places to take photos of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park (with maps)

There are many locations to view and take pictures of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park that you can

drive to,

take the free Yosemite Valley shuttle bus to,

take a tour bus to

or take a short walk

or, for a few locations, a long hike to.

At some locations you see the “classic” (front, western) face of Half Dome, at others (many with easy accessibility), you can see the north or south side (or even the backside).

23 locations to photograph Half Dome, (also known as South Dome) are described with photos at this webpage, but you will discover there are many more.

A National Park Service road side display at a small parking lot has a map of seven locations:

multiple photos of Half Dome and a map

Here is the map on the display in a larger size:

map of Yosemite

The map above has locations listed by letters.

Details about each are below, followed by more locations not shown on the map at the display.

 
A) is from Olmstead Point on the Tioga Road, (closed in winter and sometimes well into the spring in years with lots of snowfall).

Half dome as seen from Olmstead Point

Once you are near Tuolumne Meadows, even if you think you are running late, watch the map and the roadside markers for road marker T24 for Olmstead Point on the right. (Find Olmstead Point on this official park map.)

Pull into the big parking lot for at least a short stop to look around.

Stop and get out of the car for a look at a different angle at Half Dome than you may have seen, the wide expanse of Clouds Rest and down to Tenaya Lake in the other direction. With a telephoto (photo below) spotter scope or binoculars you can see people (the line of tiny dots in the center of the photo) going up the Half Dome cables.

granite dome with tiny people going up the side

Google maps 360 degree street view of the Half Dome cables from the subdome.

Google maps 360 degree street view from the top of Half Dome.

Below: photos of Tenaya Lake from Olmstead Point

and the view from Olmstead Point with Cloud’s Rest (left) and Half Dome (right)

Tenaya and domes from Olmstead Point: view from Olmstead Point with Cloud's Rest and Half Dome:

Much the same view of Clouds Rest and Half Dome can also be seen from the trail from May Lake to Mount Hoffman (with binoculars or a good telephoto you can see the hikers on the Half Dome cables),

Clouds Rest and Half Dome from Mt Hoffman:

B) is from Quarter Domes

view of the side of Half dome

See Quarter Domes in relation to Half Dome at this description: https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/photosmultimedia/upload/sentineldome-key.jpg ( At the description photo you can see Half Dome, Mount Watkins, Tressider Peak, Clouds Rest, Kuna Crest, Fletcher Peak, Vogelsang Peak, Mount Watkins, Cathedral peak, Ahwiyah Point, Quarter Domes, Little Yosemite Valley and Tenaya Canyon)

C) is from the Panorama Trail above Yosemite valley.

view of back of Half Dome

D) is from Washburn Point on the Glacier Point Road.

view of the  side of Half dome

Washburn Point is before Glacier Point on the Glacier Point road, see on this official park map.

and on the right hand side in this close up map of that part of the Glacier Point road

NPS map  with roads, topography

In this panorama you can see Half Dome in about the center, Vernal and Nevada Falls to the right. Mount Watkins is just to the left of Half Dome, with Mirror Lake (out of view in this photo) below it. North Dome is further to the left, with the Ahwahnee (out of view in this photo) below it.

Yosemite mountains as seen from Washburn point

Some of the peaks visible in the panorama above can also be seen from Sentinel Dome, where you can see Half Dome, Mount Watkins, Tressider Peak, Clouds Rest, Kuna Crest, Fletcher Peak, Vogelsang Peak, Mount Watkins, Cathedral peak, Ahwiyah Point, Quarter Domes, and Little Yosemite Valley and Tenaya Canyon

and each of these is identified at:

https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/photosmultimedia/upload/sentineldome-key.jpg

E) is from Glacier Point at the end of the Glacier point road or the end of the Four Mile Trail. See Glacier Point and the the Glacier Point road on this official park map.

view of side of half dome

from Glacier Point, looking towards Half Dome, you can see (left to right) North Dome, Mt Hoffman, Basket Dome, Mt Watkins, Tenaya Canyon, Echo Peak, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Vogelsang Peak, Bunnell Point, Mt Broderick, Mt Florence, Liberty Cap, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall and the mist trail, Mt Clark and Gray Peak.

