Four Mile Trail Hike Guide
|In This Guide|
|Distance||10 miles (16.1 km)|
|Other Options||4.8 miles, 4-5 hours uphill, 2-3 hours downhill|
|Hike Time||5-8 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||4,570 feet (1393m)|
|Highest Elevation||7,220 feet (2201m)|
|Fees & Permits||Park Entry Fee|
|Park Website (?)||Yosemite National Park|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
The Four Mile Trail hike is like a “best of” Yosemite hike. Built in 1872 as a $1 toll road, the Four Mile Trail connects the two most popular spots in the park, the Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point. Along the way up the switchbacks of this engineering marvel, you are rewarded with turn after turn of breathtaking views of the Yosemite Valley. You’ll see El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and everything in between. And if you hike up, you are rewarded with a rest at Glacier Point, probably the most stunning vista in the park.
There are a few ways that the hike can be done: up and down, just up, or just down. I’ll go over the pros and cons of each option in this guide and help you work out the logistics for your hike.
Planning Your Four Mile Trail Hike
The Four Mile Trail starts on the south side of Yosemite Valley by the swinging bridge and climbs up to Glacier Point. You can start the hike from either end, but there are some logistics involved on a one-way hike.
- The easiest way to do the hike is to start at the bottom in Yosemite Valley, hike to Glacier Point, and then hike back down. This is the full hike distance of 10 miles outlined in the guide. If 10 miles seems long, just remember that Glacier Point offers a snack bar and is a good place to rest at the halfway point, and the whole second half of the hike is downhill. You can park at the trailhead or take a free shuttle bus there. It’s a great adventure for the day.
- You can also hike one-way from the bottom up to Glacier Point and then get a ride back down. There are no free shuttle buses from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. Your options are to arrange a car shuttle with family or friends, or to hop on a one-way leg of a guided tour bus, which has limited departures and requires a reservation. Even if you’re not used to hiking 10 miles, walking back downhill from the top is easier than the hassle of a shuttle bus in my opinion.
- You can take the guided tour bus to Glacier Point (or get dropped off by friends or family), and then hike about 5 miles downhill. This option makes the most sense for hikers who want to experience the Four Mile Trail, but perhaps don’t have the fitness to attempt the climb up from the bottom. Doing the hike this way offers a nice tour bus ride to Glacier Point and an easy downhill hike back into the Yosemite Valley.
I’ve included video and turn-by-turn guidance for both directions of the hike.
One thing NOT TO DO is start at Glacier Point, hike down, and then hike back up. The dynamic is like in the Grand Canyon. People hike down much farther than they should because it’s easy to go downhill, and then have to turn around and do a hard uphill to return to the start. Only attempt this if you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Where Is The Four Mile Trail?
The Yosemite Valley Trailhead is located at:
Four Mile Trailhead, Southside Dr, Yosemite Village, CA 95389
The Glacier Point trailhead is, well, located at Glacier Point:
Glacier Point, Glacier Point Rd, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389
Gear for the Hike
This is a “hike hike,” and I recommend proper hiking gear if you have it. In a pinch, you can get away with fitness clothing. I recommend bringing 2L of water for the way up and then refilling at water fountains at Glacier Point. There’s also a (seasonal) gift shop at Glacier Point that has all kinds of great bad good stuff like ice cream, snacks, and soda. It’s always been a tradition for me to do the hike up, eat some ice cream and enjoy the views, and then hike back down. After hiking up, you’ve earned it.
I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: Women – Men
On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Four Mile Trail Trail Maps
When the Four Mile Trail was first built in 1872, it was a toll road ($1!), so the gradient is consistent, but tough. The trail was modified in the early 1920s to ease the grade, and in the process it was extended to 4.8 miles. Add on the stretch of trail to Glacier Point and it’s more like 5 miles one-way. Set your expectations accordingly.
Four Mile Trail Hike Guide Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
The original Four Mile Trail was built by the man the John Muir dubbed “Yosemite’s master trail builder,” John Conway. Conway surveyed the entire trail route using only a ship’s protractor.
Four Mile Trail Hike Directions
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Heads up, many trails and parks are closed because of the Covid pandemic. Please call the park or visit the website listed at the beginning of the hike to see what the status is.
Watch This Video In 360/VR
Why are 360 videos great for hiking?
Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point
Let’s continue back on the main Four Mile Trail.
Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley
Check out the earlier map to pinpoint the trailhead.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.