When I was in Yosemite a couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to get up and about on the South Rim for a bit. As always, the South Rim still has a bit of snow accumulation that remains due to less sun exposure and higher elevations. Rather than take in the view of the High Country from Glacier Point, I elected to take an early morning walk up to Sentinel Dome to see how the park looked in early spring while I ate my breakfast. I parked at the Sentinel Dome trailhead, a couple of miles shy of Glacier Point, and noticed two things: that the meadow at the trailhead still had occasional drifts of snow that were approximately six (6) inches to one (1) foot high in several locations; and that these drifts completely covered the trail heading South towards Taft Point.
Since I wasn’t heading toward Taft Point that day, I had no route-finding concerns, and immediately set out across the meadow toward Sentinel Dome. After crossing the meadow, I encountered my only route-finding challenge of the day, crossing the creek within .10 miles of the trailhead. From the South side, the bridge was not readily apparent at that point in time; however, the creek was not running high enough that it could not be crossed in several other locations, which is what I did with a quick jump. From that point, the trail was easily visible, and had little to no snow accumulation present on it.
At about the half mile mark from the trailhead (.5) there was a large tree that had fallen and was blocking the trail, but aside from that, the trail was clear and easy to follow all the way to the summit. The only snow accumulation I saw on the trail was on the final ascent of the dome, which had some small lingering snowfields of slushy snow by midday. I don’t expect that those remaining patches of snow on the dome will last much longer due to the direct sun exposure they are receiving. From the summit, I had a great breakfast view of the surrounding areas, which made me really realize what a dry winter California experienced, but other than that, it was a great hike!
Directions: I followed the standard route that I discussed here: http://lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2011/12/8/sentinel-dome-yosemite-national-park.html, and based on the conditions, anytime between now and winter would be a great time to do this hike.