Panorama Trail Hike in Yosemite

Few trails offer more eye candy than the Panorama Trail, which earns its name with unprecedented views of Yosemite's most famous landmarks.
By Staff,
Illilouette Fall and Illilouette Gorge from the Panorama Trail by Walter Siegmund [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

By Backpacker Magazine

(This hike is 8.8 miles roundtrip)

Few trails offer more eye candy than the Panorama Trail, which earns its name with unprecedented views of Yosemite's most famous landmarks.

From the trailhead,head left on the Panorama Trail and immediately take in postcard views of Half Dome. At mile 2.2, turn left to an overlook of Illilouette Falls, a ribbon of whitewater dropping 370 feet. Next, cross Illilouette Creek and slowly climb 800 feet over 1.5 miles to Panorama Point. Five-star views stretch into Yosemite Valley to Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls and to Royal Arches.

To continue, go left and descend more than 10 switchbacks. At the three-way junction, bear right on the John Muir Trail and soak in views of the granite bald of Liberty Cap. Continue to the frothy spout of Nevada Falls. Here, the Merced River drops nearly 600 feet.

Hike on. At milepoint 6, turn left onto the Mist Trail and down a series of granite steps. Cross the Merced River, and climb more stairs to the 317-foot Vernal Falls (its trailside mist forms countless rainbows). The trail turns to pavement, and longer views unfold of llilouette Falls. Cross the Happy Isles bridge and hike to trailhead parking lot.

Shuttle Info: Glacier Point Tours, www.yosemitepark.com. Flag down the 8:30 a.m. bus so you have plenty of time to hike the 8.8 miles.

-Mapped by Dave Miller

TO TRAILHEAD: Start Point: Park at the hike's end point. Next, take a one-way bus ride (reservations required) from Yosemite Village or Curry Village to Glacier Point. End Point: From El Portal, take CA 140 into Yosemite Valley and follow signs to Yosemite Village.
Distance 8.77 mi

DIRECTIONS + WAYPOINTS TO HELP YOU FIND YOUR WAY:
Position Format: Datum

Point Name: PAT001: Trailhead: Begin at Panorama Trail sign. Continue 100 yards and turn left onto the Panorama Trail. Location: 37.72775°, -119.57330°

Point Name: PAT002: Bear left at the Y-junction. Descend on the dusty trail towards Illilouette Creek and the falls. Location: 37.71004°, -119.56515°

Point Name: PAT003: Turn left at the Y-junction. The trail forks here. Veer left 20 feet and descend. Take in the best view of Illilouette Falls. The only other view of this waterfall is on the Mist Trail--several miles away. Look for rainbows at the bottom of the falls. Continue on the Panorama Trail. Location: 37.71307°, -119.56295°

Point Name: PAT004: Cross footbridge over Illilouette Creek and begin the only real uphill portion of the trail. It is a strenuous climb gaining about 800 feet elevation in a mile and a half. Location: 37.71193°, -119.56106°

Point Name: PAT005: Panorama Point: Catch a different perspective of Yosemite Valley and all its grandeur. Views to Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls and the Royal Arches too. Location: 37.71619°, -119.55738°

Point Name: PAT006: Bear left at the three-way junction. Head downhill along switchbacks as you near the top of Nevada Falls. Location: 37.71994°, -119.54003°

Point Name: PAT007: Turn right onto the John Muir Trail and continue northeast towards Nevada Falls. Location: 37.72244°, -119.53551°

Point Name: PAT008: Top of Nevada Falls Location: 37.72528°, -119.53267°

Point Name: PAT009: Bear left at Y-junction and merge onto the Mist Trail. Granite steps and switchbacks descend almost 700 feet. Location: 37.72615°, -119.53033°

Point Name: PAT010: Cross footbridge over Merced River. Look back for a full view of Nevada Falls. Location: 37.72652°, -119.54021°

Point Name: PAT011: Turn right at the Y-junction. The Mist Trail intersects with the trail to Clark Point. Stay right. Note: If the trail starts to climb, you're on the wrong trail. Location: 37.72626°, -119.54147°

Point Name: PAT012: Top of Vernal Falls. When you're ready, put on your rain gear and head to the left of the falls to begin your descent on the wet steps of the Mist Trail. Location: 37.72724°, -119.54336°

Point Name: PAT013: Continue right at the three-way trail junction. The Mist Trail intersects with the John Muir Trail. Location: 37.72631°, -119.54869°

Point Name: PAT014: Cross footbridge. Its a blacktop path to Happy Isles. Location: 37.72598°, -119.55165°

Point Name: PAT015: Vista: Look across to see Illilouette Falls again. This location is also below Sierra Point, the only location in Yosemite where you can see the famous four waterfalls: Yosemite, Illilouette, Vernal and Nevada Falls. Its trail was decimated by a rock slide in the 1970s. Location: 37.72633°, -119.55688°

Point Name: PAT016: Happy Isles Bridge: Head across the bridge to Happy Isles shuttle stop and take shuttle back to parking lot. Location: 37.73242°, -119.55837°