While eating my sandwich, yogurt, and fruit on the top of North Dome, I examined my trail map and saw I could make a loop hike out of this instead of retracing my steps past Yosemite Falls. It would be over 18 miles for the entire loop -- a large undertaking considering all the ups and downs -- versus 12 miles for the out-and-back hike. But I still had some daylight ahead of me and was feeling revived after lunch, so I decided to tackle it. (Don't try this unless you have plenty of water remaining.) I returned to the North Dome trail heading east and was soon back in the forest and moving away from the valley rim.
The feeling here greatly differs from the valley rim trails: no granite, lots of green, the smell of pine needles all over, rolling landscape and very few other hikers. The scenery doesn't change must in the forest, but it's nice to stop here for a while, sit on a fallen tree and listen for wildlife. After a few minutes your notice birds (and deer if you're lucky) that you would have missed if you just hurried through.
At one point, the trail takes you within a mile of Tioga Road in the northern section of the park. There, you will hook into the Snow Creek Trail, which parallels the eponymous creek and leads back into the valley. After a couple hours in the woods, you'll finally emerge at a point on the rim between Snow Creek Falls and Basket Dome, revealing your reward: the best views of the hike with Half Dome and the Quarter Domes looming across the way.
The trail then descends quickly down a series of switchbacks, so tighten your laces first. Once you reach the valley floor, you've still got a couple of easy, flat miles to go before ending at bus stop #17. The last section of this monster hike passes Mirror Lake where many artists and photographers set up their easels and tripods to capture Half Dome at the golden hour preceding sunset. Two bus stops later, I was back at my campsite, gratefully reaching into my cooler and rewarding myself with a cold can of Budweiser. The entire hike with stops took me between 8 and 9 hours to complete. I move pretty fast, so allow an extra hour or so if you don't.