Glacier Point To Yosemite Valley
Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley (strenuous)
Four Mile Trail: 4.8 miles (7.7 km) one-way; 3 to 4 hours
Panorama Trail: 8.5 miles (13.6 km) one-way; 6 to 8 hours
Begin at Glacier Point (Four Mile Trail begins north of the store; Panorama Trail begins south of the store)
It is strongly recommended that you take the hikers’ bus to Glacier Point and hike down, rather than parking at Glacier Point and planning to catch the hikers’ bus back up.
The Four Mile Trail
The Four Mile Trail switchbacks down to Yosemite Valley, providing wonderful views of the Valley.
There may be no better way to see what’s so fabulous about Yosemite Valley than to hike the Four-Mile Trail, This hike offers great views of most of the landmarks that Yosemite Valley’s famous for, and all from angles you’re not used to seeing on postcards.
See Yosemite Falls in all of its glory. From nearly anyplace else in the world, strategic bits of the falls are coyly hidden by trees or rock, but on the lower half of the Four-Mile Trail, you get to see everything. You’ll also see a reverse tunnel view off to the west, with Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan framing opposite sides of the view. You’ll pass almost directly under Sentinel Rock, you’ll see remarkable views up Tenaya Canyon to Half Dome, Clouds Rest, North Dome, and the Royal Arches.
The Panorama Trail
The Panorama Trail provides a close-up view of Illilouette Fall and panoramic views of eastern Yosemite Valley before joining the Mist or John Muir Trails down past Vernal and Nevada Falls.
Difficulty: This trail rates a 6 out of 10 for the downhill route (Glacier Point to the valley), which is the more popular option not just because it’s an easier hike, but because it’s far easier to arrange transportation.
The trail is rocky in places, and descending the stair steps of the Mist Trail can be hard on knees; if yours are cranky, take the Muir Trail down the last portion instead. Although the trail is mostly downhill, after you cross the bridge over Illilouette Creek, you’ll climb 700 feet in about a mile and a half (200 meters in 2.5 km) before descending again to the Mist Trail.
Must-See Unmarked Detour: The short (less than 100 meters) trail to Panorama Point is unsigned but worth seeking out. It’s got incredible panoramic views ranging from Glacier Point to the Royal Arches, North Dome, and the back of Half Dome. You can also see hikers making their way up the early stages of the Mist Trail. What really makes it great, though, is that most of the other hikers on the trail will walk right past the turnoff without even noticing it’s there, and if you pass them again later, you can exchange polite greetings and then throw in a “Wow, wasn’t Panorama Point something? Best part of the hike, in my opinion.” And you might not be kidding.
Assuming you’re doing the trail in the Glacier-Point-to-Yosemite-Valley direction, you’ll find the trail that veers left to Panorama Point about half a mile (0.8 km) after you cross the bridge over Illilouette Creek. The trail cuts through a stand of manzanitas; be wary of brushing bare skin against the sandpaper-like bark.
Best time to visit: The mountain scenery is good whenever the trail’s open, but the waterfalls of the Mist Trail are best in the spring and early summer, when the most water is pouring over them. They have a longer primetime than Bridalveil or Yosemite Falls, since they’re fed by the Merced River instead of the creeks that feed the other falls, but they’ve still usually lost a lot of volume by August.