Ok, so let’s talk about the Bucket List.
I have not yet been strong enough or in-shape enough, after my back injury, to come any where CLOSE to making this EPIC journey; however, I have been creepily planning it for over two years and I thought I’d share my knowledge because every time I bring it up I get the same response, “WHAT!? You can x-country ski and/or snowshoe to a ski hut at the top of Glacier Point! And get Glacier Point all to yourself!?…..AND stay amongst the spirit’s of legends like John Muir and his buddies!?…. No way! Let’s do it!”
Unfortunately for me I haven’t been in shape enough to make this epic trek, yet. But the good news for me though is that I am in the beginning stages of training with my PT with the HIGH hopes to soon be strong enough to check this adventure off my proverbial “bucket list”! Woo hoo.
Yosemite in Winter is pure magic! I have been twice and I truly can’t get enough. This here is an epic adventure that I personally can’t wait to go on and I am currently training to be able to accomplish such a trek. If you are in shape and need a creative spark to your weekend getaway, or need some great tips on what to do in Yosemite, or simply want to know about the BEST kept secret in our National Parks, well then keep on reading!
You can also head over to my blog post here for even more options for experiencing Yosemite in the winter; most importantly these are options that don’t entail a 21 mile hike in the snow! eeek.
Yosemite National Park
Reaching from its lowest point in the Yosemite Valley to its highest point of 13,114 feet atop Mount Lyell in the Cathedral Range, Yosemite National Park offers every kind of vista imaginable.
Yosemite is home to scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the epic disaster film 2012 and most definitely your Instagram feed, thanks to photography legends like Chris Burkard and Christian Schaffer. So there’s no doubt that most of you are well aware of this National Park’s breathtaking backdrops.
Glacier Point in the Summer
During the summer months, Glacier Point is an easy “hike”, if you will, as you park your car and walk a few feet. Glacier Point offers the best viewpoints in Yosemite, and possibly the world.
Glacier Point is not as high as the striking granite monolith Half Dome (seen below); however it provides a perfect vantage point for taking in all of it’s wonder. With views of the Valley floor below and Yosemite High Country above Glacier Point is the perfect spot to snap some epic photos.
The best part of all is that you can reach this view with minimal effort. Glacier Point is easily reached in the warmer months of June-November by a simple drive up the Tioga Pass. So yes, only a 30 minute drive from Badger Pass will give you this breathtaking view.
Glacier Point in Winter
Come mid-November snow forces the closure of the Tioga Pass to auto-mobile traffic (Check here for current and up to date road conditions.) However, if you are hoping to catch this view in the months where the roads are closed, fear not. Although it does require MUCH more effort, it does not rule out your chances of experiencing Glacier Point! This does, however, rule out the easy option, but that only means you will have the place to yourself!
In winter, the only way to reach Glacier Point is via a truly unforgettable experience of cross-country skiing or snowshoe. This adventurous option entails a 10.5-mile-long trek from the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area to the Ski Hut at the top of Glacier Point.
“If there’s a better secret in the entire national park system, I can’t wait to find it.”
Before you begin…
Prior to setting off on your epic cross-country ski trip to Glacier Point, there are a few important points to consider.
This trip isn’t the best idea for newbies in cross-country skiing, but inexperienced skiers needn’t miss out altogether. I will give you some tips to help you remain happy and healthy, mentally and physically, so that you can enjoy it, and still be safe!
If you aren’t an experienced skier but don’t want to miss out on ticking this off your bucket list, I recommend that you book a pro-guide to give you some help and most importantly, keep you safe.
Here’s what Yosemite National Park has to say about preparation and wants you to know:
“In frigid winter conditions, poor planning can lead to life-threatening situations. Plan ahead, be prepared for blizzard-like conditions, bring extra food and water, and pack more layers than you think you’ll need.
All guests must check-in at both the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area Nordic Ski Center and the National Park Service A-frame before starting a trip to the Glacier Point Ski Hut.
The National Park Service will provide the necessary Wilderness Permit and Parking Permit.”
