Yosemite’s Dewey Point via the Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail to Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

I pulled off Glacier Point Road where it ends in the winter and into the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, got my things together and then walked over to the trail head area for Dewey Point. Strapping on my snowshoes there, the sky shone bluebird bright and the day was already high.  Up the closed portion and snow-covered Glacier Point Road, I stepped, the closed road serving as the approach, a kind of warm-up for the trails to come.

Ridge Trail to Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

The Ridge Trail is considered a little less-traveled and a little more strenuous than the more trafficked Meadows Trail, so I turned left off of the winter road and into the forest, desiring a non-crowded trail.  Obvious and well-signed along the way with yellow triangles that have the number 14 in the triangles’ center, the signs hung high on the trees.  Many previous trail users had the trail packed down, the tracks and yellow signs making it impossible to get off trail.

Ridge Trail to Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

View of Half Dome from the Ridge Trail, Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

My breath quickly labored after the turn off the road, as the trail went up and then up a little more before later becoming a more undulating path over the snow.  At different points, glimpses through breaks in the trees included long views of Half Dome and distant peaks.  I stopped and pulled out my camera, snapping a few memories in case my mind’s eye someday forgets.  A few cross-country skiers came gliding by, the cheer in the air nothing but positive.

Half Dome View from the Ridge Trail, Yosemite National Park

Down a slope and into thick forest, the trail meandered.  I had a goofy grin on my face, thinking of Tolkien and also that it would be nice to see a four-legged animal of some kind and of a size bigger than a chipmunk.  Alas, I did not.

Trail 14 connected into 18—the Meadows Trail—where the final leg out to Dewey Point was a handful of people more crowded than my time back on 14, aka the Ridge Trail.  Fellow trail users were smiley-faced and feeling good.  Continuing on, I pushed a fast pace, my trekking poles stabbing the snow at a seemingly rat-a-tat speed.  Then, around a corner and down the gentle slope, I could see the majestic opening.

View of Yosemite Valley from Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

View of Yosemite Valley from Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

Named for Admiral George Dewey, a hero of the Spanish-American War, a native Vermonter, and the only person in U.S. history to attain the rank of Admiral of the Navy, Dewey Point in Yosemite National Park offered a winter view that was simply beautiful and worth the approximate 4 mile effort to get there.  In front of me, Half Dome sat in the distance like the stoic giant it is.  Over my left shoulder, El Capitan rose up from the valley floor, graced on one side by snow-fed waters forming Ribbon Falls, reputed to being one of the longest single-drop waterfalls in North America at over 1600+ feet from top to bottom.

Drinking up the splendor surrounding me, I sat in the snow and ate an energy bar and an apple. I sucked some water from my hydration pack.  A family with two children did the same thing, enjoying the serenity and peacefulness of nature.  No selfie sticks were visibly present.  Conversations were carried out in hushed tones.  The power of natural beauty in winter was on display.

Ribbon Falls and El Capitan from Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

View of Yosemite Falls from the Ridge Trail/Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

Satiated and with a little chill settling into my bones, I stood up, grabbed my poles, adjusted my pack and started back the way I came, opting to not make a loop of it by taking the Meadows Trail.   A gentleman, also snowshoeing, said the creek crossing on #18 was a little treacherous, meaning not solid ice and that someone got a wet foot and leg after post-holing through earlier in the day.  While snowshoes might distribute the weight more evenly than a booted foot, neither he nor I were going to take our chances.  I thanked him for the trail beta and we bade farewell.

View of Yosemite Valley from Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

View of Yosemite Falls from the Ridge Trail, Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

Back up into the trees and through the thicker sections of evergreens, I stepped.  The rat-a-tat speed of my arms maneuvering the trekking poles was gone.  At the 14/18 trail intersection, I turned to the right, taking the Ridge Trail back to Glacier Point Road.  At one point, the trail got super steep.  I dug in with the crampons, my calves burning when I reached the top.  Up there, the ski and snowshoe trammeled trail wandered through smatterings of trees, providing glorious views of distant ridges to my right and farther on out to the Central Valley.  Somewhat tired, I trudged on, seeking the road because I knew it was all, for the most part, downhill from there, except for that last short push up to the car.

View from the Ridge Trail, Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

Sitting in the snow by the parking lot and taking off my snowshoes, I was content with my first Yosemite snowshoe experience.  Like other positive moments that come to a close, it had me thinking of the next one, my focus being in front of me.

Ridge Trail to Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park

Where next?  When?

411: Additional Information

View from the Ridge Trail, Yosemite National Park

Location: Yosemite National Park, California
Check flights to the area.

Where To Stay: Tenaya Lodge, a nice spot for food and drink, as well as a bed, offers snowshoeing programs and rentals. Winter camping is possible in Yosemite National Park, the closest campground to Dewey Point being Wawona. Winter backcountry camping is permitted.  Check with the park for details.

Recommended Snowshoe Trails: Ridge Trail and Meadows Trail; See a map for Dewey Point and other Glacier Point Road Winter Trails

Ridge Trail in Winter, Yosemite National Park

Distance & Time Allotment: From the parking lot and including Glacier Point Road to Dewey Point, the total round trip distance comes in a little over 8 miles and there is more than a 1000 feet of elevation gain.  Give yourself ample time to complete the trip, likely upwards of 5+ hours if you include time for stopping, photographing, and eating/snacking.

Equipment Rentals: Snowshoes can be rented at the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area (YSSA), which basically serves as the trailhead for Dewey Point. YSSA was formerly called Badger Pass Ski Area.  Rates:   $23.00 all day, $18.00 half day.

How To Get There: A shuttle runs between Yosemite Valley, if you’re lodging or camping there, and YSSA.  Check the schedule.

Optional ToursSnowshoeing to Badger Pass and Dewey Point or Search Other Yosemite Tours

Words and Photos by James Murren.  He is the author of 3 books and numerous outdoor adventure and travel articles.  More of his writings are available at jamesmurren.com

About the author

James Murren

James Murren

James Murren is the author of 3 books and numerous outdoor adventure and travel articles. More of his writings are available at: https://jamesmurren.com/

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3 Comments

    • Hi, Greg. It kind of depends on when the snow falls, how much, etc, thinking of road closures, that you might need chains for your car tires, and on and on. Early spring can be a good time, when thinking roads/driving might be less of an issue, and assuming there is a considerable amount of snow still on the ground, which is likely up high, but now as likely down in the valley. Cheers, James