road. If you are parking in that lot, you will find the trailhead in the middle of the parking lot.

Trailhead to Taft Point (1.1 mile, mostly downhill)

The trail starts off wide and flat, and you will soon see a sign pointing to Taft Point to the left and Sentinel Dome to the right. We decided to go to Taft Point first before it gets crowded but you probably should do Sentinel Dome first if you want a less steep hike.

Taft Point Hike Trailhead in Yosemite National Park

The first part of Taft Point trail is a gentle downhill. You will soon see a small creek to cross before heading into the woods.

Taft Point Hike Creek crossing
small creek to cross
Taft Point hike trail in yosemite National Park
head into the woods

Unfortunately the wooded part is rather short (like 5 minute walk), then you will come to a flat exposed area.

At about the 0.5 mile mark, you will see a sign telling you you are only about 0.5 mile from the fissures and 0.5 mile from Taft Point.

Taft Point trail sign

Taft Point Hike in Yosemite National Park

Continue the trail into the redwoods and soon you will see flowers and plants on your right side on this flat trail. In about 10 minutes you will finally come to see some views.

Taft Point hike view

As you continue you will come to the plateau and have an expansive view of Yosemite National Park. Be sure to watch your step as you go as you will come pretty close to the fissures now.

Taft Point Fissures

If you are hiking to Taft Point for sunset, be sure to watch out for this on the way back in the dark since there are no railings next to these fissures. You do not want to accidentally fall into these since it is a straight vertical drop.

Continue walking on top of the plateau and you will see the actual Taft Point with some railings.

Taft Point first viewpoint with railing

If you are scared of heights then this would be the best viewpoint for you to take a photo of the valley and El Capitan, the vertical granite formation standing about 7500 above ground.

From this viewpoint you can actually see the ledge that every Instagrammer stands on to take photos. Therefore if you want that iconic photo at Taft Point you will need to walk over to the “second” viewpoint while having your photographer stay here to capture that photo.

The ledge is about a 5 minute walk further on the plateau. If you see this giant rock then you are pretty much there. Just walk towards the rock and you will see the ledge (which is actually just a super big flat rock).

Taft Point second viewpoint
The giant rock near the iconic ledge

The ledge is not as scary as it seems but do keep in mind it is a vertical drop 7500 feet above ground. Do not stand too close to the edge especially on a windy day since there have been deaths at Taft Point. You can still get a nice photo without standing too close to the edge.

Taft Point ledge with view of El Capitan

Taft Point to Roosevelt Point (1.6 miles, gentle uphill)

From Taft Point you will follow the Pohono Trail towards Sentinel Dome, via Roosevelt Point.

The first half mile of this path is the same way you just walked (need to walk back to the first railed viewpoint and the fissures).

After about half a mile, you will come to a junction, follow the sign to Sentinel Dome, which says it’s 2.3 miles away.

Sentinel Dome junction sign from Taft Point

You will first be hiking downhill into the woods then come to an open area where you can actually see Sentinel Dome (very right part of the photo below). Yup, you are going to be hiking up to the top of that dome. I didn’t want to believe it since it looked so steep.

Sentinel Dome Trail open area

As you continue on this pretty flat trail, you will get a glimpse of Yosemite Falls before crossing a tiny creek to reach Roosevelt Point.

Sentinel Dome view of Ysoemite Falls

Sentinel Dome to Roosevelt Point

Sentinel Dome Trail creek crossing

Roosevelt Point has an amazing view of the Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. It is a great place to take a break and enjoy the view before the relentless uphill hike to Sentinel Dome.

Roosevelt Point Yosemite National Park

Roosevelt Point to Sentinel Dome (1.2 miles; steep uphill)

Once you leave Roosevelt Point, you will begin your continuous uphill hike to Sentinel Dome. Since you’ve been going downhill for the most part, you are going to gain all of that back in the next mile.

Sentinel Dome hike uphill

After about 30 minutes of uphill, you will come to a junction that shows Sentinel Dome is about 0.5 mile away.

Sentinel Dome sign

The good news is that you are so close to the top, the bad news is that this is going to be the steepest part of the entire trail.

Right before you have to go up the steep granite slope to the top of Sentinel Dome, you actually will start seeing Half Dome at this mini viewpoint. I thought the views here were fantastic and there weren’t many people around (as compared to the top of Sentinel Dome).

View of Half dome from Sentinel Dome Loop Hike

Taft Point and Sentinel dome trail view of Half Dome

The view from the top of Sentinel Dome is similar, but just slightly higher and you do get the 360 panoramic view of the entire Yosemite National Park. It took us about 10 minutes to go up to the top of Sentinel Dome in the photo below.

Sentinel Dome uphill Granite hike
You have to go up this to the top

We saw people getting engaged at the very top so you can imagine how nice the view is. Just be sure to not get too close to the edge since there are no railings.

View from Sentinel dome loop trail
View from the top of Sentinel Dome

Most people enjoy their lunch here on the top before hiking back down.

The hike back to the parking lot/ Taft Point and Sentinel Dome trailhead is quite easy as you can imagine. You pretty much just go downhill or on a flat trail for about a mile until you are back.

Sentinel Dome hiking signs

Make sure you follow the correct sign so you don’t end up going the wrong direction. The last part of the hike down does get quite rocky.

Sentinel Dome rocky trail

Since most people hike the other way, from the parking lot to Sentinel Dome first then to Taft Point, you will see a lot of people coming from the opposite direction if you do what we did. Again, if you want an easier time, go to Sentinel Dome first then head to Taft Point.

Is Taft Point Dangerous?

Since Taft Point appeared in the news before due to people falling to their death you may wonder if Taft Point is safe to go.

Taft Point is safe as long as you don’t act stupid or get too close to the edge. Even if you think you have steady footing, being too close to the edge always carries the risk of you tripping or slipping when it’s wet.

I do not recommend going to Taft Point with small children since there is no railing for the most part and kids running around would be a huge risk.

If you are scared of heights, you can always just go up to the viewpoint with railing to take your photos. You don’t have to stand on the ledge even though the ledge is quite wide and flat.

Is Sentinel Dome Worth It?

With so many viewpoints in Yosemite already, is Sentinel Dome worth it or can you get similar views at Glacier Point instead?

Sentinel Dome is worth it if you want an unobstructed 360 view of Yosemite valley and Half Dome in one place.

Sure you can see most of them at Glacier Point (with a slightly different angle) but Sentinel Dome allows you to walk around and see everything at once with no railing (yes there is railing at Glacier Point).

But if you are short on time and hate to hike, then Sentinel Dome may not be worth it for you.

Like this post? Pin this Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Hike to Pinterest!

Pinterest Pin: Detailed Guide to Hiking Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Loop in Yosemite National Park with 4 photos. Top left is view of a girl standing in front of Half Dome in the background; top right is the fissures at Taft Point; lower left is a girl standing on the ledge of Taft Point; lower right is a girl sitting on a rock with the view of Yosemite Valley in the background.
Pinterest Pin: hiking to Taft Point in Yosemite National Park a complete guide with a photo of a girl in a yellow skirt on the ledge of Taft point
Pinterest pin: Yosemite National Park Hike Sentinel Dome trail guide with a girl in a felt hat and yellow skirt standing in front of Half Dome