Jeffrey Pine at summit of Sentinel Dome, Yosemite

Yosemite Landmarks: The Iconic Jeffrey Pine of Sentinel Dome

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Jeffrey Pine at summit of Sentinel Dome, Yosemite An easy and scenery-rich day hike off Glacier Point Road brings you to the remains of one of Yosemite’s most cherished landmarks: the Jeffrey pine of Sentinel Dome. This gnarled mountaintop veteran, immortalized by Ansel Adams and countless other shutterbugs, perished from drought in the late 1970s and finally toppled in 2003. Its bleached wood, though, remains a stirring sight—and an amazing meditation on the passage of time.

One of Yosemite’s Show-stopping Hikes

At one of our Scenic Wonders vacation rentals, you’re just a short and beautiful drive from the trailhead for the Sentinel Dome Trail. Though just a little over two miles round-trip and never very strenuous, the route gives you plenty of bang for your buck: The views of Yosemite Valley, the High Sierra, and—if it’s clear—the coast ranges are downright stunning. People continue to make pilgrimages to see the dead Jeffrey pine of Sentinel Dome, including many who enjoyed and photographed it during its lifetime (or its latter days as a standing snag). Even in life, the twisty tree little resembled some of the columnar, skyscraping Jeffreys of more hospitable settings in the Sierra Nevada. These fiery-orange pines, which closely resemble the ponderosas more familiar in lower west-side elevations, have almost intoxicating vanilla-scented bark. Ansel Adams snapped his world-famous picture of the Sentinel Dome pine in 1940, which made the tree something of a symbol for Yosemite alongside Half Dome and El Capitan. Unlike those landmarks, though, the Jeffrey pine—already old when Adams memorialized it—has also become a symbol of transience.

A Link With the Past

In keeping with the National Park Service’s ethos, the fallen snag will be allowed to disintegrate over the decades. (After all, decay is as much a part of a tree’s life history as anything else, and it supports its own rich ecology.) That means generations of hikers to come will be able to pay their respects to this beautiful wood skeleton. Why not make the trip yourself? Glimpse firsthand a piece of Yosemite history, and soak up some outstanding high-country scenery in the process!

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