This trail is simply epic! It’s a long hike but it rewards you with some of the best views in Yosemite! The name “Panorama Trail” definitely suits this route well…
It’s about 25km / 15 miles long and I finished it in 9 hours. So especially if you’re hiking it in the winter make sure you have enough time to get back to your car before the sunset. I did it in early February and some bits were covered in snow or ice so I took advantage of my micro spikes – they weren’t necessary but they made the walk easier (especially going down the Four Mile Trail). A big benefit of hiking Yosemite in the winter is that it’s rather empty. I didn’t meet a single living soul until I reached Glacier Point (which is the top of the Four Mile Trail).
I’d suggest to park near Curry Village as this is where the Panorama Trail starts. For the first few kilometres you’ll be following the Mist Trail all the way until you reach Vernal Falls, and then Nevada Fall. The views there are just amazing and the higher you go the more stunning it gets!
Once you make it to the top of Nevada Fall and cross Merced River you’ll find yourself on the Panorama Trail, in an area called Panorama Cliff. The valley from this angle looks breathtaking as you’re able to see Yosemite’s Half Dome in all its glory! Also, this part of the route should be less crowded in the busy months. The next few kilometres, all the way until Illilouette Falls, are in the shade of trees, which might come in handy in the hot weather.
Once you cross the Panorama Bridge it’s about two more kilometres to get to Glacier Point that offers you another speculator view of the valley. Honestly, the valley looks like a painting from there. So many details…
The very last part of the Panorama trail is descending the Four Mile Trail, which was rather icy in February. From the Four Mile Trail there’s some amazing views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. Once you get all the way down back to the valley you’ll just need to walk back to your car, which is about 3km far away. It’s an easy and quick walk though as the path is parallel with the road. Or if you’re lucky enough with the timings you might be able to take the shuttle bus from there.
Apparently, some people prefer to hike the Panorama Trail the other way around but I’d say it’s better to start with the waterfalls and finish off with the “boring” walk back to your car.
You can download the route in GPX by clicking on the “Download” button under the map. Enjoy!