Rock Formations in Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley as seen from the trail between Taft Point and Sentinel Dome
Yosemite Valley as seen from the trail between Taft Point and Sentinel Dome.

Over eons, rivers and glaciers somehow carved 3,000 feet into solid granite to create Yosemite Valley. The nuances of the Valley form spectacular rock formations, for which Yosemite Valley is famous.

Visitors all year can gaze up from the Valley floor to appreciate the enormity of it all. During summer (or for those willing to do an overnight ski trip in winter), the view from Glacier Point provides a perspective from above.


Snow covered Half Dome

Half Dome is perhaps the most recognized symbol of Yosemite. Rising nearly 5,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is one of the most sought-after landmarks in Yosemite. Some people even hike or rock-climb to the top!

You can see Half Dome throughout much of eastern Yosemite Valley, including on the road between Yosemite Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge and roads near Curry Village. Mirror Lake, while not really a lake, is a popular place to see Half Dome from up close. It's a two-mile round-trip walk on a paved trail with a 6.6% to 10.6% grade. (Cars displaying an accessibility placard can drive to near Mirror Lake; see the park's accessibility guide for details.)

El Capitan rises above the Valley floor
El Capitan, rising over 3,000 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley, is a favorite for experienced rock climbers. El Capitan is opposite Bridalveil Fall and is best seen from the roads in western Yosemite Valley, including Tunnel View, Bridalveil Fall area, and El Capitan Meadow.
Lower and Middle Cathedral Rock loom over snow covered meadow

Cathedral Rocks and Spires form the eastern side of the canyon through which Bridalveil Creek flows. Some people think these rocks, just opposite of El Capitan, are even more impressive than El Capitan!

You can see these formations from the turnout at El Capitan Meadow.

Three Brothers, seemingly stacked atop each other

The Three Brothers are located just east of El Capitan. It is made up of Eagle Peak (the uppermost "brother"), and Middle and Lower Brothers.

You can see the Three Brothers from Southside Drive or the Merced River just east of Cathedral Beach Picnic Area.

Sentinel Rock with alpenglow and snow

Sentinel Rock, like a sentry, overlooks Yosemite Valley, along the opposite side of the Valley From Yosemite Falls.

You can see Sentinel Rock from the road near Lower Yosemite Fall or by walking on the wheelchair accessible trails in nearby Cook's Meadow.

Snow clings to Glacier Point apron

Glacier Point is most famous for the view you can see from it, but the Glacier Point cliff itself is quite impressive.

You can see Glacier Point while driving to The Ahwahnee or, more spectacularly, from Curry Village.


Last updated: July 15, 2019

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