In Your Backyard: Yosemite's best day-hike (that's not Half Dome)
In this week's edition of "In Your Backyard," FOX26 Sports Anchor Nick King is hiking in Yosemite National Park. This isn't just any day of hiking, either - it's the best way to spend a full day hiking in Yosemite that doesn't involve climbing the cables of Half Dome.
While Half Dome has to be considered the most epic hike in Yosemite, you need a permit to reach the top, and that permit can be tough to get hold of, especially on short notice. By combining the Panorama Trail and the Four-Mile Trail (both expertly described by the very helpful website, yosemitehikes.com), you can have as tough and long a day as you would doing Half Dome, but actually get better overall views start to finish.
This combination makes for about a 14 mile day, that should take 7 - 11 hours. Panorama starts at Glacier Point, while the Four-Mile starts on the Valley Floor, so there's about a 3200 foot change in elevation both ways.
You can attack this a number of different ways, which we'll list here, with pros and cons.
OPTION ONE (RECOMMENDED)
Starting at Glacier Point - Panorama first, Four-Mile second
PROS: Do the longer hike (Panorama is about 8 miles) downhill; enjoy seeing Illilouette/Nevada/Vernal falls from a distance early in the day, then stand on top/walk right past them later in the hike; see the sunset at Glacier Point (one of the best views not only in the park, but in the entire Sierra Nevada mountains)
CONS: The uphill hike (Four-Mile is really 4.6 miles) at the end of the day is a bear; getting from the bottom of the Panorama/Mist Trail to the Four-Mile Trailhead takes some work - you can take the Valley Shuttle from Happy Isles (stop 16) to Camp 4 (stop 7), then, if it's before 5 o'clock, hop on the El Capitan Shuttle and get off at the Four-Mile Trailhead (stop E7). If it's after 5 o'clock, make a short walk across the Valley from Camp 4 to the Four-Mile Trailhead. OR avoid the shuttle altogether, and simply walk the entire way, about three miles (this sounds more complicated than it is; if you simply hop on the shuttle at Happy Isles and ask the driver when to get off, they're happy to assist)
Starting at Glacier Point - Four-Mile first, Panorama second
PROS: Start the day with a nice downhill walk; see the sunset at Glacier Point
CONS: There's still a bit of work to get from the Four-Mile Trailhead to the Panorama/Mist Falls Trailhead, albeit a little easier than the first option - hop on the El Capitan shuttle at the Four-Mile Trailhead (stop E7), ride to the Valley VIsitor Center (E1), then get on the Valley Shuttle and take it to Happy Isles (stop 16). OR, again, avoid the shuttle and walk the three miles; also, this way leaves the longer hike for the latter part of the day, and there isn't as much anticipation for the waterfalls
Starting on the Valley Floor, parking at Swinging Bridge - Panorama first, Four-Mile second
PROS: Enjoy the biggest excitement early in the day (Vernal/Nevada Falls); enjoy an easy downhill hike last; finish the hike very close to where you parked
CONS: You'll start the day on the shuttle (see OPTION TWO for instructions); the tougher uphill hike is first; no Glacer Point sunset
Starting on the Valley Floor, parking at Swinging Bridge - Four-Mile first, Panorama second
PROS: The trailhead is only about 150 yards from the parking area; enjoy a downhill hike with great waterfall anticipation to finish the day
CONS: You'll have the longest shuttle ride option at the very end of the day (see OPTION ONE for instructions); no Glacier Point sunset
Starting on the Valley Floor, parking at Half Dome Village/Upper Pines Campground - Panorama first, Four-Mile second
PROS: An easy walk from your car to the Panorama/Mist Trailhead; enjoy an easy downhill hike last
CONS: If you finish after 5 o'clock, you'll either need to walk across the Valley Floor to reach the Valley Shuttle (El Capitan shuttle, which stops at the Four-Mile Trailhead, stops running at 5), or make the 2-3 mile walk to where you parked; no Glacier Point sunset
Starting on the Valley Floor, parking at Half Dome Village/Upper Pines Campground - Four-Mile first, Panorama second
PROS: Finish the day very close to where you parked; enjoy the longer hike going downhill, with great anticipation for the waterfalls
CONS: You'll start the day on the shuttle (see OPTION ONE for instructions), or walking a couple miles along the Valley Floor to reach the Four-Mile trailhead; no Glacier Point sunset
Starting on the Valley Floor, with two cars
PROS: avoid using the shuttle (park one at both Swinging Bridge and Half Dome Village/Upper Pines Campground)
CONS: no Glacier Point sunset; extra car traffic (there are enough vehicles in the park already!)