Tony Krizan

Coexisting with Glacier Point Road

Another view from Illilouette Ridge looking at Half Dome across Yosemite Valley.
Another view from Illilouette Ridge looking at Half Dome across Yosemite Valley. Special to the Sierra Star

It was early morning when we entered the south gate of Yosemite National Park.

I decided to join the senior hikers on their adventures to three separate locations along Glacier Point Road. This historic road opened late this spring because of the lingering winter snow storms. Leading our outing was Jim Brohm and his wife Helen. Both are seasoned hikers with decades of trail experience throughout this National Park.

Tony Krizan Joelle Leder

Illilouette Ridge at 8,245 feet was our first of three separate adventures. This is a scenic short cross-country hike with no trailhead. Once we turned onto Glacier Pont Road we traveled 13 miles to the Taft Point trailhead. This entrance point traveled through a heavily forested area before opening up to start our assent to the ridge. We would return by back-tracking to Glacier Point Road.

Our second choice of trailhead was 12 miles from Wawona Road (Highway 41) park at a small clearing on the right. Once again no trailhead and we proceeded to hike up 800 feet to the west end of this ridge. We followed for over 2 miles before dropping down through the thick forested area and Glacier Point Road.

Once arriving at Illilouette Ridge I started panning the distant Clark Range from left to right. Directly across the valley is the backside of Half Dome, Liberty Cap, Nevada Falls, Mount Starr King and the Clark Range. Almost 3,000 feet below us is Yosemite Valley displaying one of the most spectacular views of this historic valley.

We descended back to Glacier Point Road, crossing over to the opposite side too our second destination — Illilouette Sentinel Dome at 8,122 feet. At this point we split into two groups. The second group hiked directly toward the Taft Point Trail.

On the summit of Sentinel Dome is the famous Jeffrey Pine photographed for decades and featured on the cover of many magazines. But over time age became apparent and sad to say, it died a few decades ago and fell during the winter of 2000. From this location we have a 360 degree view of the valley and another angle view of Half Dome. El Capitan to the north is directly in front of us. On the valley floor below us, the Merced River is forging its way through the length of this huge valley.

We descended by the same route and intersected the Pohono Trail that skirts this ridge west for almost a mile. After crossing Sentinel Creek one could walk out to the overlook to view Sentinel Fall and Sentinel Rock. The next trail junction began our descent on the Taft Point Trail. After leaving the tree cover along the trail, the fissures in Profile Cliff came into view. These fissures as well as Taft Point provided us a view of the 3,000 foot drop to the valley floor.

I returned by the Taft Point trail back to the parking area on Glacier Point Road. Sometimes one can experience an unusual event hiking these wilderness trails.

On my departure following the trail from Taft Point, looking up the trail I couldn’t believe what was approaching me; a beautiful young lady in a flowing white gown. First I thought I was in the sun a little too long and my eyes were deceiving me! But behind her was a handsome young man in a formal black tux. Behind him was another young man with a camera in hand. Yes it was a wedding party!

The adventure lasted around eight hours which included travel time from Oakhurst and back again. Sentinel Dome and Taft Point were both moderate hikes but Illilouette Ridge was strenuous for the first 30 minutes, then tapered to a moderate hike for the remainder of the cross-country adventure.