Taft Point Yosemite – A Hiking & Photography Guide

August 4, 2021
Taft Point | Yosemite Wedding Photographer | Taft Point Wedding

If you’re looking for a memorable yet easy Yosemite hike with multiple stunning, gasp-worthy, cliff-edge views, then Taft Point should be next up on your list.

Hanging 3,500 feet above Yosemite Valley, this exposed rock makes for incredible photos, a beautiful hike, and an experience that’ll likely be the highlight of your Yosemite trip. Just over 2 miles of easy hiking leads you to one of the most dramatic landscapes in California, popular for elopements, hikers, and photographers alike. If you’re planning on exploring Taft Point, read on for photos, maps, and information.

Here, I’ll lay out:

  • About Taft Point – an overview
  • How to get there and the hiking trail
  • What to bring
  • How to have a Taft Point Wedding
  • When to go
  • What photographers should bring

Taft Point hike Yosemite view

About Taft Point

Taft Point Yosemite is a beautiful hike with jaw-dropping views over Yosemite Valley. The parking lot to this rocky vista is located just a few miles from Glacier Point on Glacier Point Road, and though there are quite a few hikes in the area, this classic hike is the best way to end your day.

Why does everyone love Taft Point?

  • First, it has epic views.
  • Second, it’s amazing at sunset. The chances that you’ll see a sunset wedding or sunset elopement here in Yosemite is high, and a Taft Point elopement is one of the most coveted permits in the country (for real).
  • Third, the hike is easy. Even if you’ve had a long day, this relatively flat hike is under 2.5 miles long

I hate using words like “quintessential” or “ultimate,” but if I had to say to do one hike in Yosemite, this would probably be it. You’ll remember this particular view forever methinks, and when you’re there, it’ll probably get your toes tingling.

Named after—you guessed it—former President Howard Taft, this place was given its name after John Muir and President Taft visited the area. Is there photo proof? I don’t believe so, but this is what legend says so we’ll go with it.

Getting There + Starting Your Taft Point Hike

You’ll take Glacier Point Rd. (off of Wawona Rd.) nearly to the end, going about 13 miles. If you’re starting in Yosemite Valley, you’ll wind up past Tunnel View, go through the tunnel, and continue for nearly 10 miles. Then, you’ll take a let to get onto Glacier Point Road. From Oakhurst, you’ll drive up 41 (which turns into Wawona), pass through the entrance, then make a right onto Glacier Point Rd.

Yosemite National Park Taft Point Glacier Point Rd.

From most points in and even out of the park, it takes over an hour. 70 minutes from inside the park, and 90 minutes from just outside the park.

Once you’ve traveled on Glacier Point Rd. for 13 miles, you’ll see cars and a small sign saying Taft Point / Sentinel Dome, and this is the place to park. Parking is quite limited, especially for sunset, but luckily there’s a lot of overflow parking on the side of the road and at small spots down the road.

There’s one bathroom at the trailhead. There’s no cell phone service here (like most of Glacier Point Road), but you may get a smidgen of service while at the point itself.

There is only a tiny ground sign with directions to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome (in the opposite direction) in Yosemite National Park, and it’s a bit hidden. Know where the trail is before you head out to drive there. It’s simple, but still, you’d be surprised. Better safe than sorry, right? Here’s a very basic map from AllTrails.

Taft Point map

To get to Taft Point, start at the bathroom, head straight down the hill so you’re perpendicular with the parking lot, and you’ll come to a bit of a clearing and a sign (if you can see it. Basically, you’ll go right to go to Sentinel Dome, and left to go to Taft Point.

You’ll know you’re on track when you’re walking on the dirt path for a minute, head into the pine trees, and cross a very small stream of water.

Hiking taft point Glacier Point

It’s quite a nice hike, winding through trees, lichen, patches of ferns and cattails, and great views of the moon (even during the daytime!).

This easy hike is just 2.4 miles round trip, but you’ll probably be running back and forth around viewpoints at the end of the hike, so your step tracker will likely register it as even more.

