Yosemite National park is a beautiful place and is even more spectacular at sunset. Yet given the geography of Yosemite, it can sometimes be hard to work out where the best sunset spots in Yosemite are. Is it best to get up high and watch the sunset from Glacier point or stay in the valley to see the sunset from Cook’s Meadow? This sunset guide to Yosemite will show you 8 amazing sunset spots for you to watch an amazing Yosemite sunset from!
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- List of Sunset Spots in Yosemite
- Tips for photographing the Yosemite Sunset
- Best time of year for the Yosemite Sunset
- Where to stay in Yosemite
List of the Best Places to watch the Sunset in Yosemite
Glacier Point Sunset
Glacier Point is one of the most famous and most spectacular viewpoints in Yosemite National park. The viewpoint towers almost 1km above the valley floor and enjoys panoramic views of the national park.
Glacier Point is said to be a spectacular Yosemite sunrise spot but the sunset from Glacier Point is just as rewarding. From Glacier Point, you can see other famous sites in Yosemite such as Half Dome, Clouds Rest and Yosemite Valley. If your visit to Yosemite is in spring or early summer you can also see several waterfalls from the viewpoint such as Yosemite Falls, Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall.
Whilst Glacier Point is an amazing place to watch the Yosemite Sunrise, please be aware that the road to the viewpoint shuts for half of the year. To reach Glacier Point you can drive along the Glacier Point Road from summer to November. This takes around 40 minutes. Alternatively, there is a bus which should be booked in advance. Yet through winter and spring, you can only reach Glacier Point by hiking and even then, the trail may be closed. If you do tackle the icy climb though, you will be rewarded with one of Yosemite’s best sunset points.
Another issue can be parking. Whilst warmer months means you can drive to this sunset spot, in peak season you may struggle to park! Therefore, please be aware that whilst this is an epic sunset spot in Yosemite, you will not be the only one enjoying it!
If you are visiting Yosemite at a time of year where the Glacier Point road is open, consider adding the Glacier Point sunset to your Yosemite sunset spots list.
Taft Point Sunset
Taft Point is another great sunset spot in Yosemite.
Taft Point was named after President Taft who visited the park in 1909. This point is wilder than Glacier Point as there are only railings at the highest point, nowhere else! Therefore, be careful, especially after sunset when it is dark!
From Taft Point, you can see the wonderful golden rays of sunset. Taft Point also rewards visitors with excellent views of El Capitan.
To reach Taft Point, you must hike just over a mile from the Taft Point Trailhead. The elevation gain is around 250 feet. The Taft Point trailhead is 5 minutes before the end of Glacier Point Road which is closed for half of the year. Therefore, this sunset spot is best enjoyed between June to November. If you are approaching Taft Point for the summer sunset, the trail begins unguarded from the sun so wear a sun hat. This hike only takes around 20 to 30 minutes from the trailhead. This is a great sunset spot in Yosemite national park. Just imagine yourself as a silhouette with that gorgeous sunset behind you.
Tunnel View Sunset
Tunnel View is one of the most photographed vistas in the world and is particularly spectacular at sunset!
Tunnel View is incredibly accessible. You can just park up and stroll across to the view. As it is so easy to reach, expect large crowds – especially around sunset.
If you do not mind sharing your Yosemite Sunset with lots of other visitors, this is a great spot to watch the sunset from. From Tunnel View, you can see the sunset on famous Yosemite features such as El Capitan and Half Dome. You can also see a wonderful waterfall known as Bridalveil Falls. The great thing about Bridalveil Falls is that, unlike many of the other waterfalls in the park, this waterfall occurs year-round! Tunnel View is, therefore, the perfect sunset spot whatever time you come to Yosemite. Although the sunset is said to be particularly beautiful in springtime when the Fall is at peak flow and the granite domes and covered in snow or mist.
We were there during November and felt blessed to see gorgeous pink winter skies. Photographers love the shoulder seasons as the moody storms and ominous clouds make for perfect features in photos.
Sentinel Dome Sunset
Sentinel Dome is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Yosemite National Park. Whilst you must walk just over a kilometre to reach this point you are rewarded with incredible 360-degree views.
The hike to Sentinel Dome is not difficult and slowly takes walkers upwards through trees and over granite rocks. Once you reach the giant dome, brace the wind and admire your incredible surroundings. You can see El Capitan, Half Dome, Basket Dome, North Dome and many other Sierra peaks in the distance. It offers uninterrupted views of the sunset. Also, as one must hike to reach this point, there are fewer visitors admiring the sunset than at Glacier Point.
Sentinel Dome is often cited as the best sunset in Yosemite as it has incredible views, few crowds and requires a little adventure to reach.
Bear in mind that to reach the trailhead you will need to drive up to Glacier Point. This road is shut for half of the year. Therefore, the best time of year to admire the sunset at Sentinel Dome is between June and October.
Cook’s Meadow Sunset
The sunset from Cook’s Meadow is one of the best places in Yosemite to enjoy the sunset from the valley floor. The sun hits the front of the Half Dome at sunset turning the white granite into various shades of orange or pink.
Cook’s Meadow is a pleasant spot in Yosemite National park. The meadow is surrounded by boardwalks, protecting the meadow floor. Depending on what time of year you visit the meadow may be green, golden or icy white. You can also reach Cook’s Meadow with the shuttle bus by getting off at either shuttle stop 11 or shuttle stop 6. The view from Sentinel Bridge is a popular spot to watch the Yosemite sunset on Cook’s Meadow.