Before and after your trek, the National Park Service recommends that you stay in Yosemite Valley, 4,000 feet above sea level, to help you acclimate to the altitude.
Travel and Health Tip:
One way to help your body acclimatize is by increasing your water intake several days before your trip. This enables you to stay hydrated as you adjust to the lower oxygen levels. Let’s be honest; there is nothing worse than getting ready for the experience of a lifetime and getting altitude sickness, so make sure you prepare your body for the change.
There are three options to conquer this trek:
- Out & back day-trip
- Guided overnight trip
- Self-guided overnight trip
1) Out & Back Day-Trip
The 21 mile out and back day trip is not for the faint-hearted but is pure beauty the whole way. Always keep track of your time and be aware of how much energy you have, so you can make good decisions and stay safe.
As you ski the 10.5 miles, don’t forget to take a break to visit some of the best viewpoints along the trail. At mile 6, make sure you stop at the Clark Range Overlook to get an unobstructed view of the High Sierras. At mile 10, a pit-stop at Washburn Point allows you to admire an unreal view of Half Dome.
Both of these provide fabulous opportunities for photo-ops, so don’t forget your camera!
Once you reach the ridge-top at the Sentinel Dome cut-off, it’s just 1 ½ miles downhill to your turn-back point. It takes the average experienced cross-country skier four to five hours to complete the 10.5 miles there and another four to five hours to complete the trip back.
2) Guided Overnight Trip
The trails are pristine and the one-day trip is incredible but at the peak of Glacier Point sits the real gem, the Glacier Point Ski Hut. During the summer, the ski hut serves as a touristy souvenir shop and in the winter, it transforms into a cozy getaway spot for those who opt for the overnight option. Here, there are restrooms, comfortable sofas and a large bunk-bed dorm that sleeps up to 20 people.
During the overnight tour, adventurers are provided with all meals including a group dinner with your new friends around a bonfire. This is great because it gives you a chance to get to know the people experiencing this epic journey alongside you, in a more comfortable setting. As I am sure the hours preceding dinner you were concentrating on not dying, staying alive, and resisting the urge to hurl rocks at your significant other and/or travel buddy.
In the morning, a warm, hearty breakfast awaits as you prepare for the 10.5 miles back to the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard area. To top it off, all the food at the Glacier Point Ski Hut is home-made to give you that extra push while completing your journey.
The guided tours depart at 9:00am from the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area Cross-Country Center and ends….at the top, of course!
3) Travel to Glacier Point Your Own Way
Only STRONG, experienced skiers are encouraged to ski to Glacier Point Ski Hut without a guide. All skiers are welcome to join in on the festivities, including: dinner, an evening in front of the fire, a beds, as well as breakfast and lunch before the ski out.
“We didn’t sleep here.. we shivered in our sleeping bags with eyes closed while our pads slowly deflated and the cold crept in through our tent. At a certain point you don’t really mind how close you are to your tent mates. Body warmth is all that matters. Funny how those memories stick with you.
The surreal view near Glacier point is anything but empty in summer. But winter season provides the opportunity to camp in solitude amidst Yosemite’s most iconic overlook. Long as you’re off-trail and have a backcountry permit you are good too freeze in a tent where you want.”
Be warned that the Hut is only open for lodging in the winter. Reservations are required and must be done by phone so call (209) 372-8444 to book. There is a six person minimum in order for the hut to open.
- One-Night Guided Ski Hut Trip: $350.00 per person
- Two-Night Guided Ski Hut Trip: $550.00 per person
- Self-guided Glacier Point Ski Hut: $153.00 pp per night + rentals and gratuity
Yosemite Valley offers a truly special ski trip to Glacier Point Ski Hut and its breathtaking views. So plan your trip accordingly, leave with enough time to get to the top by sunset.
Just imagine it though! Once you’re sitting around a fire at 3,200 feet with the stars twinkling above you and the sun setting in the distance, I promise you’ll look back on this memory for the rest of your life with a heart full of gratitude!