This trail begins near the base of Sentinel Rock and climbs to the top of Yosemite Valley at Glacier Point. The trail maintains a continuous steep grade, following the path of an old toll trail that was completed in 1872. The trail has changed a bit over the years; it is now closer to five miles than four (and of course there is no more toll).
Spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and, eventually, Half Dome await those willing to tackle this strenuous trail. Don't skip the side trip to enjoy the view of Yosemite Valley from Union Point, located a bit over two-thirds of the way up.
The Four Mile Trail ends at Glacier Point, where restrooms, parking, and a snack stand (summer only) are available. You can choose to hike back to Yosemite Valley by reversing your route or by continuing on the Panorama Trail, which brings you to the Happy Isles Trail head in another 8.5 miles (13.7 km).
If you want to hike one way, make sure you have another member of your party available to drop you off or pick you up at the other end. Or you can set up a shuttle the day before by leaving a car at one of the trail heads either in the valley or at the Glacier Point parking lot. There is no free shuttle system between Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley.
TIP! If you are hiking up from the valley bring your wallet, or at least a credit card or cash, not for a toll but for ice-cream at the top. There is a Concession stand run by the park at the top with snacks, drinks, Souvenirs, and especially ice cream.
The park concessioner runs three daily guided bus tours that include a stop at Glacier Point—you can purchase a tour bus ticket from any tour desk to ride the bus to Glacier Point (hiking back to the Valley). You should purchase this ticket in advance to guarantee your space, but advance tickets are only available if riding the bus from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. There is no way to guarantee space riding from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley; tickets in this direction can only be purchased in cash from the bus driver if space is available.
The Four Mile Trail typically opens for the season sometime in May and closes below Union Point due to treacherous conditions after significant snow accumulation (usually by November or December). After major snowfalls, the entire trail may close. When partially closed, only the lower three miles (5 km) are open to the gate below Union Point; good views of Yosemite Valley are still possible, although Glacier Point and Union Point would not be accessible. This lower section is also very icy and slippery during winter and early spring.
Start your hike early; this trail can become very hot mid-day in the summer. By starting as early as possible, you will be able to hike during the cooler part of the day and you will be able to spend more of the hike in shade and less in the sun..
Avoid becoming dehydrated or experiencing heat exhaustion. Drink plenty and drink often; pace yourself; rest in the shade; eat salty snacks.
Sprained ankles and knee injuries are common on this trail. There are many areas of loose sand mixed with rocky terrain, which makes for slippery footing.
Stay on the trail; there are numerous steep drop-offs and ledges off-trail.
Know your limits. Pre-existing medical conditions can be easily exacerbated on the steep ascent.
Drinking water is not available along the trail. When the Glacier Point Snack Stand is open (late May through mid-October), food and beverages are available for purchase at Glacier Point. A drinking fountain is also available at Glacier Point (late May through mid-October). Bring 2 quarts/liters of water if hiking this trail one way (or 4 quarts/liters if hiking round trip).
Restrooms are not available at the trail head in Yosemite Valley; vault toilets are available just to the east at the Swinging Bridge Picnic Area. Restrooms are also located at Glacier Point near the parking lot. (Flush toilets may be open from late May through mid-October, otherwise vault toilets are available.)
Parking is available along Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley (signed as "Four Mile Trail"). Parking is also available at Glacier Point, near the trails end.
TIP! You may want to try a twist on a car shuttle. Stage a bike at Glacier Point, start at the top and bike down to the valley. You may want to time your ride back down so it is not during the busiest time of day for traffic, which is normally about 10am - 4pm. Plan on dealing with cars though and understand you have a right to be on and share the road. Having road experience in traffic is a plus.
Due to the rough nature of the Glacier Point road you should consider a cross trainer bike or mountain bike as road bike tires are pretty narrow for the pot holes, cracks and ruts.
The payoff is an amazing downhill (mostly) ride through Yosemite!
The El Capitan Shuttle (9 am to 6 pm) serves this trail head (stop E5) from late May through early October. You can also ride the Valley Visitor Shuttle (7 am to 10 pm year-round) to shuttle stop #7 and follow the bicycle path to Swinging Bridge, then walk west a few minutes to the trail head. (This adds about 0.5 mile (0.8 km) to the total distance.)
If you want to hike one way, make sure you have another member of your party available to drop you off or pick you up at the other end. There is no free shuttle system between Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley. The park concessioner runs three daily guided bus tours that include a stop at Glacier Point—you can purchase a tour bus ticket from any tour desk to ride the bus to Glacier Point (hiking back to the Valley). You should purchase this ticket in advance to guarantee your space, but advance tickets are only available if riding the bus from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. There is no way to guarantee space riding from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley; tickets in this direction can only be purchased in cash from the bus driver if space is available. Do not miss the bus; you will have no choice but to hike back yourself if you do so. Do not start hiking with the expectation of taking a bus back to the trail head.
Pets, bicycles, and strollers are prohibited.
Do not shortcut switchbacks, which causes rapid trail erosion and results in injuries.
Keep your food within arm's reach at all times and do not feed the wildlife.
Carry out all trash and food waste (fruit peels, shells, etc.).
Proprietors: David Maynard & Vonnie Coombs
7509 Henness Circle, Yosemite CA, 95389
Yosemite Peregrine Lodging is located inside the gates of Yosemite National Park in the Yosemite West development. You have to enter Yosemite to get to Yosemite West. Don't let other hotel operators fool you. Ask for a physical address and check them out on a map before you make your reservation. Some accommodations claim to be minutes from Yosemite and are actually an hour or more.