Sentinel Dome, and
5 miles (8 km)
While most visitors head to Yosemite Valley and spend their time looking up at the valley walls, you'll find when you travel Glacier Point Road that the views are just as impressive looking down over them. From this tour's vantage points more than 3,000 feet (900 meters) above the valley floor, cars in Yosemite Valley are visible (but just barely), and people are invisible to the naked eye. And while views from the valley don't go beyond the valley walls, from Glacier Point you can see not just the valley, but dozens of peaks miles beyond it.
If you're in shape, you can do this tour in an afternoon without working up too much of a sweat, but it's also fun to pack a lunch and spend a leisurely day at it.
Stop 1: Taft Point and the Fissures
This is a relatively short (just over 2 miles/3.5 km round trip) hike to a heart-stopping overlook with a sheer dropoff over the valley's south wall. If you've driven into Yosemite Valley and been knocked out by the towering immensity of El Capitan, you won't want to miss the chance to visit Taft Point and look down on it.
Stop 2: Sentinel Dome
The Sentinel Dome and Taft Point trails depart from the same spot along Glacier Point Road. After hiking to Taft Point, you can return to the road and then take the Sentinel Dome trailhead, but you can increase the amount of new scenery you encounter by returning just part way along the Taft Point trail and then taking the well-marked fork that leads you to Sentinel Dome via the valley rim. (The distances of the two trails are similar.) You likely won't notice the elevation changes along the Taft Point trail, but you will feel the climb to Sentinel Dome. While the Taft Point trail leads you to a spot on the valley rim where you'll see a view primarily of western Yosemite Valley, Sentinel Dome has 360-degree views for miles and miles.
Stop 3: Glacier Point
This is one of the great places in Yosemite for sunset watching. The views are actually eastward, so instead of watching the sun, you'll be seeing Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and Yosemite's eastern peaks turn from granite-gray to orange, and then the shadows gradually creeping up from the valley to the top of the peaks. Try to get here before sunset so that, after your hard day's hiking, you can just chill and watch the colors change. There are plenty of comfortable places (by a sitting-on-rocks standard, anyway) to sit, although the area at the very end of the trail can get cozy on evenings when rangers show up to give sunset lectures.