Looking to get the most out of Yosemite National Park? The Panorama trail combines two of Yosemite’s most incredible trails: Glacier Point and the Mist Trail. This guide will give you all the information you need for your journey along the Panorama Trail.
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Panorama Trail Yosemite
The Panorama Trail is known for its fantastic views along the entirety of the trail. Some of the views you can expect to see are Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls, Illilouette Falls, Liberty Cap, Panorama Point, Half Dome, and Yosemite Valley. All of these views add up to the ultimate panoramic experience. This trail is 8.5 miles one way and will take you about 6-7 hours to complete. It can be modified in several different ways and it is rated as moderately difficult, making it one of the most popular day hikes following the Half Dome.
This trail can be hiked any time of year. To get the most out of the waterfalls along the Mist trail, consider visiting during spring and early summer. This will provide even more incredible views and a light mist to cool you down while you hike.
Your adventure will begin at the southern end of Glacier Point. This is easily accessible by catching a bus from Yosemite Valley. You will come across multiple forks along the trail. Not to fear, all paths are clearly labeled. You will continue towards the left of the fork leading to the crossing of lllilouette Creek. Once you reach the second fork, stick to the left again and you will begin your descent to the Mist Trail. The third fork is above Nevada Falls. Follow left to join the John Muir Trail or right to proceed to Nevada Fall and the Mist Trail. Although less scenic, the John Muir trail is an easier alternative to the Mist Trail. Continue your journey along the Mist Trail leading to Yosemite Valley.
There are several alternative routes. If you are looking for a challenging hike, hike the 4-mile trail from Glacier Point rather than taking the bus. This route adds up to 14 miles rather than the 8.5-mile Panorama trail alone.
Panorama Trail has an unmarked detour you cannot miss. This detour leads to Panorama Point. A scenic spot with stunning views of Glacier Point, Royal Arches, North Dome, and Half Dome. Most people walk past this and miss out on the opportunity of breathtaking views.
No matter what route you decide to take, Panorama Trails lives up to its name. It offers a variety of views by following two different trails in one. Take in everything it has to offer, as its beauty cannot be captured in photographs.
Panorama Trail Quick Facts
- Elevation: 4,000-7,200ft (1,200-2,200m)
- Difficulty: Moderate, mostly downhill
- Length: 8.5 miles (13.5km)
- Highlights: Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls, Illilouette Falls, Liberty Cap, Panorama Point, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley
- Quickest route: Via Glacier Point and the Mist Trail
- Get an overnight permit on the day before the hike or in advance
The Panorama Trailhead is in Glacier Point, 30 miles or an hour drive from Yosemite Valley. Your adventure will begin at the southern end of glacier point and end back in Yosemite Valley.
For a detailed guide on the Panorama Trail and other easy day hikes around Yosemite, check out the Falcon Guide for Best Easy Day Hikes by Suzanne Swedo. This book is handy as it includes a trail map and provides additional information about which hikes to take and where the best photo opportunities are.
For an overview of Yosemite National Park, The Lonely Planet Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks by The Lonely planet is an excellent read. It features maps, itineraries, insider tips, and reviews for what to eat and where to sleep within Yosemite.
It is crucial to begin this hike at dawn. It will take you approximately 12 hours and you will want daylight left on your descend. There are other trails to get to the Half Dome but the Mist Trail remains the most popular and scenic route.
Up the Panorama Trailhead
To the first fork: Begin your journey up the Panorama trailhead and turn left to continue along the path (1.5 miles)
Descent to the Mist Trail
To the second fork: Begin your descent to the Mist Trail, follow left. (approx. 2 miles)
To Nevada Falls
To the third fork: Follow the path to Nevada Falls, turn left to the John Muir Trail (easier alternative) or continue right to continue to Nevada falls and the Mist trail
Follow Mist Trail until you reach Yosemite Valley
A scenic video featuring the three waterfalls you will encounter along the Panorama Trail. This video is by Skytamercim on Youtube and is 12 minutes long.
Panorama Trail Overview
Best Time To Go
The mountain views are stunning year round. If the waterfalls are what you are after, consider visiting in spring or summer. Vernal falls and Nevada falls tend to be fuller for longer than Bridalveil or Yosemite falls for example. If you choose to visit in August, you’ll have outstanding weather and beautiful full falls.
It is recommended to take the bus from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. This avoids struggles with parking and allows one to be parked right at your destination. A one-way bus ticket from the valley to Glacier Point costs $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, and $15 for kids. You can buy these bus tickets online at travelyosemite.com or by phone at +1(209) 372 1240.
This trail is one of the easier options at Yosemite as it is mostly downhill. It is an epic day hike for the whole family to enjoy. Just keep in mind that this trail is still moderately difficult and may be best for children over 10-12 years old. The Mist Trail can be strenuous on the knees with the number of steps involved. If you take it slow and soak in the views, most people who are in decent shape will be able to complete the Panorama Trail.
Frequently Asked Questions
What gear do I need?
Hiking the Panorama Trail in Yosemite requires few pieces of essential gear. Trekking poles are usually a great idea. In case your journey back goes past dusk, a headlamp is a must.
When hiking in hot temperatures, you must wear sunscreen and a hat. When going up the cable route, gloves are helpful. You will want to drink 1 gallon of water if you are hiking to the top of the dome and back. Bring plenty of food and snacks as well.
Is altitude sickness a risk?
It is unlikely. The total elevation gain along the Panorama Trail is 3,200ft. Anything over 5,000ft puts you at risk for altitude sickness. However, it is important to have a solid understanding of the risks associated with high altitude hiking and how the body acclimatizes to high altitude. We recommend you read our detailed article on Altitude Sickness and Acclimatisation.
Can I avoid taking a bus to Glacier Point and hike instead?
Yes. If you are a regular hiker and in good shape, you can extend your trip along the Panorama trail and begin at the 4-mile trail in Yosemite Valley. This will extend your hike making it 14 miles total rather than the 8.5 miles with the Panorama Trail alone.
Is Panorama a good family hike?
This hike is great for families with older children. Keep in mind that it is long but it is mostly downhill. As long as you stay on the path, the whole family is sure to have a blast!
What travel insurance do I need?
Hiking insurance is important when going on the Panorama trail. If an accident or incident should occur that requires immediate medical assistance and evacuation you will most definitely want adequate hiking insurance that can cover the costs of air ambulance and treatment.
Check out World Nomads for a quick calculation of the cost of travel insurance for your trip.
What wildlife could I potentially come across?
Black bears are known to roam around Yosemite both day and night. Always keep food secured and put away. If you do see a bear, make sure to make as much noise as possible to scare it away. Other small critters include squirrels, chipmunks, and stellar jays. It is important to never feed wild animals.