Death Valley and Sentinel Dome!

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Well the Half Dome cables are not up, so I am continuing my quest of Carpe Diem. Seizing some day. I’’m now on a motorcycle trip with 4 other guys from California to the Utah parks. Today we rode thru Death Valley – at 116 degree F. Ouch. Great scenery.   And now another guest blog from Hamburg’s outdoor guru, Sonke K.

Poor man’s Half Dome
Cables are still down?! Or just don’t feel in shape for the big one?! Don’t worry – there are many, many other opportunities in or near Yosemite Valley to have a great day. Whenever we arrive in Yosemite one of the first things to do  is visiting Sentinel Dome. At 8122 ft. high it is the second viewpoint above Yosemite Valley (yes, you’ve guessed it – HD is the highest). I’m sure all of you have seen Ansel Adam’s famous shot of a solitary Jeffrey pine on top of Sentinel Dome. Unfortunately due to vandalism the Jeffrey pine has been destroyed in 1984. You still can find some of remains though.
The view from top of Sentinel Dome is nothing short of spectacular. Yosemite Falls, North Dome, Basket Dome, Tenaya Canyon, Half Dome, Nevada Fall, Mt. Hoffman, Mt. Starr King and the Clark Range including all the snowcapped peaks off Tioga Road are all in sight. Take a look at this panorama shoot that I took in early June 2008:  (zoom in for details)
Do you notice the nice little storm over Little Yosemite Valley?
The trail is easy to find. Take the junction along the Wawona Road that leads to Glacier Point. The turn out/parking lot is on the left side of the road approx. 2.3 miles before you would reach Glacier Point. There is a small “map” at the trailhead ( and shortly after the map take a turn to the right. The trail is easy to follow and it’s an easy hike too. Occasionally you’ll see the red snow plant which is just beautiful. Sentinel Dome is as popular as HD so I highly recommend to be at the trailhead as early as possible (watching sunrise from Sentinel Dome is awesome) or late in the day. During regular “business hours” the trail and the top of the dome are busy. If you are still hungry for more hiking continue your hike to Glacier Point. As always: bring plenty of water, sturdy boots and some people might like hiking poles as well. I’m sure that there’s still some snow on top of Sentinel Dome right now – so be careful during the last 100 yds. to the top. Personally I like Sentinel Dome more than Glacier Point. The views are comparable but Sentinel Dome feels more like “nature”. Enjoy this great hike!

Urelated thought worth quoting for the ladies: “Met him on a Monday and my heart stood still. Da doo ron ron ron da doo ron ron. Somebody told me that his name was Bill. Da doo ron ron ron da doo ron ron. Yes, my heart stood still. Yes, his name was Bill. And when he walked me home, Da doo ron ron ron da doo ron ron.” – The Crystals

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –


6 Responses to “Death Valley and Sentinel Dome!”

  1. John Lauer Says:

    A ranger gave a talk last week at sunset the day Glacier Point Road opened. He recommended the hike to Sentinel Dome. However, the recent cold, snowy weather was keeping it closed. This may have changed due to the recent heat wave…

  2. John Lauer Says:

    I found one of those snowplants growing 2 weeks ago, just downslope from Halfdome. At the time, I had not known what it was. All red, and no photosynthesis, as it feeds on fungus in the soil.

  3. William J. LePetomane Says:

    Sonke K. is not quite accurate according to the new release on the NPS web site (see,

    Yosemite National Park News Release
    August 18, 2003
    For Immediate Release

    Famous Jeffrey Pine Falls on Sentinel Dome-Yosemite National Park

    Carleton Watkins photographed it in 1867. Ansel Adams photographed it. It is among the most photographed trees in the park–the subject of numerous postcards over the years– and a beloved icon to millions of visitors to Yosemite.

    Sometime in the last week, it fell to the ground. The Jeffrey pine, perched on the summit of Sentinel Dome, was a dramatic image of which few could not stop and snap a picture.

    The pine died in the severe drought of 1976-77, although people attempted to save it by bringing buckets of water to it.

    The National Park Service does not know what final stress caused the tree to fall, but severe storms in the Sierra Nevada in early August may have contributed.

    The tree’s life, death, and fall are part of a natural process. However, many will miss the Jeffrey pine that stood and welcomed them to the summit of Sentinel Dome.


  4. Dean Says:

    I really liked Death Valley – it’s an alien place for someone from Scotland where things are a little wetter but it’s such a jolt to the senses going from sub alpine Tuolumne to sub sea level Badwater in just a few hours.

    That’s what makes California such an interesting destination – it can be three or four vacations rolled into 1!

    • John Lauer Says:

      California is like a whole country. What amazes me, though, is how few people live in the Northern half of the state. Once you get much past San Francisco and wine country, there are mostly hills and trees- California could support 100 Million+ citizens…

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