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By Shannon Hickey
Photo credit: Pixabay

Yosemite may be famous for its valley, but beyond the valley walls, the park is home to innumerable craggy peaks and countless rounded domes. Whilst many are located in the far reaches of the wilderness, here is a list of our top 5 epic peaks that you can send and be back to your car in time for dinner!

Epic Peaks #1: Clouds Rest

At almost 10,000 feet and looking down on the summit of Half Dome to Yosemite Valley, if you only have time to bag one epic peak in Yosemite, it’s hard to go past Clouds Rest.

The hike starts at the Sunrise trailhead near Tenaya Lake along Tioga Road. Parking and bear lockers are available. This is a strenuous hike, approximately 12.5 miles return and 3,500 feet in total elevation gain. Tioga Road is open seasonally from approximately late-May to late-October, depending on the winter snowpack.

Clouds Rest is best hiked in summer from mid-June to September. The Tenaya Creek crossing at the beginning of the trail can be flooded and challenging to cross on big snow years into June. Late-September and October can bring afternoon thunderstorms to the high country. The summit of Clouds Rest is very exposed and should not be attempted in bad weather.

Epic Peaks #2: North Dome

From the Yosemite Valley floor, North Dome is a strikingly round and prominent dome rising above the Royal Arches. Most will be happy to admire it from the valley floor but for those up to the challenge, the summit rewards you with unbelievable views of the Clark Range, the face of Half Dome, and up Tenaya Canyon to Clouds Rest and beyond to Yosemite’s high country.

There are a couple of different ways to summit North Dome in a day. By far the “easiest,” although still a strenuous 9 miles and 2,000 feet of total elevation gain, is to start at Porcupine Creek trailhead along Tioga Road. The trailhead is located about a mile and a half east of the campground and has parking, bear lockers, and a toilet. Tioga Road is open seasonally from approximately late-May to late-October, depending on the winter snowpack.

If Tioga Road is not open, you can start your hike at the Mirror Lake->Snow Creek trailhead in Yosemite Valley. However, this will turn your hike into an extremely strenuous 21 miles with more than 5,700 feet of elevation gain.


Epic Peaks #3: Sentinel Dome

While not an epic peak as such, Sentinel Dome is one of the only rocks on this list that can be summited in less than a day, leaving enough time for more adventure or that long drive to your next destination! Sentinel Dome has views across Yosemite Valley of Yosemite Falls and El Capitan, the profile of Half Dome and Clouds Rest, and out to Yosemite’s high country, the Cathedral and Clark Ranges. On a clear day you might even glimpse the coastal range!

This hike starts at the Taft Point parking area along the Glacier Point Road. It is one of the shortest and least steep hikes to still summit an epic peak in Yosemite so you may even have time to hike the dome and then drive to Glacier Point to enjoy a sunset over the park. The hike is approximately 2.2 miles return with around 500 feet total elevation gain, with most of this the final push as you approach the summit.

Glacier Point Road is open seasonally from approximately late-May to late-October, depending on the winter snowpack. In the winter months, Glacier Point Road becomes a groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trail. Feeling ambitious? Skiing to Sentinel Dome is an almost 20-mile ski with over 2,100 feet of total elevation gain.

So many epic peaks to send can be found near Tuolumne Meadows as shown with this green meadow and mountains in the distance

Epic peaks are readily available during the summer months from Tioga Road.

Epic Peaks #4: Mount Dana

At 13,061 feet, Mount Dana is the second highest mountain in Yosemite and one of only three 13ers in the park!

The trail to the summit of Mt Dana starts just outside the east entrance of Yosemite National Park at Tioga Pass. The hike is relatively short at ~5 miles return, but very steep with over 3,100 feet total elevation gain. Due to it’s elevation, snow can linger on the trail well into the summer months and hikers should be aware of late season thunderstorms in September and October. The best time to hike this trail is July and August.

Lucky hikers in the early summer may catch a glimpse of the Sky Pilots: a wildflower endemic to the Sierra Nevada that only grows in very specific high elevation areas like Mt Dana. Tioga Road is open seasonally from approximately late-May to late-October, depending on the winter snowpack.

Epic Peaks #5: Lembert Dome

If you have driven through Tuolumne Meadows, you will certainly recognize Lembert Dome. You may have even stopped for lunch at the picnic area at the base. The uniquely shaped dome is not only a favorite for climbers, but is a short, day-hike with 360 degree views over Tuolumne Meadows.

One of the shorter hikes on our list, the trail ascends 750 feet of total elevation over ~2.2 miles return. The trail starts at the Dog Lake parking area, crosses Tioga Road and then splits from the Dog Lake trail to turn west toward Lembert Dome. Start at the Dog Lake parking area and take the Dog Lake trail until it splits west toward Lembert Dome. Tioga Road is open seasonally from approximately late-May to late-October, depending on the winter snowpack.


A permit is not required for any of the above day hikes in epic peaks in Yosemite. However, if you want to turn any of these hikes into an overnight adventure, a wilderness permit is required.

If you have questions about an overnight adventure in the Yosemite Wilderness, please reach out to our Wilderness Reservations team using our contact form.


On your next adventure to Yosemite, join us for one of our art classes, naturalist walks, or Outdoor Adventures in the park! Most of our art classes and Outdoor Adventures include your peak hours/day-use reservation for entry to the park during 2024 peak seasonBook your experience now before spots fill up!

Photo of High Sierra mountains and meadow by Gretchen Roecker