When you start your decent towards Taft near the end of the trail (you’ll know, because you’ll emerge from the woods, come into a clearing, and start downhill), be careful of all the fissures (pictured below). These are sudden, fairly hidden cracks in the ground that you can come upon quite out of the blue, and you do not want to trip over these—they go straight down.

Yosemite Taft Point fissures

Once you see the small railing, enjoy looking out from it. This, however, is not the end of the trail. To your left is the best viewpoint for people on the edge of the rock, as well as for daredevil couples getting married. To get there—this is the ACTUAL Taft Point—just walk on the many trails through the brush and then carefully step onto the rocks below. There are more viewpoints here, all around the point.

***NOTE: A word of warning: DO NOT BRING YOUNG CHILDREN ON THIS HIKE. Any kids who are old enough to walk but not old enough to understand heights should not go on this hike. Why? Taft Point Yosemite is what we call a liability waiting to happen. People have, in fact, died by falling over the edge accidentally, so trust me: This is not a hike to do with kids between the ages of 1 and 10. Please use judgement with this.

What to Bring

There are a few things you always want to bring while hiking, and a few extra things to bring while hiking Taft Point:

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Head lamp
  • Hiking boots or close-toed hiking sandals to protect your feet from venomous creatures
  • A camera or phone
  • Your Yosemite day pass, Annual National Parks Pass/ticketed entry, and/or your Yosemite wedding permit
  • Layers of clothing, since the wind can pick up suddenly

Always have a head lamp or flashlight with you, and always have a layer of clothes. If you’ve never hiked in California, know that it can be 102 degrees Fahrenheit when you start, and within two hours it can easily drop 40 degrees.

A Taft Point Wedding

Taft Point is an incredible point for elopements, engagement photos, and weddings (often photographed by me here at Kathryn Cooper Weddings). If you’re at Taft Point at sunset, chances are good that you’ll see a sunset wedding or elopement here. Because of the epic nature of this spot, it’s extremely popular for elopements and wedding photos. In fact, getting a Yosemite wedding permit, let alone a Taft Point wedding permit, to say your vows here is not the easiest thing to do, especially in recent years. That said, a lucky few do get it (only 1 per day is allowed to get married at Taft for sunset, and 1 for sunrise), though others who have permits for weddings in Yosemite are certainly allowed to use the area for photos (just not their vows).

I love capturing Taft Point and Glacier Point weddings, and as a Yosemite wedding photographer, photographing here is just THE BEST. Sunrise at Glacier Point is equally awesome, but that’s for another article.

If you have your Yosemite wedding permit (https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/weddings.htm) and are having your engagement photos or wedding at Taft Point, you’ll want to leave the parking lot by 5pm. Couples who book me as their Yosemite elopement photographer generally have me for a minimum of 3 hours (and often all day, or split for sunset/sunrise), because I help plan and know how long each area generally takes for cool photos, first looks, hiking, and more. Yes, I’ll help you plan your Yosemite National Park elopement!

As far as footwear goes: It may be a pretty easy hike for anyone who goes hiking frequently (though you will be huffing on the way back up for about 10 minutes), but you still need close-toed shoes, preferably hiking boots, for your Taft Point hike. Why? There are scorpions and rattlesnakes. Hiking boots will protect you. Wedding flats will not. You really, really do not want to a.) get your wedding shoes dirty; b.) be sore or accidentally twist an ankle on the root-laden, rocky trail; and c.) step on something that could bite you.

At the last Taft Point sunset wedding I photographed in July 2021, we departed at around 8:30 pm (sunset). Just a few minutes in, my bride stepped on a scorpion on the hike up at night. I happened to be behind her and see it with my headlamp. Thank the Lord she was wearing hiking boots and not thin shoes! This little bugger was a good 3” long, and I snapped a bad photo with my cell phone of it.

