Olmsted Point Overlook, plus a hike!

Women sitting on a stone wall enjoying views of the Yosemite Valley and Half Dome in the distance

Olmsted Point Overlook is an easily accessible pull-off from Tioga Pass Road that offers spectacular views of Clouds Rest, Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon. You can also enjoy a short hike to escape the crowds and experience better views of Half Dome and the surrounding area.

In this guide:

A view of the scenic viewpoint at Olmsted Point
Scenic view area

Olmsted Point Overlook Information

LocationOlmsted Point, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389
Parking lot37.8112022, -119.4840414 (opens in google maps)
Entrance FeeEntrance into Yosemite National Park, $35 for a 7-day pass, or the annual America the Beautiful Pass ($80) is accepted. (Prices subject to change).
Best time to visit
Late July & August. Tioga Pass Road is typically open late Spring to early Fall, however it’s highly dependent on the snowpack. See historic opening / closing dates here.
AmenitiesInformation signs, scenic views, parking
Rating5.0 Mooses (including the hike)

History of Olmsted Point

Olmsted Point is a dedication to the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and his son, Frederick Jr. It was named after them in 1961 coinciding with the date that Tioga Pass Road opened to automobile traffic.

Information sign board describing the origins of Olmsted Point

Olmsted senior gained notoriety for his work as the father of American landscape architecture and is best known for his design of New York’s Central Park. He was also the chairman of the first commission to manage Yosemite Valley and recommended protecting Yosemite’s scenery and wildlife.

Frederick Jr. maintained a lifelong commitement to conservation and played a key role in protecting Yosemite. Not only did he serve on the Yosemite Advisory Board, he contributed to the language used in the legislation for establishing the National Park Service in 1916.

How can you get to Olmsted Point?

The easiest way to get to Olmsted Point is to drive, with the closest entrance being on Tioga Pass Road. You can also reach Olmsted from each of the other entrances of the park, though the distance is greater.

Another option is to hop on the Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle which covers the area between Tioga Pass and Olmsted Point. This shuttle doesn’t always operate, so be sure to check here for availability. You’ll still need a car to reach the Tioga Pass Road entrance.

Visitors enjoying the Olmsted Point scenic overlook
Parking area at Olmsted Point

Lastly you can take the Yosemite Valley-Tuolumne Meadows Hikers Bus which makes a stop at Olmsted Point. You can read more here.

We recommend driving (regardless of which entrance you come in), as it allows ultimate flexibility for your day (unless it’s a holiday weekend, then we would take the bus).

What to expect at Olmsted Point (our experience)

We arrived at Olmsted Point around 2:00 p.m. on a weekday. We found the parking area around half full and plenty of visitors enjoying the scenic views.

If you’re just looking to stop for a quick peak, the viewing area is just steps from the parking lot. You won’t be disappointed!

Half Dome seen in the distance surrounded by Tenaya Canyon
Enjoying the views

You can also enjoy an informational plaque and display about the area.

After soaking in the views and enjoying the company of the large ravens which frequent the area, we decided to explore the short hiking trail.

Large black raven looking into the camera resting on a stone wall
Raven seen at Olmsted Point

Olmsted Point Hiking Trail Information

Trail DescriptionOut and back
Round trip mileage~0.25 miles
Average Time<30 minutes
DifficultyEasy
Elevation gain<50 feet

Interactive Trail Map

The unassuming trail starts to the left of the main viewing area and heads down a stone lined path.

Man preparing to walk down a paved path lined by large rocks
Stone lined Olmsted Point hiking trail

It’s no wonder many don’t venture down as there were no signs stating the distance or what you will find along the trail.

Hikers coming up a winding trail with mountains in the distance
Hikers coming up the path

The path is short, around 0.25 miles round trip and you’ll soon reach the end of the paved area. After that portion ends, the path will enter some trees and go through some boulders.

Man along the Olmsted Point hiking trail

Along the way, you may run into one of these cute lizards.

A speckled fence lizard blending in on a rocky surface
Fence Lizard

We did see one trail marker leading to the scenic overlook.