At Glacier Point, with a telephoto, you can see hikers on top of Half Dome:

Granite dome with people standing on top

Nevada and Vernal Falls and the mist trail as well:

Half Dome and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point, courtesy of the National Park Service:

National Park Service photo of a rainbow over half dome

Half Dome and Nevada and Vernal Falls from Glacier Point, courtesy of the Library of Congress:

clouds and blue sky, mountain peaks

A Google street 360 degree view from Glacier Point down to Vernal and Nevada falls, and across to Half Dome.

The Glacier Point hiking map includes drawings of and descriptions of trails to / around (easy) Glacier Point, Mc Gurk Meadow, (moderate) Dewey Point, Taft Point and the fissures, Sentinel Point, Taft Point / Sentinel Dome loop, (strenuous) Four Mile Trail, Panorama Trail, Mt Starr King View, Ostrander Lake and Pohono trails.

A National Geographic video of President Barack Obama’s 2016 visit includes segments taken from Glacier Point.

And see shots of Yosemite valley from Glacier Point.

F) is the “classic” view of Half Dome from the Ahwahnee Meadow , a short walk from the Ahwahnee (briefly named the Majestic Yosemite Hotel) Hotel about half-way between stops 2 and 3 on the free Yosemite Valley shuttle bus.

classic view of Half dome

Half Dome with snow on Ahwahnee Meadow

G) is from Mirror Lake .

Half Dome from mirror lake

lake below Half dome

Go beyond Mirror Lake on the Snow Creek trail for this Half Dome view:
Half dome almost fills the skyline

row of rocks carved into brick shapes

Other places, not shown on the map at the start of this webpage, include:

NPS photo of Tunnel View (the massive rock form on the left is El Capitan, in the background in the center is Half Dome, the waterfall on the right is Bridalveil Fall:

NPS photo of Yosemite valley including El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall and a mass of clouds

This (1885 +/-) painting by Thomas Hill ( photo courtesy of the Library of Congress) is a bit north of the photo above.

painting of Yosemite Valley cliffs, waterfall

Coming into Yosemite valley on Highway 41, just before the valley, about 7 miles after Wawona, you go through a long tunnel just above the valley floor. Or you can get to Tunnel View from Yosemite Valley by driving on Northside drive until the Pohono Bridge, then making a left over the river and continuing until a right hand turn ( almost U-turn) then up the Wawona Road towards Wawona and Glacier Point road, (this almost u-turn is the same as you would take entering the valley on Highway 140 to go to Tunnel View) as in the map below

road map with Merced river

tunnel view NPS photo.: El Capitan on one side, Half Dome in the center and Bridalveil fall on the otherComing from highway 41, after going through the tunnel, slow down and put on your right blinker at the end of the tunnel and pull carefully into the small parking lot. Walk across the road (watch out for drivers watching the scenery and not seeing you) to the main viewpoint. Coming from Yosemite Valley, watch for the parking lot on the right before the tunnel.

people at edge of a parking lot with view beyond

This view is worth stopping for even if you are running late and even if there is rain or snow falling. The Yosemite Fund (now called the Yosemite Conservancy) and the National Park Service funded a remodel in 2008 with educational exhibits, expanded handicap accessible viewing area and improved traffic flow. Thousands of people stop each day in the summer.

Google maps 360 degree street view at Tunnel View.

Webcam near Tunnel View located on a dome near the Wawona Tunnel:

https://www.nps.gov/customcf/webcam/dsp_webcam_image.cfm?id=81B464D8-1DD8-B71B-0B27F29DCD4CE913

More photos of the view from the parking lot at tunnel view:
photos below by Quang-Tuan Luong/terragalleria.com
, all rights reserved.

QT Luong Yosemite valley from tunnel winter snow: QT Luong valley from tunnel view winter fog: QT Luong Yosemite Valley from tunnel view: terragalleria Yosemite valley winter glorious pink sunset: terragalleria photo of Yosemite valley winter glorious pink sunset

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From Sentinel Dome , (a 2.4 mile round trip hike from the Glacier Point road),
Half Dome and other peaks

you can also Mount Watkins, Tressider Peak, Clouds Rest, Kuna Crest, Fletcher Peak, Vogelsang Peak, Mount Watkins, Cathedral peak, Ahwiyah Point, Quarter Domes, Little Yosemite Valley and Tenaya Canyon. Each of these is identified at:
https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/photosmultimedia/upload/sentineldome-key.jpg

A larger list of what you can see from Sentinel Dome includes, (not all of these are shown or identified in the photo above) Mt Hoffman, Mt Conness, Tenaya Canyon, Echo Peaks, Clouds rest, Half Dome, Vogelsang peak, Little Yosemite Valley, Mt Florence, Mt Lyell, Mt Clark, Gray peak, Mt Starr King, Red Peak, Merced Peak, Merced Pass, Gale Peak, Buena Vista Crest, Illilouette Ridge and Horse Ridge.

