(photo by levi.bare)
Known for it’s stunning geological formations, Yosemite National Park offers some of the best examples of North America’s landscape.
Known for its waterfalls, El Capitan, and Half Dome, there is another peak that rises high above the park and looks out over many of the Park’s assets.
You don’t need to be an experienced outdoorsman to experience it, though. Why not drive up Glacier Point?
Glacier Point Road Info
Branching off from Wawona Road in west Yosemite, there is a roadway that winds up the mountainside for 16 miles and rises 3,214 feet. After a 30 to 40 minute drive, this road ends at the eponymous Glacier Point.
There’s plenty of parking and – gratefully – restrooms! Many of the toilets dotting the road are outhouses, though, so don’t expect a porcelain throne.
Visitors are allowed to drive up Glacier Point Road from late spring through to November.
While the route is closed to cars over the winter, cross-country skiers can work their way 10.5 miles over to the scenic viewpoints Glacier Point has to offer.
Otherwise, the road is closed during the harsher winter months.
There are several hiking routes that branch off of Glacier Point Road which offer access to the surrounding wilderness.
Starting from the bottom, the road takes you past the McGurk Meadow Trailhead, Bridalveil Creek Campground and trailhead, the Ostrander Lake Trailhead, the Mono Meadows Trailhead, Taft Point Trailhead, the Sentinel Dome Trail, the Panorama Trail, and the Four Mile Trail (which is actually a lie because it’s 4.8 miles long!).
Though this seems like a long list, that’s not all! Each of these trailheads lead to many other paths spreading out across Yosemite.
A list of the trails and their lengths can be found here.
The road also leads to the Badger Pass Ski Area, several campgrounds, and Washburn Point which gives views of Half Dome and the waterfalls.
Up at the top, visitors can take in a panoramic view that’s 7,214 feet above sea level.
It allows breath-taking sights of the entire Yosemite Valley, including Half Dome and the High Sierra.
Is Glacier Point Road Scary?
Glacier Point Road can be a scary drive for someone who’s not done a lot of driving at high elevations on roads with switchbacks and drop-offs.
Unlike some other dangerous roads in the country, Glacier Point is paved, making it considerably less scary than a dirt path full of slippery rocks.
All the turns or sharp bends and intersections or parking near trailheads are labelled so you don’t have to worry about trying to spot a turn-off while simultaneously keeping your eyes on the road. They’re easy to find.
You also don’t have to worry about getting stuck up a road that’s in no condition to drive.
If it’s unsafe, the Park closes the roads with gates or other signage.
The biggest danger would be yourself.
Don’t get distracted by the amazing views.
There are many places to pull off and park safely and not miss a photo op.
No need to scare your passengers by veering out of lane because you’re birdwatching.
Is Glacier Point Road Dangerous?
Driving Glacier Point is a safe experience. While they’re no visitor’s center to accurately track the amount of visitors the peak gets each year, there are plenty of people who make this ascent on four wheels (and successfully drive back down, too)!
The posted speed limit is 35 mph, slowing down to 15 as you near the top.
Remember that if that even feels too fast for you, it’s okay to go slower!
We doubt anyone will be trying to speed their way up anyway – there’s too much to see!
The road will be closed throughout 2022 for repairs in an effort to rehabilitate the well-travelled road, so if anything it’ll be a safer and smoother drive in the future.
Is Glacier Point Road Difficult To Drive?
The difficulty of driving Glacier Point Road is minimal.
Though the road has some switchbacks where it seems to twist back on itself, they are few and none are particularly sharp.
The road has the usual painted yellow and white lines which obviously allow for plenty of room for your car and help you stay safely in lane.
Is It Safe To Drive At Night?
There are absolutely no lights going up Glacier Point Road.
At night, you’d be completely reliant on your car’s headlights. While this isn’t unusual, it can be scary on an unfamiliar road.
There’s safety in speed – or lack thereof. If you went up Glacier Point for a stunning sunset view and are driving back after dark, slow and steady causes no accidents.
Remember that it’s a National Park, so there’s plenty of wildlife abound, and they don’t follow the rules of the road. Especially at night time when they know there’s less people and are more likely to roam freely, keep an eye out for four-legged friends.
What Do Drivers Say About The Glacier Point Road?
Trip Advisor is choc full of positive reviews reassuring readers that Glacier Point was the highlight of their Yosemite trip.
Everyone speaks to unparalleled views that are worth the long drive up.
It’s recommended for all sorts of adventures – couples, groups, and families – though many remind us to keep an eye on each other and stay safe, as there are many viewpoints without railings.
The Point has a full five star rating and many reviews talk about repeat trips, underlining the draw that Glacier Point has. If the number of reviews titled “A MUST See!” doesn’t convince you, we don’t know what will …
The one negative drawback that seems to crop up in many reviews is the crowds. People warn to expect delays in the parking lot, as it’s a one-way system. Know that you might spend a bit of time waiting to finally get out of your car.
What Vehicles Are Not Allowed On The Road
A sign at the start of the road when pulling off Wawona states that trailers and vehicles exceeding 30 feet are prohibited after the first 14 miles. That’s because there are ski resorts and campgrounds above, but the larger vehicles are not allowed to the peak.
Tips For Driving Glacier Point Road
- The nearest gas is 17 miles away. Not crazy far, but something to keep in mind. If you run out of juice you’ll have to hike your way down the mountain!
- Several websites, including the NPS website itself, list opening and closing days for each year, going back decades. This can be a useful tool to help you plan your Glacier Point adventure, if it’s going to be at the beginning or end of the open season.
- Many reviews mention crowds. Be prepared to see a lot of people, or you can try to arrive early in the morning to be the first to see the views.
- There is a shop at the top where you can buy snacks, but no proper food. It could be a good idea to bring lunch and plan to have a picnic while at the top!
- Being up so high, the temperature can drop rapidly as the sun sets. If you’re going for an evening adventure be sure to bring layers to wrap up so you can focus completely on the sunset.
- The hike from the parking lot to the Glacier Point viewpoint is wheelchair accessible, so there’s no reason for anyone to miss the scenery!
Is The Drive Worth it?
What makes the road even more elusive is the wait! As the road will be closed through 2022, adventure seekers looking to plan next year’s vacation will have to hang tight and wait until it’s been reopened.
It may be annoying but rest assured, the wait will be worth it.
You can forgo the hours-long hike and opt for a easier way up the mountain.
The Glacier Point Road is a great way for the less outdoorsy to still appreciate Mother Nature in all her splendor.
A simple drive up an interesting road allows anyone to be able to see the wonder that is Yosemite National Park.
Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit.
She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.