Glacier Point Ski Tour

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Details

Quality: 

4

Crowds: 

0

Scenery: 

0

Skill: 

Novice

Distance in Miles: 

21.00

Distance Comments: 

Round trip. Add two miles to visit Taft Point.

Elevation Min/Max: 

7000/8000

Trailhead: 

Badger Pass

Highlights: 

The foremost highlight of this tour is the pleasure of being alone out at Glacier Point, normally a mad rush of people when the road is open. In addition, the road is generally groomed, there are great views of the Clark Range and Half Dome, and some excellent skinny-ski descents to be had along the way. This can be done as a day trip, a camping trip or, for a fee, with a Yosemite Mountaineering School guide which has the major bonus that you then get to sleep in the Glacier Pont Ski Hut.

Details: 

I have skated this in a couple of hours on multiple occasions as well as having skied it in a couple of days and stayed at the Glacier Point Ski Hut. No matter how you do it, this is a fine cross-country ski tour.

Starting at Badger Pass you have a climb for a bit less than a half mile and then you descend gently to Summit Meadow and eventually to Bridal Veil Creek at 2.8 miles out. From here you have a gentle rolling terrain with nice meadows until you get to the base of the incline up to the Sentinel Dome plateau. This climb is never steep, but lasts a few miles. The road also tends to slope to the side in many places as well, which makes no difference for striders, but can really hit you on the downhill leg as a skater. You will gain around 2000' in elevation between Bridal Veil Creek and Sentinel Dome.

At about the 2/3 point, you come to Ostrander Rocks and a wide open view of the Clark Range. Another mile or so finally gets you to the top of the hill and you're treated to a relatively flat ski out to Sentinel Dome. This part of the tour is a real pleasure for skate skiers. Sentinel Dome itself is an excellent side trip with great views in all directions and, in good snow, some fun descents on the Yosemite Valley side of the dome. One thing to note: in the winter, you do not approach Sentinel Dome from the normal trailhead. Instead, follow the groomed road to a point where it turns right, and there is an ungroomed road going straight. That's the easiest way to Sentinel Dome.

Once past Sentinel Dome, you have a continuous descent of almost 1000' to Glacier Point, which is great fun though if you're skating it's a nasty skate back up. Along the way you'll pass Washburn Point with excellent views to the north and east and eventually land at the hut itself. From there it's just a short way out to Glacier Point proper, though in most conditions it's usually easier to leave your skis at the hut. The hut is locked and is only open to clients on guided trips, so don't count on refilling your water bottle (they truck water in for their clients). If you're on a guided trip and staying in the hut, you'll find a warm fire, so you might as well head out down the Panorama Trail and take a few turns down Illouette Ridge. It goes without saying that you should not go over any blind drops as some are express routes to the Valley.

From here most people just turn around and retrace their tracks, but strong skiers can also descend to the Valley via Le Conte Gully (which is not the official Le Conte Gully, actually, but the one that ends at the Le Conte Memorial). This is a pretty steep descent and only something to be attempted by expert skiers and snowboarders, and not on cross-country skis.

Glacier Point Ski Mileages

I keep writing these down and losing the sheet, so I'm finally putting them here so I'll know where to find them. And now you will too.

Landmark Distance Outbound Distance Inbound
Badger turnoff 0 10.9
Top of hill west of Summit Mdw 0.7 10.2
Top of hill east of Summit Mdw 1.3 9.6
Top of 2nd step west of cmpgd 2.2 8.7
Top of Hill first step west of cmpgrd 2.4 8.5
Campground Entrance 2.8 8.1
Bottom of Clark Range Hill 4.4 6.5
Clark Range View 5.7 5.2
Top of Clark Range Hill 7.5 3.4
Top of hill by Sentinel Dome 8.9 2
Final Top of Hill 9.3 1.6
Washburn Pt 10.1 0.8
Top of Steep Part to GP 10.5 0.4
Lookout Closest to GP 10.65 0.25
Glacier Point 10.9 0

17 Comments

Back and forth X-country skiing to GPt

Hi - My friend and I are planning to ski to Glacier Point and back in one day. We'll stay in Curry Village, take the earliest shuttle and get going. We are fit and can endure we think, though we X-country ski one or two times every year and will definitively be on the slow end of things.

Is it safe to do this or we may end up not getting back in time before the sun sets?

