We have decided to walk the Panorama Trail down from Glacier Point back to our camp site. There is a very good website here which describes the walk and provides a map and a download to a phone. Their description of the walk is:
There is no better hike in Yosemite National Park which offers the amazing views of Half Dome, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Illilouette Fall, Yosemite Fall, and the entire Valley than the Panorama Trail. This 8.5-mile hike will take you on an adventure from Glacier Point, high above the valley, down to the Mist Trail where you will hike next to both Nevada and Vernal Falls. The hike ends near Curry Village where you can grab a bite to eat or take the free shuttle to anywhere in the park.
While this hike loses 2,800ft in elevation, it is not an easy hike; some would even rate it as strenuous. After the initial climb down to Illilouette Fall you will hike back up 800ft of steep switchbacks before hiking down the same distance immediately after. The Mist Trail can be especially tough on the knees, especially the section from the top of Nevada Fall to Vernal Fall, which is almost exclusively made up of small stone steps.
But don’t let that discourage you, the views of the Falls, the Valley, and the surrounding area more than make up for the aches and pains you may keep with you the next few days.
The distance is around 8.5 miles (the longest figure we have seen is 8.9) and it is graded as Difficult (or even Strenuous) but we think we can cope with this – after all, we have walked a number of sections of the Great Wall of China and the northern section of The Pennine Way!
One way bus tickets are available to take you up to Glacier Point – we purchased ours over the phone a few days before hand and collected them the day before hand. We found out when we were in the queue for the bus that they oversell tickets and therefore you need to make sure of your place towards the front of the queue otherwise you will get left behind with no compensation other than your money back.
An hour on the bus gets you to Glacier Point
from where the view down into the valley
and of the mountains around
is absolutely amazing.
The waterfall in the middle of this picture is Yosemite Falls
and the one on the right of this picture is Nevada Falls, across which we were due to walk.
The start of the downward trail actually goes upwards for a bit
but then there is a gentle downhill section for a mile or so – at this point we thought “this is not to bad at all”
The view constantly changes as you walk down the valley
and we got to sea Half-Dome from all sides.
The track starts off quite easy
until you pass Illilouet Falls when there is a hard upwards section that seems to go on for ever (at least it did in the 35C sun)
although our spirits were raised by this deer which was resting under a tree and then slightly worried by some Bear droppings we found in the middle of the track.
The views are long and large throughout the walk.
By the time we got to Nevada Falls we were quite tired but little did we know that the worse was yet to come. The steps down from the picture on the left to the picture on the right are very hard on the knees and very uneven and seemingly unending.
Then there are yet more difficult and slippery steps down to Vernal Falls and a long walk back to the bus stop. It was a fabulous walk with fantastic views but we were exhausted when we got back to the van. Would we do it again? Yes but only when we are younger!
The next day we decided to do an easy 1 mile round trip on the flat down in the valley to see Yosemite Falls. This is the walk which practically everyone does because it is on the flat and even those for whom exercise is not the norm can cope with it.
To get to the start of the walk, we used the extremely
efficient Yosemite Free Shuttle Bus service – there are buses every 10 minutes during the main part of the day and every 20 minutes at other times (early and late in the day). The bus service is slow but you do not have to find anywhere to park.
If you walk to the official viewing point at the bottom of the falls,
you can enjoy the lower falls along with hundreds of other people and you can see them climbing over the rocks to get to the bottom of the falls. You can also get them in your pictures so you have them as a souvenir of your visit when you get home.
Alternatively, if you walk anti-clockwise around the loop and look for a small sign saying “Falls View”
you can go along a cul-de-sac and sit on a bench at exactly the spot where John Muir built himself a cabin in the late 1800s and see both the lower and upper falls in total peace, quiet and isolation. We had the bench to ourselves because everyone else wanted to be as close as possible to the water.
From this peaceful point, we saw the water in the Upper Falls move around in the wind, sometimes falling straight down, sometimes blowing sideways. If you go closer to the falls, you cannot see the Upper Falls at all.
Now you know the best spot to go to – do not tell anyone else.