When to Go

Taft Point in Yosemite National Park is only open from May through October, because that’s the only time Glacier Point Road—the no-outlet road and only road going through the upper section south of Yosemite Valley—is open.

Any time of day is great to visit here—and it really is worth it any time of day—but Taft Point is best at sunset. Why? The angles of the light, starting with the sun peaking through the trees and hitting the green moss, to the awesome purples and pinks of the sun setting, are just awesome. You can’t get much better than staring down into the Yosemite National Park’s famous valley with the colors of the setting sun around you. El Capitan is across the way, Yosemite Falls is there if you’re in the spring, but there’s no view of Half Dome from Taft. And when you start to hike back up, the sunset colors will deepen into brilliant reds and oranges. It’s…amazing. Also, bring your headlamp.

***IMPORTANT: Taft Point and Glacier Point, and all of the points of interest in the area will be closed for all of 2022 and possibly into 2023, for road repairs. The only way to get there will be via a [minimum] 9-mile round-trip hike from the ground floor—that is, Yosemite Valley. The hike will be steep up and steep down, but this will be the absolute only way to reach Taft Point, Glacier Point, and anything else on the road.

Taft Point, Yosemite National Park Photography Tips

The hike to the point is pretty easy and fairly flat 90% of the way. You can definitely load up on photography gear if that’s your thing, but honestly, you really only need a wide-angle and a zoom, and can get away with bringing just one body. Despite being a full-time professional photographer who feels lonely without her tripod, I have never found the need for one here. If you want to hike out at sunset and stay in hopes of shooting the Milky Way, however, then of course bring your tripod. Videographers will also need one (naturally)

One piece of gear that definitely helps here is a graduated ND or polarizing filter. You’ll be dealing with blown-out skies and sun flares along with a very dark valley, so being able to have a light/darker area that lessens reflections will help in-camera.

Another photography tip for any time of day at Taft Point Yosemite: Watch your framing. It’s easy to try to place the top of the mountain in the middle of the frame, or the middle of the rock outcropping in the center of the frame, but you will find yourself with too much sky. Use that rule of thirds!

Taft Point yosemite couple eloping on rock face

***NOTE: Out of all the place to watch where you’re going, this is it. If you’re like most photographers, your eye is often mostly glued to the viewfinder, and you may stumble occasionally. Taft Point is NOT the place to stumble or trip, as people have gone over the edge and died while taking photos. Please be careful and watch your surroundings with extreme caution.

Thinking of getting married? You can fill out my simple inquiry form here, or email me directly at info@KathrynCooperWeddings.com.

If you’ve been to Taft Point, what was your very first experience like? And if you go for the first time in 2021, let me know what your experience was like in the comments.

So there you go! Enjoy your epic Taft Point Yosemite National Park experience, be safe, and treat the area with respect (pack out what you pack in, and leave no trace). Let’s make sure this area stays pristine, safe, and stunning for generations to come!

Taft Point Yosemite National Park | Taft Point | Taft Point Hike

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What a great post for couples looking to have an adventure elopement at Taft Point. One of my favorite locations!

LOVE this blog! It prepares you so well for an amazing adventure like this one. A sunset elopement there sounds magical, and the way you captured the couple popping the champagne is just awesome.

I love all the helpful details! I want to plan a trip now!!

wow everytime i see your posts i want to travel. so many great locations!

Soooooo gorgeous! I would love to visit Taft Point, and your resource is super helpful. Your photography is spectacular- the tones make me feel like I’m there. Thank you!

I’m so glad! My natural + colorful approach is definitely supposed to make you feel like you’re right there, and I hope you get to visit soon!

Wow all your photos are amazing! All these tips are really good! I have never been to Yosemite so when I go, I will for sure use some of your tips.

Love this real info and tips! In between the actual drive time, the fissures, etc. – love this detailed and realistic guide so someone can easily imagine themselves going to this beautiful place themselves. 🙂 Love this and gorgeous photos!

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Yosemite, but definitely need to make Taft Point a stop next time I head to that gorgeous National park!