Sign reading "scenic overlook 100 yards" along the Olmsted Point hiking trail

As you near the end of the trail, you’ll notice the trees open up and you’ll catch a glimpse of Tenaya Canyon in the distance.

Man walking up a trail lined with large boulders and trees
Half Dome seen in the distance from the Olmsted Point hiking trail
Nearing the trail end

Once you’ve reached the end, there is a large open rock area with views of Half Dome:

Man enjoying views of Half Dome
Enjoying the view

And a zoomed in photo shot of this:

Half Dome on a sunny day seen from Olmsted Point
Half Dome

If you bring binoculars or have a camera with a zoom lens, you can see hikers scaling up the famous Half Dome cables.

A zoomed in Half Dome with hikers traversing up the cables
Hikers scaling up the cables at Half Dome

This is what it looks like from the actual Half Dome trail.

Hikers waiting to climb half dome
Hikers going up the Half Dome cables | Photo by: Unclekyky, CC BY-SA 3.0

Yikes! I think we’ll skip Half Dome, but we did enjoy a smaller cousin called Lembert Dome.

We noticed that few hikers decided to try out this trail, and after a while, we had the place to ourselves.

We enjoyed the views until thunderstorms started rolling in and decided to head back to the car.

Flat rock area with trees and ominous thunder clouds in the distance
Thunderstorms in the distance

Retrace your steps back the way you came and keep your eyes peeled for the White Lined Sphinx which are known to the frequent the area.

White Lined Sphinx enjoying a pink flower
White Lined Sphinx

Is hiking the trail at Olmsted Point worth it?

Rating: 5.0 Mooses

5 Mooses Rating

What we liked:

  • The scenic views of Half Dome and the surrounding Tenaya Canyon.
  • The short hike to better views of Half Dome and far less visitors.
  • Plenty of parking.
  • The huge black ravens hovering around the area.

What we didn’t like:

  • It can get quite busy, especially if you decide not to hike the short path to the additional views.
  • Weather can change extremely fast. The day we visited we had partially obstructed views of Half Dome and thunderstorms were moving in. Luckily the weather cleared up just long enough to get some amazing photos.

Verdict: If you’re driving through Tioga Pass, it’s worth a stop.

Practical info for your trip

Current trail conditions

  • Check NPS.gov for current closures or restrictions in Tioga Pass.
  • Check Alltrails for recent trail conditions.
  • Check the National Weather Service for temperature forecasts. Note, this is the closest weather station we could find near Olmsted Point.

What to bring

Be sure to check the weather conditions and pack appropriately. 

This is an extremely short hike and you probably won’t need to take anything with you. However, it’s always a best practice to take the 10 essentials with you on any hike, especially if you find yourself prone to exploring off trail. Who doesn’t enjoy that? We recommend bringing the following:

Standard Gear:

Special Items of note:

  • Hiking Boots or closed toe shoes – There were a lot of rocks on the trail. We recommend wearing either hiking boots or trail shoes with good grip on them.
  • Clothing – Be sure to bring appropriate clothing for rapidly changing conditions.  Weather can change extremely fast and we experienced thunderstorms during our visit.
  • Water / Snacks – There is no running water available at the trailhead. Bring water and snacks. The viewpoint at the end of the trail would make a great lunch spot.
  • Navigation – The trail was well marked and we didn’t use anything for this short hike, but you should always have a form of navigation on any hike you take.

Parking

There is plenty of parking at Olmsted Point. Even during a busy afternoon, you shouldn’t have to wait long (if at all) for a spot in the fairly large lot. Most visitors stop for a quick photo op and move on quickly. There was also room for larger busses or RVs.

Parking area at Olmsted Point
Parking Area (looking East)

Trailhead Amenities

There isn’t much at the trailhead other than a few informational signs about the area. We didn’t see any trash bins, bike racks, restrooms, or running water.

More info for your trip to Yosemite National Park

Lembert Dome Hike
Tioga Pass

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