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Coming down to Yosemite Valley from Crane Flat on new Big Oak Flat road (the extension of Highway 120) on the right hand side, after the road to Foresta, but before the tunnels, there is a small parking lot with a view of El Capitan and Half Dome seemingly right next to each other

parking lot with Yosemite view beyond

El Capitan and Half Dome

It is where you can find the park service display with locations of photo taking opportunities:

multiple photos of Half Dome and a map

Google maps 365 degree street view of this parking lot and the view.

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– – – At the Ahwahnee Hotel

For descriptions of rooms and suites at the hotel, including the Presidential suite balcony you can see in this photo, see this map

hotel in foreground, Half Dome in background

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– – – You can also get just about the same photo as at the Ahwahnee meadow from Cook’s Meadow,

nps photo cook's meadow Jan 13 2010: national park service photo of cook's meadow in Yosemite valley with sparce snow taken on January 13 2010

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– – – And at Camp Four , from the parking lot, this shot after a winter storm:Half Dome covered in snow

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On the Four Mile Trail to Glacier point (see description of the trial near the end of this page)

Half Dome and forest
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– – – From the river, while rafting you will see Half Dome at various places:

Half Dome and river buoys:

and along the river was where Joseph Pennell created this:

half dome in black and white

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– – – At shuttle bus stop #11 you may see people on Sentinel Bridge near sunset,
photographers standing in snow on a bridge with Half Dome in their photo

hoping to get a photo of Half Dome with pink or gold color, and if the water is flat enough, the reflection in the Merced River, as in the NPS photo below:

NPS photo of Half Dome with a reflection in river,

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– – –Little Yosemite Valley
Hiking along this trail, (or if you camp overnight at Little Yosemite Valley on this trail) you will have a view of the backside of Half Dome:
back of half dome with trees in foreground

and further up the trail from Little Yosemite Valley to Half Dome and the cables route up, here is a view from the trail:

side view of Half Dome

Backpacking advice includes details about getting a permit to hike and climb up the Half Dome cables.

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– – – From Dinner Ledge on Washington Column

small tent and sleeping bags on cliff with Half Dome beyond

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– – – from Mount Watkins you can see the sub-dome and the cables route (upper left portion of Half Dome in the photo below)

mountian peaks

See Mount Watkins in relation to Half Dome at this photo: https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/photosmultimedia/upload/sentineldome-key.jpg

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– – – From North Dome , as shown in this NPS photo with a insert of people on the top:

Half Dome from North Dome with inset of people on the top

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– – – From the trail to upper Yosemite Fall you can see the fall and Half Dome:

upper Yosemite Falls and Half Dome from a trail

and can pose your group on Columbia Rock:

people sitting on a large rock with Half Dome in Background

After ascending the Yosemite Falls trail, hikers can continue on to Eagle Peak, 12.6 miles (20.2 km) round trip, elevation gain: 3,770 feet (1150 m) in the direction of El Capitan. Here the view of Half Dome from the top of Eagle Peak:

rows of peaks

Hiking farther, the top of El Capitan is a total 15.4 mile (24.8 km) round trip, with 3,800 feet (1,160 m) elevation gain. Here the view of Half Dome from the top of El Capitan :

person sitting on El Capitan summit looking towards peaks beyond

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– – – From the top of Half Dome (the man at the left is standing at the top edge):

NPS photo of the view from the top of Half Dome down to Yosemite valley:

person at top edge of Half Dome, and valley view beyond

And the view of the top:

top of a dome

These photos are from backpacking advice, which includes info about getting a Half Dome cables use permit.

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– – –from an airplane

Two NPS aerial views of Half Dome (in both of these the cables side is not showing):

view from airplane
close up view from airplane

line of bright yellow bubbles

At the main Yosemite Valley visitor center at free shuttle bus stops 5 and 9,

you can see this display, showing Half Dome from above and the trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls (and on towards the top of Half Dome), on the right:

section of raised relief map

Can’t make it to the Visitor Center? You can buy a Half Dome tshirt, poster or art work online from the Yosemite Conservancy https://shop.yosemite.org/

a strip of Yosemite granite

The Yosemite Assn used to have a page of photo tips from photographer Michael Frye which included:

“November, December, and January are the best months to photograph Half Dome and El Capitan. From late afternoon until sunset, low-angle sunlight highlights the texture on the face of Half Dome. Late in the day, El Capitan is also flushed with warm light.”

a narrow band of sunset reflected on the water

and see places to take photos of Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park (with maps)

Places to take photos of Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park (with maps)

Places to take photos of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, (with maps)

Places to take photos of Staircase Falls in Yosemite National Park

stones forming a wall
Selfies can be great, OR dangerous. They were just taking a selfie.

