California Stories and Tips

Hiking down into Yosemite Valley

View from Glacier Point Photo, Yosemite National Park, California

We decided that we would hike down from Glacier Point down the Panorama trail. We planned an early start and drove up the winding road to Glacier Point. That trip up made me feel quite travel sick but it remained just feeling queasy. We arrived up, and made use of the restrooms, enjoyed the views from the top, topped up our water bottles and I ate some crackers to settle my stomach.

The trail down is 8.5 miles and falls 3200ft to the valley floor. There is a good reason that it is called the Panorama Trail the views were incredible on the first section was we made our way down to Illilouette Falls which is after 2 miles. This section we didn't see another soul on the path which was lovely - but any sense of remoteness was spoilt on reaching Illilouette river were we had a water break enjoy the running water for a while, but we discovered rubbish here - we each took some to carry out so that others would not have to endure such a lovely place with wrappers and empty bottles.

Having dropped into a river valley we had to climb up again. One place there was a fair amount of loose gravel that needed a little bit of a scramble and was out in the sun, and the heat of the day was starting to rise. I was glad to get into the forest for a little out of the sun. Then we were dropping down again - the forest was pleasant, lots of little streams - we only saw a handful of people until we reached Nevada Falls.

As we got near the falls the trail get very wet and muddy, and then out of the forest you come out on bare rock. You could hear the falls long before we saw them. Here you are right at the top - the view was stunning. But despite warning signs and guard rails the numbers who risked going near the water at the top of the falls was shocking. The falls were stunning but the water level was low for this time of year as there was a smaller snow fall over the winter than normal, meaning less snowmelt waters.

I found a nice shady spot under a tree and ate my lunch. There are composting toilets up here above the falls if needed. What a stunning place to have a picnic.

My plan with my ankle not being quite 100% after an earlier sprain, was that I wanted to carry on down the John Muir Trail rather than the Mist Trail which is steeper and rough rock steps down. But all the others opted for the Mist, and I didn't really want to go off on my own, so I decided to chance it. It wasn't too bad, but I needed to go slow and got left behind from my group. There were some nice views of Nevada Falls though. But the trail was quite busy and it was a constant fight to get down with so many climbing up ( and many not well prepared with little water and more footwear). The crowds increased by the time I got to Vernal Falls - and here the crowds on the trail actually made it quite dangerous. I also saw one woman take a bad tumble, thankfully someone rang and the rangers were on their way up to get her down. There are some fairly steep drops at the side of the path as well. I had to take a long break at this point, my ankle was getting really sore - but I found a perch where I could see the Falls and feel the spray.

At this point it seemed like pushing your way to get down there were so many people on this steep and narrow trail. Many ill prepared for walking on such a rough path - taking their chance to see the waterfall. I made it down to the bridge, and there is water available here, so I was glad to get a cold drink here.

While at some earlier stage parts higher up on the Panorama Trail had been tarred they were being returned to natural worn paths. But at this lower level the trail was tarmac and undulated a bit as it dropped down to the valley floor. I got down to Happy Isles, and decided my ankle was at its limit so caught the shuttle to Curry VIllage and had an ice cream.

The upper part of the hike was fabulous with stunning views and only a handful of people. But once we dropped past Nevada Falls the trail got busier and by Vernal Falls it was crazy. I'd do the trail again but not in the peak season, so as to actually enjoy the lower section of the trail rather than feel I was fighting my way, and to enjoy the beauty of Vernal Falls. It was a good hike, stretching but not too strenuous but need to make sure to carry plenty of water. Panorama is the right name - from views over the valley to the falls is was stunning.

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