Thanks,

Gustavo

If you are fit and fast and

If you are fit and fast and comfortable in the outdoors in winter, yes it's safe. I've done it several times.

I've usually done it skate skiing, so it only takes me 2.5 hours (the racers do it in 1:40). Striding, though, with a picnic and a visit to Sentinel Dome and whatnot, I would count on eight hours.

If the bus arrives at 9:30 and leaves at 4:00 (just making up those numbers, you should check), I think that's a little hurried for non-skaters. But it's just out and back, so get going, keep an ey eon your watch and see how it goes! If you start running out of time, turn around.

UPDATE: A friend who describes himself as "in okay shape, probably better than most, but hey, I'm a senior citizen" (he's 66) reports that he did it on stride skis in 2.5 hours out and 2.5 hours back. So that gives you yet another benchmark.

great info, thanks!

Tom-

Sincere thanks for the information! Your page and pictures certainly shed a lot of light on the trip and the photos add a lot for my imagination that has only been generated by going over topo maps of the region and a few pictures on the web. My gf and I are headed out on a self-guided trip and staying at the hut at the end of Feb. If you have any personal must-do's or advice while we're out there (we have a day at Yosemite Lodge the day before our trip), I'd love the info.

We're striders expecting the trip to take about 4 hours; do you think this is reasonable? More concerned about the trip back (catching the 4pm bus on time) though it seems the major obstacle will be the first ascent up to the saddle at Sentinel. Thanks again for the great info. Looking forward to some great photography opportunities :)

Hey Ryan, I think four hours

Hey Ryan,

I think four hours is about right. People take a lot more and a lot less, but I think in four hours a fit person can ski it and enjoy it. What you might want to do is ski out quickly, taking note of places you want to linger on the way back. Honestly, most of the road doesn't have great views though. So here's what I would do.

On the way out, take the first bus to Badger and hit the trail. Ski consistently to Clark Range View. That's about the 6-mile point and it's also halfway up the biggest hill. That's the best view between Badger and very close to Glacier Point (Washburn Point, 1/2 mile before Glacier is then next great view). Take some time to lunch and take pictures there.

Then get back to it and bust for Sentinel Dome. You want to go past the summer parking lot and bathrooms until you get to a utility road on the left that takes you to the NE shoulder of Sentinel Dome. At that point you're pretty close to the hut, so if only one person wanted to go up to see the view on Sentinel Dome, the other could just continue on to the hut or if you're early, you could relax at the hut, drop you packs and ski back out to the Dome.

And of course you'll want to go out to Glacier Point itself before dark.

Then the next morning you'll know where you want to spend your time on the way back and a sense of how long it will take. If you think you can make it, a side trip to Taft Point or Sentinel Dome would be on my list. You could also go down and check out Illouette Falls, but I've done the climb up out of there a few times at the end of a long day and it is kind of relentless. But if you like downhilling, there are some fun descents to be had down off Illouette Ridge.

As for pictures, this may sound strange, but one of my absolute favorite pictures is looking back at the hut at night from just out in front of it. It's a great photo, but I have yet to take it myself. Just something about it, like a cozy outpost in the wilderness (even though, of course, there is a summer road right under your feet and in June it would be crawling with dozens of people, but maybe that's why I like it

Snow shoes

Do people ever snow shoe up? My husband is a photographer and his pack will be heavy. And concerns?

Honestly, I don't snowhoe

Honestly, I don't snowhoe anywhere. But on GP road in particular, there are some really long and not especially steep hills and it would just break my heart to have to schlep down them on snowshoes while all the skiers whizzed by me.

But I've been on skis all my life, so I'm pretty comfy skiing with a pack when need be.

Roundtrip in a Day

Hi Tom! Do you do the round-trip in 2.5 hours or is that your one-way time? A group of my friends are planning a trip in late March. We are from Lake Tahoe and are all experienced skiers that cross-country ski 3-5 days/week and want to do this as a day trip. We will have about six people going, some skating and some on classic skis. Any advice? I was thinking the skaters could give the striders a head start and we could all meet up at the Point for lunch... Thanks for the great info. Lisa

I have done it a few times in

I have done it a few times in about 2.5 hours (I think actual times have been anywhere from 2:25 to 2:40). That is round trip, skating, when I'm in decent condition, skating alone and at my own pace.

My wife and I have skated it round trip, but I don't recall how long it took us. Not more than a couple of hours each way, but with a long lunch break out at the Point.

