High on Granite: Four Mile and Panorama Trails at Yosemite National Park

No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite. – John Muir

I agree completely–and I honestly think that anything made with human hands is nothing compared to a high-country meadow, or even a minor rock formation, or a dormant volcano. I loved Yosemite to bits and I would like to come back soon to climb the Half Dome, go for days on end just looking at something this beautiful. Now, several blogs told me that the Four Mile and Panorama Trails are two of the most exciting day hikes in Yosemite. So I decided to do this 22-kilometer stretch: ascent to Glacier Point via Four Mile Trail, descent via Panorama. Some basic stats:

Four Mile Trail

  • Distance:  4.7 miles (7.5 km) one way; 9.4 miles (15 km) round trip
  • Yosemite Valley Elevation:  4,000 feet (1,200 meters)
  • Glacier Point Elevation:  7,200 feet (2,200 meters)
  • Total Elevation Change:  3,200 feet (975 meters)

Panorama Trail

  • Distance:  8.5 miles (13.5 km) one way
  • Elevation Range:  from 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) on the valley floor to 7,200 feet (2,200 meters) at Glacier Point
  • Total Elevation Change:  3,200 feet (975 meters)
  • Hiking Time:  4.5 – 7 hours

The adventure begins with a scenic walk across the Valley, past the Swinging Bridge. El Capitan Shuttles (which run from 9 AM to 6PM) can also drop you off at the trailhead.

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The ‘Swinging’ Bridge
Four Mile Trailhead Yosemite
Four Mile Trailhead

Ready? The trail is actually a series of mild ascents thanks to several (actually a lot) of switchbacks. Good thing about it is that it remains pretty much shaded from mid morning up until noon. Yay! That said, about one liter of water is enough, since there is an opportunity to refill at Glacier Point (but don’t take my for it, bring as much as you can). 🙂

Four Mile Trail
Shade!

It took me about 2.5 hours to finish the trail, complete with energy gel breaks and a couple of take-fives to see some cute distractions. There were not too many people during my hike, probably because it was a Friday, and because they usually take a bus to Glacier Point and then hike down (a better option if you’re not really in good shape).

Random Distraction
Distraction 1
Giant Cone
Distraction 2. Now you might wonder why I stopped to take a photo of a pine cone. Pine cones in the Philippines are no more than three inches big–so this is a giant by my standards. Haha!
Squirrel at Yosemite
Distraction 3. Because, animals!

As you go higher, you’d see this breathtaking scenery unfold–slowly, a bit more complete in every turn. That’s the advantage of starting from the Valley going up.

Four Mile Trail View
The scenery unfolds!

The reward is not a sandwich after the hike is (half) done. Hahaha! The reward is this, the Half Dome staring back at you and a view of a massive landform previously subjected to a geologic process, which, I honestly failed to understand even when I was still studying high school Earth Science.

Half Dome from Panorama Trail
Hi!

Glacier Point is packed with tourists, so there is a place where you can buy souvenirs, have a picnic, play with the squirrels (I’m kidding, that’s prohibited), and just take a break. The Panorama Trail Head is just near the amphitheater so you will not have trouble finding it. In fact, you will feel compelled to start hiking down because trust me, you don’t want to miss the last YARTS bus (the only transport available if you don’t have a car).

Going down will be hot–the trail is indeed panoramic because it offers another perspective of the Valley and also because it is mostly exposed. Apply and re-apply sun block.

IMG_5926
Tang ina, ang init!
IMG_5934
Oh you will get lot’s of sun.

But yes, yes, yes enjoy the panorama. 🙂

IMG_5914
Bam!!!
IMG_5925
Ba bam bam bam!!!

There is a chance to see Illilouette Falls on the way.

Illilouette Fall Yosemite
Don’t ignore it when you hear it!

Actually, you will see a lot of water on the way. Apart from the Merced River, which runs in parallel with Highway 140, Yosemite Valley is also bisected by the Tuolumne River–and of course, it is a part of the Sierra Nevada Region where 60% of California’s water supply comes from. See, more water.

IMG_5928
Water!!!

At some point, the Panorama and the Mist Trails would intersect. I ditched my map on the 6th hour and just walked where the people went. It took me to the top of Nevada Fall and very close to Vernal Fall.

Nevada Fall 2
Don’t look down, from the top of Nevada Falls
Vernal Falls
The majestic Vernal Falls

Now Vernal Fall is more than 300 ft.  The drop is so high up that once the water hits the bed, it would be sprayed right back at you. Like mist. 🙂 The trail ends at Happy Isles where you can take the shuttle back to the Visitor Information Center. All in all, I wish that I had at least one week to stay in the area but nope, got to make do with what time you have.

I’m excited as hell to go home because–mountains! Hahaha! My last local climb was still Mt. Mayon and I’m itching to conquer another peak right before the typhoons come pounding us.

Cheers from Third World Trekker!

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