I spent this past weekend in Yosemite Valley, also known as the Disneyland of National Parks. About 4 million people visit Yosemite every year and it often feels like they are all in the Valley at the same time. This is not the way I like to enjoy the outdoors, but the charm and appeal of the Valley rarely keeps me away for long. I love to visit in the fall when the trees are colorful, and I really love to visit in the winter when a fresh snow has blanketed the valley in white. Luckily, my favorite seasons in the valley correspond to a slightly lower tourist density.

Trip Report

Turtleback Dome view of Half Dome
Turtleback Dome view of Half Dome

Having done nearly every mile of trail out of the Valley (and several of them multiple times) I’ve been wanting to take my high country sense of adventure to the Valley floor and explore some areas that are off the beaten track. This past weekend I visited three such places and I’ll be featuring them throughout the week. A mere stone’s throw (or, um, rockfall’s tumble) from the hordes of people, I found myself in complete solitude, enjoying the classic sights of Yosemite without the throngs of crowds.

This entry is about Turtleback Dome, a really simple and easy location to visit that will get you a classic view without tour buses getting in the way. You may know Turtleback Dome from its web cams, but it’s a much nicer place to visit in real life.

You can access Turtleback Dome either by parking at the point where the access road meets Wawona Road (41) – see map below – or parking at the paved shoulder pullout just west of the tunnel (Rostrum parking, if you’re a climber). Either walk up the access road about 3/4 of a mile until you reach the top, or head straight up through the brush and up the steep granite from the Rostrum Parking. Aim for the large boulder you see at the top.

Turtleback Dome Erratic
Turtleback Dome Erratic

From the top of Turtleback Dome you are treated to views of Half Dome and the Valley below. It’s a similar perspective as Tunnel View but you won’t be fighting for space to get a photo. Look to the north for a view across to Big Oak Flat road and the waterfalls tumbling down Tamarack Creek.

There are several large granite boulders on the top of Turtleback Dome. Although we didn’t see anyone climbing, evidence of regular bouldering activity was clear – lots of chalk marks.

This was a quick and nice ‘leg stretch’ on our way into Yosemite Valley and a perfect way to kick off a weekend of “Yosemite Valley Solitude Hikes”.

Map and GPS Tracks

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  1. Tweets that mention Solitude in Yosemite Valley Hike #1: Turtleback Dome | Calipidder -- Topsy.com

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  2. Ralph Alcorn

    Just back from Yosemite ourselves, a few hours ago. The fall colors are stunning this year. We took the 4 mile trail up to Glacier Point – snow at the top, but spectacular views.

  3. San Francisco Hiking

    By the way, how are you able to get the google terrain mapped out? Is it through some API? I’d love to do that on my site as well.

    Thanks in advance.

  4. Bob

    We just checked out Turtleback Dome this weekend; very nice!

    We took the alternate route up the fairly easy granite slab from the parking lot that’s directly to the north of TB Dome (me, another dad, and three kids aged 5, 6, and 9). We descended via the service road and some slightly bushwhacky XC (and the last 1/4 mile on the side of the road) to get back to the starting point. Probably not suitable for all 5-year-olds, but all of the kids with us (including the 5) had a blast scrambling up the low-angle granite. And the view wasn’t bad. Climbing Turtleback Dome was the highlight of the weekend for my kid!

    One interesting thing we noticed, during the bushwhack return around TB’s west side: Amazing quantities of bear poop; dozens of berry-filled mounds just within that mile or so.

    Oh, and I checked out Indian Arch a few weeks ago (on a recovery day the day after climbing Broderick and attempting Grizzly, oh man, talk about bushwhacking), so that’s two hikes you’ve turned me on to. Thanks!

    1. calipidder

      Awesome, glad you enjoyed it! 

  5. Sharie Paul

    We took this hike as a little detour on our way home to the Bay area after a work weekend at our property in M’posa.  Entering the park is a breeze in late afternoon, of course; there were no others on the trail this lovely Saturday in late June.  We took the service road both ways, enjoying glimpses into lupine-filled dells and a variety of other wild flowers all along the way.  Had a nice little picnic at the top after exploring the assorted structures (both natural + man-made) scattered about; reveling in the glorious views at every turn.  The excursion afforded us the gift of a quick and much-needed park immersion, and the chance to experience first-hand the perspective of one of our favorite webcams!

    1. calipidder

      Glad you enjoyed it! When I was there it was all about the fall colors – I’d love to see it with wildflowers!

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