The trail is also wheelchair accessible (when it is not covered in snow) and open to dogs on a lead meaning all can enjoy this sunset spot in Yosemite!
Clouds Rest Sunset
Clouds Rest is a Yosemite sunset spot which only the toughest hikers can enjoy.
In order to reach Clouds Rest, you will either have to hike 7 miles from the Tioga Pass Road or attempt the 9-mile trail from Happy Isles in Little Yosemite Valley.
If the hike does not deter you, you will be rewarded with epic views on a knife-edge ridge of rock known as an arête. The ridge formed when glacier eroded either side of the rock faces. The northwest face stands a mighty 1520m above Tenaya Creek!
The summit has 360-degree views rewarding hikers with an epic view of the Yosemite sunset. Be careful when you are descending back down though!
Clouds Rest is also a great sunrise spot and forms part of the sunrise Lakes Trail which is a round trip hike of 14.5 miles.
Mariposa Grove Sunset
A lesser-known sunset spot in Yosemite national park is the sunset in the Mariposa Grove.
The Mariposa Grove in Yosemite is a wonderful place in the south of the national park full of ancient tree giants. Its official name is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Whilst most people visit this part of Yosemite to see impressive trees, few of them stay for the sunset. What is interesting about this Yosemite sunset is that the trees frame the golden Californian sunrays beautifully. Especially in winter, the low sun shines bright orange illuminating the forest trees.
In order to watch the sunset in the Mariposa Grove, you should be near the California Tunnel tree. Do not walk back along the boardwalk but head to the dirt path in the forest instead. From there you can watch a spectacular Yosemite sunset. This is also one of the best sunset spots in Yosemite National park if you do not like crowds!
Whilst this Yosemite sunset only appears for a few days a year, the Firefall had to be included in the list of best sunset spots in Yosemite National park.
The Firefall is a spectacular natural phenomenon which only occurs in mid to late February. The Firefall is the sun hitting the Horsetail Fall at just the right angle to illuminate the flowing water. Yet even if you come at the right time of year, there is no guarantee you will see this illusive Yosemite sunset.
If there has not been enough melting snow or rain, there will not be enough water to feed the waterfall. If there was water year-round, it would be possible to see this phenomenon in autumn too. Yet the Horsetail Fall only drains an area of 30 acres, meaning you must check the snow and rain conditions before attempting to watch this Yosemite sunset.
The weather can also affect your Yosemite sunset spot in other ways. If it is raining, snowing or cloudy, the sun rays will not be strong enough to create the Firefall.
If you have managed to time your visit right, the water is following and the sun is shining, make sure you arrive early to find a good spot. The Horsetail Falls is situated on the Eastern face of El Capitan. You can see this from Northside Drive, the Merced River and Southside Drive. Hardcore photographers will spend the morning and early afternoon trying to find the perfect spot and will then stake their claim. Take a fold-up chair, find a good spot then wait for the sunset.
If you are looking to take photos of this illusive Yosemite sunset, make sure you bring a long lens. The Horsetail Fall starts 2000 feet above the valley floor. You will need a long lens to capture the Firefall. Also, make sure you bring a tripod to get crisp instead of blurry sunset photos.
The Firefall is a spectacular sunset phenomenon. Whilst you may not be looking at the glowing ball itself, its bright rays are beautifully illuminated in the waterfall. The Firefall is on many people’s bucket lists. Will you add it to your sunset in Yosemite list?
Tips for photographing the sunset in Yosemite National Park
Here are a few tips to help you capture the perfect Yosemite sunset on camera!
- Know what time the sunset is! – You will not be able to take epic photos of the sunset in Yosemite if you don’t know what time sunset will be!
- Check the weather – you need to know if a sunset is likely to happen or not. If not, there is no need to rush to one of these sunset locations.
- Bring a tripod – there is less lighting in the late afternoon, meaning a tripod will help you maximise the available light and avoid blurriness.
- Arrive early to get a good spot – It will not be fun trying to find a spot at Tunnel View Point if you arrive just before the sunset!
Best Time of year for the Yosemite Sunset
You can enjoy the sunset in Yosemite year-round! (As long as there is not complete cloud cover that is!)
While some of these Yosemite sunset spots listed are trickier to reach in the winter months such as Glacier Point, Taft Point, Sentinel Dome and Clouds Rest, you can enjoy Cook’s Meadow sunset and the Tunnel View sunset whatever time of year you go to Yosemite!
Springtime is often cited to be the best time of year to visit Yosemite as the waterfalls are in peak flow. Yet if you are looking to avoid the crowds, October and November are great times of year to visit Yosemite national park!
Hikers may enjoy a topdown viewpoint for sunset. If you fancy watching the Yosemite sunset from Glacier Point or Taft point, try to time your visit between May and October.
If you like your sunsets with some snowy scenery come in winter or early spring. You may even catch the illusive Firefall sunset!
Where to stay in Yosemite
After watching the sunset in Yosemite, you will not want to be driving home so why not stay in or around the park? Use the booking.com to see availability on the dates you will be arriving.
Would you like to watch the sunset in Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite is a gorgeous place to watch the sunset. Hopefully, this list has inspired you to pack your camera and chance the Yosemite sunset!
Let us know in the comments below where you would like to watch the sunset in Yosemite from. Or have we missed your favourite Yosemite sunset spot? Type it below and it we will add it to the Yosemite sunset spots list!