The Panorama trail is located in Yosemite Valley. It traverses a section of the southern rim of the valley from Glacier Point to the top of Nevada Falls where it connects with the John Muir trail. Regarded as one of the best hikes in the Valley, the Panorama trail is aptly named. The trail includes sweeping views of Yosemite Valley, 4 different waterfalls, Mt. Starr King, and Half Dome. Be sure to spend a day on the Panorama trail in Yosemite National Park for a great day hike you will never forget.
2 Best Day Hikes on the Panorama Trail
Both of these options are primarily the same hike. The first option is starts in Yosemite Valley and takes the bus to Glacier point with a hike back down to the Valley. The second option you are hiking from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point and back to Yosemite Valley, a very strenuous hike but it you’ve got the time and the legs to do it there is a lot less logistics involved. Click Here for a map of Yosemite Valley trailheads.
Below are the primary options for day hiking the Panorama Trail:
|Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley (Bus Option)||8.8||3650 ft loss||Moderate||Thru-hike|
|Y. Valley- Glacier Point- Y. Valley (4 Mile Trail add on)||13.4||3670 ft||Strenuous||Thru-hike|
1. Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley (Bus Option)
This hike begins by parking your car at Half Dome Village. Choose to walk or take the Valley Shuttle to Yosemite Valley Lodge. Ride the Glacier Point Tour all the way up to Glacier Point to the trailhead. Make sure you take some time to check out Glacier Point area and the views, they are spectacular. The Panorama trailhead is located on the righthand side of the stadium seating area if you’re facing Half Dome. The trail descends 1,230 ft in the first 2.6 miles to the first trail junction. Stay to the left toward Vernal/Nevada Falls and Illiloutte Falls. Follow the trail to the footbridge of Illiloutte creek, a great place to stop for a snack.
After the footbridge the trail climbs steadily past Panorama Point to the junction of the John Muir Trail, plenty of amazing views to admire along the way. Once you hit the junction of the JMT, take a right hand turn to get to the top of Nevada Falls. This is a great place to stop for lunch and take in the grand view. Next, double back .4 miles to the trail junction and keep following the John Muir Trail in the opposite direction. This will take you all the way down to Clark Point, another stunning viewpoint. From Clark Point, continue to follow the JMT as it switches back all the way to the Valley floor, there are great views of Nevada and Vernal Falls along the way. Once you have hit flat ground follow the signs back to your car at Half Dome Village.
2. Yosemite Valley- Glacier Point- Yosemite Valley (4 mile trail add on)
This hike begins by either parking your car at the 4 mile trailhead or at Curry Village. Either way you can take the Valley shuttle to the trailhead or your car. Starting at 4 mile trail on the south west side of the valley, you will climb a whopping 3,670 ft up to Glacier Point. Make sure you take some time to check out Glacier Point area and the views, they are spectacular. The Panorama trailhead is located on the righthand side of the stadium seating area if you’re facing Half Dome. The trail descends 1,230 ft in the first 2.6 miles to the first trail junction. Stay to the left toward Vernal/Nevada Falls and Illiloutte Falls. Follow the trail to the footbridge of Illiloutte creek, a great place to stop for a snack.
After the footbridge the trail climbs steadily past Panorama Point to the junction of the John Muir Trail, plenty of amazing views to admire along the way. Once you hit the junction of the JMT, take a right hand turn to get to the top of Nevada Falls. This is a great place to stop for lunch and take in the grand view. Next, double back .4 miles to the trail junction and keep following the John Muir Trail in the opposite direction. This will take you all the way down to Clark Point, another stunning viewpoint. From Clark Point, continue to follow the JMT as it switches back all the way to the Valley floor, there are great views of Nevada and Vernal Falls along the way. Once you have hit flat ground follow the signs back to your car at Half Dome Village. If you are parked at 4 mile trailhead, take the valley shuttle all the way there.
Maximize Your Visit to Yosemite National Park on a Hiking Tour
Guided day hike tours and multi-day packages allow visitors the opportunity to make the most of their time in Yosemite National Park and to do it hassle-free. Guided tours include gear (backpack, trekking poles, crampons in winter), meals, accommodations on multi-day tours, local transportation, and a professional Colorado hiking guide. Through their knowledge, stories, and personal passion, guides can bring a place to life in a way that’s much more difficult to do on your own. Read more about Yosemite Hiking Tours.
3 Panorama Trail Backpacking Trips
One of the best backpacking trips we recommend in Yosemite starts not he Panorama Trail and ends in Yosemite Valley. It’s a longer trip, 6 days, but well worth it. You’ll experience Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and climb to the top of Red Peak pass, the tallest walkable mountain pass in the park. This hike is all about solitude, you’ll camp underneath the stars in the Clark Range and visit some crystal clear Sierra lakes.
|Red Peak Pass Loop||48 mi||Strenuous||Ottaway Lake, Washburn Lake
Little Yosmite, Triple Peak Fork
1. Red Peak Pass Loop Backpacking Trip ( 6 days)
This hike starts in Yosemite Valley. Park your car at Curry Village and take the Valley Shuttle to the Yosemite Lodge. From Here board the shuttle to our trailhead at Glacier Point. Here, after taking in the incredible panoramic views of the High Sierra, we begin your adventure. Follow the Panorama trail to the first junction and head south. Hike for 2.1 miles and then take a right turn at the next two trail junctions, your goal is the Clark Fork. One you arrive, find a campsite along the banks of the Clark Fork of Illilouette Creek.
