Page Contributor(s): Luke Hise, AZ
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Yosemite Valley: El Capitan + Half Dome
View from Washburn Point, Yosemite National Park
For more Yosemite climbs, visit our Cycling Yosemite National Park page.
Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.
The Glacier Point bike climb is the best climb in and around Yosemite Valley. It is long at 25 miles and affords 3 of the greatest viewpoints in the entire park (Tunnel View, Washburn Point, Glacier Point). There are a few descents along the way, most notably 2.6 miles of -3.1% (descending 442’) beginning at mile 15 and the last 3.5 is 2 descending segments with a ½ mile ascent in between. The high point of the climb is at mile 21.4 (7,800’) but it would be ill advised to turn back there - continue on to Washburn and Glacier Points - these are extraordinary viewpoints and lifetime experiences.
Before heading to Yosemite for your cycling adventure, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.
Photo: Left - Washburn Point 1 mile from finish at Glacier Point
Photo right: Glacier Point.
Photos clockwise from top left:
Western entrance (Hwy 120); just past view from start of Glacier Point Road;
View from Washburn Point; View just past tunnel;
Half Dome from Glacier Point
If you are visiting Yosemite Valley, be sure to get up to Tunnel View, Glacier and Washburn Points which are three of the best viewpoints in Yosemite. Interestingly, while the National Park Service page for Glacier Point lists multiple transportation modes to get there, cycling is not on the list (see “Warning and Caution,” below).
Yosemite Valley: El Capitan, on the way to the start.
Yosemite National Park was created in 1890, is 748,436 acres, and averages 4,336,000 visitors a year. Yosemite was initially protected via the Yosemite Grant signed by Abraham Lincoln. The park (including the great El Capitan and Half Dome) is in the Cathedral Mountains of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. These granite monoliths were formed by glacial movement millions of years ago.
View from Tunnel View at mile 1.5 of the Glacier Point climb.
A real Tunnel View!
Warning: Bring taillights!
Pushing my luck . . .
Not a problem at 3 a.m. 🙂
The National Parks Service writes of Tunnel View: “Tunnel View provides one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley. From here you can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall rising from Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the background. This viewpoint is at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along the Wawona Road (Highway 41)” National Park Service - Tunnel View.
Viewpoint just past the tunnel.
Turn left off of Wawona Road onto Glacier Point Road at mile 9.2.
The high point of the climb is a couple miles before Washburn and Glacier Points, but we strongly recommend continuing the journey to the end, which includes riding your bike the short distance (100 yards or so) from the Glacier Point Gift Shop and Store to Glacier Point. There is no water from the Valley floor for 24 miles to the Glacier Point Store, so come prepared with plenty of water and provisions for a several hour, 24-mile journey. There is a gift shop and store at Glacier Point.
Washburn Point is one mile from the finish and is an exceptional viewpoint.
Sunrise at Washburn Point
Photo from PJAMM’s 6/28/18 Bike Valley Floor to Glacier Point + hike to top of Half Dome.
The National Park Service writes of Glacier Point:
Glacier Point, some would say, is the most spectacular viewpoint anywhere. Most people agree that its views of the high country and breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley, including Half Dome and three waterfalls, are the most spectacular in the park. Washburn Point, just south of Glacier Point, has similar views, though the views of Vernal and Nevada Falls are a bit better. The road to Glacier Point is usually open late May or early June to sometime in November, though some people prefer to ski there in the winter. National Park Service - Viewpoints.
Tunnel view - center upper photo (El Capitan + Half Dome)
All other photos are from Washburn and Glacier Points
Views of Half Dome + Vernal and Nevada Falls.
View while hiking Panorama Trail from Glacier Point.
Half Dome + Vernal Falls (lower) + Nevada Falls (upper)
Warning and Caution: At mile 1.5 we enter the nearly one mile long Yosemite Tunnel, which we believe is a serious hazard to consider if you are traveling this route by bike from Yosemite Valley. The tunnel is 0.8 miles at about 5% grade, so you will be in a cycling danger zone for 5 to 10 minutes. The “sidewalk” is not wide enough for a bike and would be extremely dangerous to try and navigate for almost an entire mile (we tried for the first 20-30 yards with no cars around, but did not feel steady enough to continue that path with any vehicles around). One option is to transport your bike in a car and park on the uphill side of the tunnel, or get dropped off there (the descent portion, while hazardous, is much faster -- although we did encounter a couple spots of moisture in the tunnel on the way down). If you do ride through the tunnel (as of June 23, 2015, 32 Strava riders had taken this route, by our count) be absolutely certain to bring bright tail lights, a headlight, and bright reflective clothing -- this is imperative.
Half Dome at sunrise -
Center photo - Tunnel View
All other photos: Washburn and Glacier Points
Before sunrise on PJAMM’s 6/28/18 bike & hike.
Bike Yosemite Valley Floor to Glacier Point + hike to Half Dome.
Park Entrance Fee: As of June 2015, the fee to enter the park on a bicycle was $15. We purchased the $80 All-Parks Pass which gives us access for the year to all National Parks.
Photos, from upper left clockwise:
Roadway Surface and Traffic Report: There is no bike lane along this route, although the lane is standard highway width, affording fairly safe travel. The roadway is excellent throughout this ride. Traffic is moderate and includes many RVs and trucks pulling trailers, but fewer of these big vehicles after we turn onto Glacier Point Road at mile 9.2.
ANOTHER PJAMM GREAT ADVENTURE
Cycle Valley Floor to Glacier Point +
Hike Panorama Trail from Glacier Point to top of Half Dome
Yosemite Valley Floor to Glacier Point: 25 miles gaining 4,815’.
Glacier Point to Half Dome to Happy Isles: 20.4 miles gaining 4,844’.
Washburn Point just before sunrise.
Panorama Trail to Half Dome.
That’s just rubbing it in!
Tayler ran the entire route.
He started about three hours after the old guys and finished . . .
well, let’s just say . . . ahead of the old guys!
Eee Gads -- the infamous “Cables”.
Those are not ants . . .
Hayley -- On Top of the World!
Team PJAMM after descending Half Dome.
That’s a wrap!
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