Tuesday, 30 October 2012

#1 Panorama Trail, Yosemite

#1 Panorama Trail, Yosemite, USA.

Distance - 8.5 Miles (13.7Km)
Ascent - 300m (About 1000m of descent!)

Well I decided to start the challenge in a good way and there are few day walks in the world with as spectacular views as the Panorama Trail in Yosemite.  Yes it is that good.  Starting at Glacier Point you have views over Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls and the Valley floor.  Yosemite enchanted John Muir, and it doesn't take much to see why.  It is an amazing place and that's with only seeing a small tiny part of this wilderness. 

From Glacier Point

The trail is well marked and in great condition.  It begins by dropping from Glacier Point down to Illilouete Falls over approx. 2.5 miles.  The views over Half Dome are spectacular.
The snow levels were low last winter so Nevada and Vernal Falls were not quite as impressive as other years, but it was late in the season.  Illilouete Falls provide a nice break spot.  Quiet, with the water gently flowing past it is quite easy to lose yourself for a while!  Paddling was quite safe this year, but be very careful if the water is flowing stronger (Many people have gone over the falls in the park and many are never found!)

Bridge at Illilouette Falls

Over the next 1.5 to 2 miles you climb approx. 300m up a series of switchbacks.  This is pretty much all the 'up hill' there is on this trail and it gives it you in one go.  The switchbacks (common on US trails) can be grinding as they seem to go on and on.  I struggled a little here, it was warm and steep and my lack of fitness was kicking me hard.  It is worth it though.  More views into the valley and Half dome lead you to stop every few metres to take more and more pictures!

Once over the hump the switchbacks come back on the descent to Nevada Falls.  This is another great place to stop and relax. 

From Nevada Falls
Now there are 2 options to return to the Valley floor.  The Mist trail is more spectacular but involves steep drops down steps and a rock staircase.  It's tough, I've done it before and it's the hardest downhill section I've probably ever done.  The second option is to take the John Muir Trail down, this was my choice this year!

Whilst not as spectacular as the Mist trail it still packs some great views and was much quieter.  The mist trail is one of the most popular trails in the park and at times is like a long queue of heavily breathing day hikers!

Nevada Falls
For most of the John Muir trail down I was alone, which in a park as popular as this is a rare treat.  No bears seen, but it is a spooky feeling for a UK hiker knowing they are probably a lot closer than I would think!

The JMT joins with the mist trail at the Vernal Falls bridge.  This is the first (safe) water source on the trail and it comes with only a mile to go.  From here the path is tar-maced with only a few minor up's and downs to go.  After all the descent you find different muscles than usual.  This is a great trail and if you have only 1 day in Yosemite, do this one.

Hmm full JMT?  211 miles?  Maybe, just maybe....

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