I have never strided it round trip except when carrying a backpack and overnighting at the hut. In that case, it was leisurely, with stops at Sentinel Dome and some quick runs down steeper hills, a lunch break and all that. I want to say that took 4-6 hours, but that's not just the stride/skate difference, that includes detours and telemark runs and lunch and all that.

If you don't know Glacier Point Road, I think the most salient piece of information is that the hills are long and gentle for striders, long and brutal for skaters. They tend to be at an angle that is trivial to stride up, but grinds you down skating - like 2-3 miles uphill without a break, but always at the gentle slope of a highway.

How Late Does the Season Go?

I have done the round trip and camped at GP 2x many years ago. After ~ 24 years I would like to return with my son. Our spring break is the week of March 31. I am concerned about snow coverage to do a 3 day - 2 night trip staying at GP & Ostrander Hut. What is the probablility that there will be snow coverage at that time of year? What has the experience been for the last several years? I know 2011 was not a problem but that was exceptional. Any info would be welcome. Thanks.

Most years it would be pretty

Most years it would be pretty likely. Last year I don't think you could do it, but most other years you can, but it's really tight. Badger Pass usually closes the first Sunday in April (so maybe as early as April 1) and then the road closes shortly thereafter. Sometimes there's plenty of snow when Badger closes. We've skied up to the snow stake several times to find eight to twelve feet on the ground.

It's common, though, for certain sections of the road to melt through as the season wears on, and you should expect to find bare spots by late March (which also means they sometimes can't run the groomers on the road near the end of the season).

sentinal to GP

They way i am reading your (excellent) review, it does not seem clear that the skate trail follows the road between sentinal dome and GP. can you clarify this? Thanks!

Hi Wayne - yup, it follows

Hi Wayne - yup, it follows the summer road from Badger Pass to Glacier Point. It doesn't really go right to Sentinel Dome, but it does go closer than the summer trailhead. There's a service road that cuts off from the main road. In low snow, you can see the gate. Most often there are tracks. Barring that, if instead of taking the first sharp right on the way downhill, you sort of leave the road roughly there.

Hope that helps.

thanks for the reply. Was out

thanks for the reply. Was out there today. While it was not groomed on way out, it was skatable. However, once past the campground turn-off it was not groomed at all for any type of cross-country. We made do skating on backcountry tracks laid down this week. About a few miles past the campground the snow was more powdery and eventually made it very difficult to skate. We turned around came back down the hill and the groomer had laid skate and classic tracks all the way to Bridalveil from Badger pass.

It was a nice ski back except for the snow shoe'ers that had already trashed the last/first mile by walking right down the middle of the groom.

A bit disappointed that it was not groomed all the way to GP. Not sure when this will get done. Hoping soon.

It's not groomed all the way

It's not groomed all the way to the Point all that often (once per week or so). If you think about it, there's no trail fee and the Nordic Center has to pay for grooming themselves. I've been told those machines cost about $100/hour on lease and so if you add in the driver, fuel, etc, it's probably $400-$500 to groom it all the way to the Point for just a handful of non-paying customers. That's just supposition. Could be more (doubt it's less). In nay case, I sometimes wish there *was* a trail fee so that it would be cost-effective to groom, but you can't charge a trail fee on a national park road/trail, so it is what it is and I'm grateful for what I get!

Why take the shuttle.

We're planning on snow camping at GP. Two questions: 1. Are there restrictions--other than needing a wilderness permit--on winter camping at GP? 2: Why take the shuttle from the valley? We'll be shooting for as early a start as possible and are planning on parking at Badger Pass. Any anticipated NPS regulatory problems with this plan?
Thanks.

Camping at Glacier Point

Sorry for the delay Tim. Just got back from a couple nights at Glacier Point actually (spent New Years Eve and the next night there).

1. As far as I know there are no restrictions, but you can ask the rangers when you get your permit. Personally, if you're not staying in the hut, I would prefer to camp near Taft Point or Sentinel Dome, but that's just me

2. Why take the shuttle from the Valley? Well, I wouldn't take the shuttle from the Valley except in the summer if I wanted to hike just one way. Personally, I've never done that. I hike up or ski out and hike down or ski out.

The only real reason I can think to take the shuttle is if you ski out the road and then ski Le Conte Gully down to the Valley. I've only done that by hiking up and skiing down though.

So in short, I would drive to Badger Pass and park there and then have my car available when I got back.

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