Four Mile Trail Hike Guide

Four Mile Trail Hike Guide

In This Guide
  • Deciding Which Way to Hike the Four Mile Trail
  • Video & Turn by Turn Directions For the Four Mile Trail
  • Four Mile Trail Logistics and Shuttles
  • Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike
Distance10 miles (16.1 km)
Other Options 4.8 miles, 4-5 hours uphill, 2-3 hours downhill
Hike Time5-8 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)4,570 feet (1393m)
Highest Elevation7,220 feet (2201m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park Website (?)Yosemite National Park
Park Phone209-372-0200
Stay In Touch - - -

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

No Shuttle Service Four Mile Trail
Before you head out on the Four Mile Trail, consider that hike options so that you don’t get stranded.

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.

Four Mile Trail Overview
The Four Mile Trail connects the Yosemite Valley with Glacier Point. The one-way hike is about 4.8 miles. If you were to drive between the valley and Glacier Point, it’s more like 30 miles and usually takes at least an hour.

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

Four Mile Trail Hike Directions 2
There’s parking along Southside Drive, but only in sections marked for the Four Mile Trail, so please read the signs.
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Don’t park in the turnoff in front of the trailhead, it’s the shuttle bus stop.
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You can take the free El Capitan Shuttle Bus from the Yosemite Valley Visitor’s Center to the trailhead. The stop is E6, Four Mile Trail.

The Glacier Point trailhead is, well, located at Glacier Point:
Glacier Point, Glacier Point Rd, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389

Four Mile Trail Glacier Point Start
There’s a lot going on at Glacier Point, and finding the trailhead can be confusing. The trailhead is on the left once you pass the gift shop on the way to the actual Glacier Point viewpoint. I have pictures in the directions below.

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.

La Sportiva Spire

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: WomenMen

Osprey Talon

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.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

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.

Click To View Map

Four Mile Trail Hike Guide Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

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.

Elevation Profile

Four Mile Trail Hike Guide Elevation
It’s pretty much all uphill from the valley to Glacier Point. Ignore the dip in the middle, it’s an anomaly of the topo map.

3D Map

Four Mile Trail 3d Map
In this 3D view you can see how the Four Mile Trail climbs the southern wall of the Yosemite Valley.

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.

Video Directions

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Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point

Four Mile Trail Hike Directions 5
The trail starts right in front of the shuttle bus stop, and is well marked.
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Continue straight on the path along the valley floor.
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Cross over the Valley Loop Trail and go straight.
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The trail winds around to the right and you’re greeted with this very cool Four Mile Trail sign. From here on out, you’re going uphill along the base of Sentinel Dome (also a great hike).
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The lower slopes of the trail are paved.
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Go pass the wilderness sign that on this day was vandalized by some filthy animals. You’ll see a few warning signs. It’s important to stay on the trail at all times; straying off for that perfect photo could mean falling to your death.
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Go through the gates. In the winter the Four Mile Trail is closed.
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After about 30 minutes you’ll start getting expansive views west into the Yosemite Valley. This is known as the “reverse tunnel view” to the west. The regular tunnel view is best seen from Artist Point.
Four Mile Trail Hike Directions 1
The trail continues up through the oak forest. You’ll see lots of oak, pine, and cedar on the hike.
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The trail winds around to the north and Upper Yosemite Falls comes into view. The Four Mile Trail has some of the best views of the falls in the park.
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At about 2 miles in you’ll be able to look down and see all the switchbacks that you’ve conquered. You can also see the Merced River winding through the valley.
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Continue climbing up the switchbacks. You’ll pass through another winter closure gate.
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As the trail winds around to the northeast, you’ll start getting glimpses of Half Dome.
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Just after three miles you’ll come to the junction for Union Point. It’s only a few minutes to check it out.
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The trail to Union Point goes through some low scrub.
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And then arrives at the Union Point overlook. More great views.

Let’s continue back on the main Four Mile Trail.

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As you pass Union Point you’ll get some stunning views of Sentinel Rock, a popular climbing spot and subject of a famous Ansel Adams photo.
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Keep going up the last few sections of switchbacks as they hug the cliff wall. The trail is always wide enough for at least two people to walk by; you don’t have to squeak by on any narrow ledges.
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Now that the trail has come around to the northeast side of the valley wall, the views of Half Dome are impressive.
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Finally the switchbacks end and you just have a plain old uphill section through the forest. The gradient here in the last mile is not as tough as the first four miles of the hike.
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One last little uphill section to Glacier Point. At the top of the hill, make the hard left.
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And in an instant you’re plunged into a world of tour bus mobs. It’s always a bit of a shock to come off the trail into this crowd. Just focus on the views…
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Once you come off the Four Mile Trail, there’s a gift shop to your right. If you want any snacks, bathrooms, or water, that’s the place to get them.
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Continue (left from the Four Mile Trail) towards Glacier Point, down the paved trails.
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And here you are, Glacier Point!

Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley

Check out the earlier map to pinpoint the trailhead.

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Look for the Four Mile Trail heading down from the stairs.
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You’ll see a sign for the Four Mile Trail as you head into the forest to the left.
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Here’s another trail sign. You have 4.4 miles of sweet downhill in front of you.
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Keep hiking past the trail rules sign.
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The trail winds its way through the trees.
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And soon you come out to the side of the ledge and unobstructed views of Half Dome and the Tenaya Valley.
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The trail continues to wind around the ledges.
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And as you continue you’ll get views of Upper Yosemite Falls.
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Head down the dozens of switchbacks.
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At Union Point, continue downhill to the right. If you want to visit Union Point, see the earlier directions.
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The trail winds its way down along the cliff. Although the trail is steep, there are no narrow edges.
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You’ll see the trail unfold beneath you.
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Pass through the winter gate.
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And you’ll have more great views of Yosemite Falls.
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And as you descend you’ll see El Capitan and the western Yosemite Valley.
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Soon the trail goes into the oak forest and the views give way to peaceful greenery.
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As you come out of the forest on the valley floor, pass the big trail sign and bear to the left.
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Hike straight through at the junction with the Valley Loop Trail.
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And here you are, the end of the hike!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.