Few trails offer more eye candy than the Panorama Trail, which earns its name with unprecedented views of Yosemite’s most famous landmarks.
From the trailhead, head left on the Panorama Trail and immediately take in postcard views of Half Dome. At mile 2.2, turn left to an overlook of Illilouette Falls, a ribbon of whitewater dropping 370 feet. Next, cross Illilouette Creek and slowly climb 800 feet over 1.5 miles to Panorama Point. Five-star views stretch into Yosemite Valley to Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls and to Royal Arches.
To continue, go left and descend more than 10 switchbacks. At the three-way junction, bear right on the John Muir Trail and soak in views of the granite bald of Liberty Cap. Continue to the frothy spout of Nevada Falls. Here, the Merced River drops nearly 600 feet.
Hike on. At milepoint 6, turn left onto the Mist Trail and down a series of granite steps. Cross the Merced River, and climb more stairs to the 317-foot Vernal Falls (its trailside mist forms countless rainbows). The trail turns to pavement, and longer views unfold of llilouette Falls. Cross the Happy Isles bridge and hike to trailhead parking lot.
Shuttle Info: Glacier Point Tours, www.yosemitepark.com. Flag down the 8:30 a.m. bus so you have plenty of time to hike the 8.8 miles.
MORE INFO: Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-020; nps.gov/yose/
-Mapped by Dave Miller