Yosemite National Park, CA
Four Mile to Mist Trail
This must-do tour of Yosemite’s granite and whitewater highlights is so breathtaking, the park’s godfather, John Muir himself, specifically recommended it as the area’s premier dayhike. But the nation’s best views can attract big crowds; hit Muir’s route on a weekday in June before summer season peaks, or wait until after Labor Day. Begin the 13.3- mile horseshoe at the Four Mile trailhead beneath Sentinel Rock and grind up 3,200 feet on more than 40 switchbacks as the morning sun sets the valley walls aglow. Catch your breath at Glacier Point while you peer into the valley from your 3,000-foot-tall perch, surrounded by the glacier-hewn faces of Half Dome, Royal Arches, the Three Brothers, and El Capitan. Descend the Panorama Trail toward the quiet of Illilouette Basin and the rumbling of two of Yosemite’s most famous waterfalls: Nevada and Vernal. Muir recommended resting your legs beside the cascades before following the Merced River down toward “the stupendous scenery into the heart of which the white passionate river goes wildly thundering, surpassing everything of its kind in the world.” Enough said. (209-372-0200; nps.gov/yose
) Trip ID 2148883
The way From the El Portal entrance, take El Portal Rd. and Southside Dr. to Four Mile trailhead. After hiking, take the free Valley Shuttle to the visitor center, then the El Capitan Shuttle (runs until 6 p.m., June-Oct.) back to Four Mile.