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Panorama Trail

The Panorama Trail is one of Yosemite National Park’s most spectacular hikes, known for its breathtaking vistas and diverse natural beauty. This trail offers an incredible opportunity to see a wide range of Yosemite’s most iconic features, including waterfalls, high mountain peaks, and deep valleys. Starting at Glacier Point, one of the most famous viewpoints in the park, and descending to Yosemite Valley, this trail covers approximately 8.5 miles and offers a variety of stunning panoramas, hence its name.

Trail Overview

Starting Point: Glacier Point
Ending Point: Yosemite Valley, with the most common endpoint being the Happy Isles trailhead.

The Panorama Trail descends approximately 3,200 feet from Glacier Point to the valley floor. It can be combined with other trails for a longer hike, such as the Mist Trail, which adds spectacular views of Vernal and Nevada Falls towards the end of the hike.

Key Features and Highlights

Glacier Point

  • The hike starts at Glacier Point, an overlook that offers some of the most famous views in Yosemite, including Half Dome, Yosemite’s high country, and the Yosemite Valley below.

Illilouette Fall

  • Early in the hike, you’ll reach an overlook of Illilouette Fall, a beautiful waterfall that cascades dramatically into Illilouette Creek. This area is less crowded than other parts of Yosemite, offering a more secluded experience.

Panorama Cliff

  • As the trail progresses, it skirts the edge of Panorama Cliff, providing expansive views of Half Dome and the surrounding Sierra Nevada.

Nevada and Vernal Falls

  • After joining with the John Muir Trail, hikers have the option to take the Mist Trail past Nevada and Vernal Falls. These falls are among the most powerful and photogenic in the park, especially in the late spring when water flow is at its peak.

Hiking the Panorama Trail

Difficulty and Preparation

  • The trail is considered strenuous, particularly because of its length and the significant elevation change. Hikers should be in good physical condition and come prepared with water, snacks, sunscreen, and appropriate hiking shoes.

Best Time to Hike

  • The best time to hike the Panorama Trail is from late spring through early fall when Glacier Point Road is open and the trail is mostly free of snow. July and August offer the warmest weather, but also the largest crowds.


  • Since the hike starts at Glacier Point and ends in Yosemite Valley, transportation planning is crucial. Options include arranging for a car shuttle, using the park’s shuttle services (when available), or planning a round trip hike that can be quite challenging.

Environmental Considerations and Safety

  • Leave No Trace: It’s important to follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize impact on the natural environment. This includes packing out all trash and staying on designated trails to avoid erosion.
  • Wildlife: Be aware of wildlife and maintain a safe distance, especially from bears. Use bear-proof containers for food storage as required.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Carry enough water and food for the hike’s duration, as there are limited water sources along the way.
  • Weather and Terrain: Be prepared for sudden changes in weather, which can include thunderstorms in summer. The trail can be slippery in places, especially if you choose to descend via the Mist Trail, which can be wet from waterfall spray.


The Panorama Trail in Yosemite offers one of the most rewarding hiking experiences in the Sierra Nevada, with its combination of high scenic overlooks, close-up views of major waterfalls, and the dramatic topography of Yosemite Valley. It’s a must-do for avid hikers visiting Yosemite National Park, providing a full day of adventure and unforgettable views.

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