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The Panorama Trail

A mostly-downhill hike with views of Half Dome, Nevada Fall, Vernal Fall, Yosemite Falls and the Yosemite Valley
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 8.9 miles
Duration: Unknown

Overview :  There is no better hike in Yosemite National Park which offers the amazing views of Half Dome, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Illilouette... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Parking

You can park at the Glacier Point parking lot but if you are hiking down all the way to the Valley (alternatively you can hike as far as Illouette Fall and then back up), you may want to take a shuttle to Glacier Point or have someone drop you off and meet you down in the Valley.

2. Snacks and Gift Shop

You can fuel up for your hike at the snack shop located between the parking lot at Glacier Point (it's the largest building up here).

3. Trailhead

As you walk to Glacier Point from the parking lot, the trailhead will be on your right side as you approach the first viewpoint. You can stock up on snacks for the hike at the gift shop/store on the other side of the paved path before you begin. At the start there are few trail signs that give different distances for the hike (off by as much as ... More

4. Profile view of Half Dome

After about 10 minutes of hiking (and some significant elevation loss) you will come to a perfect place to take a picture of Half Dome and the nearby waterfalls. You will have likely stopped every 5 feet up to this point to take another picture because the view just seems to keep getting better.

This view is particularly impressive, and you will... More

5. Junction

After some more switchbacks you will see a trail to the right leading to some other lakes in Yosemite. Continue on the Panorama Trail to the left and you will soon arrive at the top of Illouette Fall.

6. View of Illilouette Fall

Before you reach the water, you will come across a great view of the entire Illilouette Fall. You can creep towards the edge of the granite to see the pool below but be careful and watch your step.

7. Illilouette Fall

About 2.5 miles into the hike you will reach Illilouette Fall. If you parked at Glacier Point and are planning to go back to get you car at some point, this is probably as far as you want to go (you will have to climb up 800ft of switchbacks on the other side of the river if you want to continue further). Up the river you will see some granite... More

8. Switchbacks up

Immediately after you cross the bridge you will begin the 800ft climb up a series of switchbacks. This section is the last major climb of the trail and afterwards it will be exclusively downhill.

9. View of the Valley and Yosemite Fall

As you near the top of the climb turn back and admire the open view of Yosemite Valley below with Yosemite Falls far in the distance. You can see Glacier Point where you started as well as the backside of Half Dome.

10. Junction

Before you start your descent to Nevada Fall there will be a trail to your right. Continue straight and climb down the switchbacks leading you towards Nevada Fall.

11. John Muir Trail Junction

Just before you reach the top of Nevada Fall you will reach the junction of the John Muir Trail. This will bring you near the bottom of Vernal Fall but if you haven’t seen Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall before, continue down the Mist Trail to see some of the most impressive waterfalls in the park.

12. Top of Nevada Fall

The top of Nevada Fall is a great place to stop and take a break and admire the view. Find a place upstream to sit and grab a snack while soaking your feet in the cold mountain water while you watch water rush over the edge falling far below. There is a pool further upstream where many like to swim, but pay attention to the signs discouraging... More

13. Junction to The Mist Trail

A few minutes after crossing the bridge over Nevada Fall you will reach a 3 way junction. To your right is the trail to Little Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Clouds Rest, and to your left is the trail down the Mist Trail to the Valley. There is also a restroom in the wooden hut.

The next mile of the trail is particularly hard on the knees: it ... More

14. Great view of Nevada Fall

About half way down the steep rocky path you will have probably the best view of Nevada Fall from the side of the waterfall.

15. Emerald Pool and Silver Apron

Emerald Pool sits at the top of Vernal Fall, and at the end of the Silver Apron, a granite "slide" leading coming from Nevada Falls. While it may look fun to slide down, restrain yourself, and the current underwater is much stronger than it looks, and swimmers have been swept off the edge of the Fall. But that doesn't mean you can't sit by the... More

Soon after the Emerald Pool you will arrive at the top of Vernal Fall. You likely will learn why the trail is called "The Mist Trail" on your way down. The rock stairs can be a bit slippery when wet, so be careful. From the top you can take a water break and creep to the edge (don't worry, there are rails) to look straight down at the river below.... More

With about 0.8 miles left to go you will walk across the Merced River on a wooden bridge, with views of Vernal Fall in the distance. There is a restroom and water fountains here as well.

18. Happy Isles Trailhead

At the end of your journey you will arrive at the Happy Isles Trailhead where you can catch the free Yosemite Shuttle (this is stop #16) to anywhere in the valley. Before you get on the shuttle, head over to the refreshment stand for a cold drink or some ice cream, you deserve it!

19. Restrooms

There are several restrooms around the Glacier Point parking lot. Plan ahead, because the next restroom (other than the woods) isn't until the top of Nevada Fall, about 5 miles into your hike.