By Tony Krizan - Local Adventurer/Author/Photographer
It has been quite a few years since I experienced the hike to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point in Yosemite National Park. Over the years thru conversations with other hikers maybe I’m missing something or has my memory forgotten this special place? On August 30, 2015. I joined the senior hikers on their outing to these two historical landmarks.
Starting this hike to the first landmark, Sentinel Dome was only 1.1 miles. This is an easy class #2 hike until reaching the base of the dome. You now have less than two hundred more yards of steep hiking before reaching the summit. Years ago on my last visit the historic Jeffery Pine was standing on the top as the lone sentential guarding this special place. But sadly to say it died in 1977 and fell over in 2003. Today all that remains of this historic sentinel is the weathered trunk laying horizontally on the rock surface. Ansel Adams photograph taken in 1940 made this tree famous.
The 360 degree views are also breathtaking; to the west are the distant views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. To the south are the Cathedral Rocks and Spires. To the north is the tip of Half Dome and directly across the valley is Indian Canyon. This historic canyon is the remote route the American Indians used to escape the US Carvery in the early 1800’s during Yosemite’s early years. Over 3,000 feet below is the Merced River as it snakes its way to the west through the valley.
Next is the 2.4 mile hike following the rim trail through the forest to Taft Point. This historic Point was named after William Howard Taft the twenty-seventh president of the United States. Along this trail are views of Yosemite Falls, Eagle Point and El Capitan. These same views plus others from the west end of Yosemite Valley are also waiting for my viewing pleasure at Taft Point.
Before entering Taft Point I passed two fishers (cracks in the mountain) extending down from the rim surface over 1,000 feet into a side canyon. Interesting how the pressure from the receding Glaciers millions of years ago left us with these marvels of nature.
Once at the point I finally have my view of the three High Cathedral Rocks and the two Cathedral Spires. The spires were named by James M Hutchings in 1862 and the Cathedral Rocks were named by the California Geological Survey in 1863. The two narrow spires were first climbed by Jules Eichorn, Bester Robinson and Richard Leonard in the spring of 1934 (class 5-7 plus). Why I was interested in this view of the Cathedral Rocks; Fred Cochran, Clem Bingham and I hiked to the top of the center High Cathedral Rock in December of 2010 (class 2-3).
Today the “Rough Fire” still burning out of control around Kings Canyon National Park has restricted our distant views. Interesting how smoke travels for miles through the canyons by the prevailing winds. Early morning was quite clear but by noon the winds changed directions and restricted our views.
If you wanted to skip Sentinel Dome and just hike to Taft Point from Glacier Point Road; this separate trail is only 2.2 miles round trip. Personally this is an easy hike for the average hiker to experience on his or her first hiking adventure to one of the historical points within Yosemite National Park. If both Sentinel Dome and Taft Point are on your schedule, estimate three plus hours to complete this total hike. As a note of safety; carry extra water and keep a close watch on children.
For more adventures by Tony Krizan you can find his book “Discover Yosemite’s Forgotten Trails” on Amazon or both of his books are sold in local bookstores.