Using a drone for your photography is illegal in Yosemite National park. See an index of rules and regulations webpages.

Yosemite trail conditions info is at: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildcond.htm

a narrow band of sunset clouds

The most current route map for the free Yosemite Valley shuttle bus is in the Yosemite Guide newspaper https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm , which you will be offered a copy of as you enter the park, or can print in advance.

It looks something like this when there is no road construction, rock slides, excess snow affecting the times/routes:

(Map below courtesy of NPS)

map of Yosemite valley shuttle bus stops

Hiking Advice has HIKING SECRETS and etiquette including hiking in the heat, preventing and/or dealing with blisters, logistics of hiking, a day hike gear list, Half Dome hiking advice, winter hiking and the answer to the question: When is the best time of day to cross a mountain stream?

Backpacking advice includes details about getting a permit to hike and climb up the Half Dome cables.

Videos about Yosemite: https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/photosmultimedia/index.htm

Yosemite webcams: https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm

thin line of various colors of rocks

    To hike to Glacier Point via the Four Mile trail

(4.8 miles one way, 3,200 foot elevation gain), not open at all or all the way in winter, “when partially closed, only the lower three miles (5 km) are open to the gate below Union Point.” There is very little parking at the trailhead, but you can use the Yosemite Falls day use parking lot at shuttle stop #7 and take a short walk across the river at Swinging Bridge and slightly south/west on the main road to the trailhead. (This would be faster than using the summer only El Capitan shuttle.)

map showing part of east Yosemite Valley

A Google street 360 degree view from Glacier Point down to Vernal and Nevada falls, and across to Half Dome.

topographical type map showing cliffs, trail, road

Read more at the park service page: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/fourmiletrail.htm

People who want to get a bus ride from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point and back to Yosemite Valley

OR a bus ride up to Glacier Point and hike back down the Four Mile trail or the trail past Illilouette, Nevada and Vernal Falls,

can do so in months when the Glacier Point road is open. The road has opened anywhere from April 14 to July 1, depending on snow pack. Book a ride on the Glacier Point tour, most years leaving 8:30 a.m. from the Lobby entrance to Yosemite Lodge, free shuttle bus stop 8 http://www.travelyosemite.com/things-to-do/guided-bus-tours/

This photo / map of the Four Mile trail from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point is on a display in front of the Yosemite valley main Visitor Center (free shuttle bus stop #5, across the street from stop #9):

map with trails, topography

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bear walking along fallen tree
The Yosemite National Park rangers would like you to call them if you see a bear in Yosemite,
no matter where it is or what it is doing,
at 1 (209) 372-0322.

If you can, in all the excitement, try to notice if the bear has a tag (usually on the ear), the color of the tag and if possible, the number on it (the tag is large enough that with a telephoto you should be able to read the number).

bear with ear tag

NPS bear tracks: bearlogo: from the Keep Bears Wild program NPS bear tracks:

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See also an index to over a dozen park webpages with park laws, rules, regulations and policies.

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Drivers should note that there are sections of road in Yosemite Valley with two lanes (usually) in the same direction, with the right lane ONLY for the free shuttle buses, ambulances, ski bus, commercial vehicles with ten or more passengers. The NPS says: “The bus lane ensures emergency vehicles can respond to incidents when traffic is backed up and provides preference for mass transit.”

Parking and traffic jams in Yosemite valley tips and tricks has the above advice, with maps of each of the three major day-use parking lots, with advice to help you NOT get a Yosemite National Park traffic or parking ticket, and not contribute to preventable traffic backups. And some details of where you can’t park in Yosemite, or can’t park without a permit.

sign that says camp 4 parking permit required 24 hours

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Hotel, cabin and tent cabin choices in Yosemite valley are at: Yosemite Valley accommodations


Restaurants, cafeterias, coffee bars, pizza, grocery stores are at: Yosemite valley restaurants