Our Favorite Hikes in Yosemite
Titanic rock domes, lush river valleys, tall and slender waterfalls—these are some of Yosemite National Park’s iconic images, and the two trails we’re profiling here drink deeply in them. Hikers taking the Mist and Panorama trails—some of our favorites in the park—see the stirring heart of Yosemite as nowhere else.
To Vernal Fall via the Mist Trail
The Mist Trail, one of the most celebrated hiking routes in Yosemite, is aptly named. Particularly in the late spring and early summer, when Yosemite’s rivers are typically running at their strongest due to snowmelt, you’ll literally taste the vaporous spray off Vernal Fall—and Nevada Fall, if you hike the entire trail. If you’re more strapped for time, or don’t feel up for the extra miles necessary to get there and back from Nevada Fall, make Vernal Fall your destination. This will be a 3-mile round-trip from the trailhead, and involve 1,000 feet of elevation gain. You’ll begin at the Happy Isles trailhead, reachable by shuttle bus or an easy walk from Curry Village parking.
After wandering by the Merced River for about an eighth of a mile, you’ll reach the handsome footbridge across the river that affords your first glimpse of Vernal Fall upstream. After crossing the bridge, you’ll begin a fairly steep ascent to the top of the waterfall, the last half-mile or so of which consists of often-slippery granite steps. The view from the top, staring down the Vernal Fall plunge, is unforgettable. From here, you can retrace your steps to return to the trailhead, or hike on to Nevada Fall. When the falls are at their peak, remember to dress appropriately for the trail: You’re going to get wet!
The Panorama Trail
If you’d like a longer and more challenging hike that takes in the scenery of the Mist Trail and then some, consider the Panorama Trail—another well-named route, given the staggering vistas that surround it. This 8.5-mile trail commences at the Panorama Trailhead at Glacier Point and ends at Happy Isles, using the Mist Trail for its final portion; you can park at Happy Isles and take the bus to Glacier Point to facilitate a shuttle. Most of the route is downhill—you’re ultimately dropping some 3,200 feet from the heights to the valley floor—but it’s nonetheless rigorous, and some hikers opt, near Nevada Fall, to take the lengthier but gentler John Muir Trail to bypass the Mist Trail’s steep rock stairs at Vernal Fall.
By the time you’re through with this hike, you’ll be next to intoxicated by scenery. There are few better ways to experience Yosemite than beginning at the jaw-dropping view at Glacier Point, which sets the valley and Half Dome in a broad context, and then taking in the exhilarating Illilouette, Nevada, and Vernal falls on the way down.
Make Your Yosemite Reservations Today If you’re planning to go hiking in Yosemite this year, consider making your reservations with Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders. We offer Yosemite reservations within the gates of the park. With one of our cozy cabins, condominiums, or homes, your Yosemite accommodations will be just minutes from your favorite Yosemite hikes. Give us a call at 1-888-YOSEMITE (1-888-967-3648) to learn about our rentals and to make your Yosemite reservations today. Yosemite National Park Blog Scenic Wonders’ Yosemite blog provides the latest news related to Yosemite National Park. By reading our blog, you’ll stay up to date on activities, accommodations, and more.