After an early wake up, eat a hearty breakfast and continue to hike up Illilouette Creek towards the rocky ramparts of the Clark Range. A few miles will bring you to incredible Lower Ottaway Lake. One of the most beautiful lakes in Yosemite, it is situated in a rocky amphitheater surrounded by colorful Red Peak, Ottaway Peak and Merced Peak. We recommend camping here for the night.
It’s another early rise the next morning as you traverse around Lower Ottaway Lake and begin your ascent to the highest trailed pass in Yosemite, Red Peak Pass at over 11,000 ft. It’s almost all downhill from here and roughly 9 miles to camp at the Triple Peak Fork of the Merced River. There is plenty of camp sites along the Granite slabs and plenty of water year round.
Your next day’s destination is Washburn Lake. From Triple Peak fork its a relatively moderate hike of about 7 miles or so. The Lake is beautiful and great for a swim. Definitely make yourself a camp here for the night.
Next up is a long trek to your camp at Little Yosemite Valley. Its about a 8 mile day to get there but its relatively flat. You will walk past the beautiful Merced lake, and the Bunnell Cascade. Once you arrive make your camp and take a dip in the Merced river, a great beach lies to the south of the camp. The last day you will follow the John Muir trail all the way back to Yosemite Valley to your car passing Nevada and Vernal Falls along the way.
Join a Guided Yosemite National Park Backpacking Trip
Joining a Yosemite National Park backpacking tour is a worry-free, adventurous way to experience Yosemite. With your gear, meals, local transportation, permits, and fees taken care of for you, you can travel light and focus 100% on enjoying the hiking experience, while the guide company takes care of everything else. Also, by going with local experts you’ll enjoy a greater level of safety and gain a much better understanding of the history and ecology of this remarkable region. Read more about guided Yosemite backpacking trips.
When to Hike and Seasonal Considerations
The best time to Hike on the Panorama trail is typically between the months of May-October. The Panorama and Glacier Point lie on the south side of the Valley and in the Wintertime can build up a lot of snow and ice without a lot of exposure to the sun. We recommend hiking the trail in the late spring and summer to early fall. Highway 41, the Tunnel View trailhead, is typically open year round but the Glacier Point road is not. So if your planning on hiking from the Glacier Point area based on road closures you will only be able to access it when the road is open. For current park conditions click here or call (209) 372-0200 (press 1 then 1)
Getting to the Panorama Trailhead
The Panorama trail runs Southeast from Glacier Point to a junction that connects to the John Muir Trail about a mile from the top of Nevada Falls. Then you jump on the John Muir Trail and follow it back to Yosemite Valley. If you want to hike the trail in its entirety from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley, we recommend leaving you car at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley and taking the Glacier Point Tour bus up to Glacier Point. From Glacier point you would hike along the Panorama Trail all the way back to your car at Half Dome village. This is the most convenient way to complete the Panorama Trail from point A to B. The shuttle runs one way or both, we recommend booking the one way ticket to Glacier Point at 8:30 am. For information on the Glacier Point Tour bus click here. Your bus will be departing from the Yosemite Valley Lodge. See directions below on how to get to the Lodge from your car at Half Dome Village. You will also pick up your tickets at the Lodge “Tour and Activity Desk,” adjacent to the front desk.
To get to Curry Village:
Follow Southside drive and the signs along the way once you get into Yosemite Valley. You can park your car here for free all day.
To get from Curry Village to Yosemite Valley Lodge:
Your bus will pick you up at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. To get there from Curry Village you could walk, its about 2 miles, flowing signs along the Valley Loop Trail. You could also take the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle. Bus stop 14 is at Half Dome Village and you need to take it to bus stop 8 at Yosemite Lodge. For some info and a map of the Valley shuttle click here.
Once you get all of the logistics sorted out and get to Glacier Point, the trailhead will be located on the right hand side of the stadium seating area if you’re facing Half Dome. Sounds like a lot of planning but its worth it, happy trails!
Note: If you do not want mess with riding a bus, there is a strenuous alternate version to hike from Yosemite Valley- Glacier Point- Yosemite Valley via the 4 Mile Trail. See the day hiking options above.
Day Hike Permits
You do not need a permit to day hike in Yosemite National Park.
You will need to secure a permit to backpack in Yosemite National Park. Permits are reservable 6 months in advance to the date you wish to start hiking. You can also try and secure a permit the day before your trek in person at any wilderness permit center before 11 am. For more information on Yosemite’s permit system, click here.
Suggested Packing List
Day Hike Packing List
- 3-6 liters of water (more in summer)
- Salty, calorie-rich snacks
- trekking poles
- crampons (in winter)
- wide-brimmed hat
- sunscreen, sunglasses
- cotton t-shirt (spring-fall)
- non-cotton t-shirt (winter)
- rain jacket
- warm non-cotton layer
- 1st-aid kit
Backpacking Packing List
- all items listed for day hikes PLUS
- multi-day backpack
- 3-season tent
- sleeping bag
- sleeping pad
- backpacking stove and fuel
- backpacking meals
- 3 pairs wool socks
- extra t-shirts
Please Respect Our National Parks – Leave No Trace
We strongly recommend abiding by all Leave No Trace ethics guidelines and practices so that our national parks and public lands are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations and for the people and animals who call these places home. Simple things like packing out your trash, obeying national park rules, and respecting the peace and quiet of our national park trails is a great start. If you’re going on a backpacking trip, you can read about more about the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.