It was freezing cold when we woke up at 5am in a tiny Tent Cabin we were renting at Half Dome Village. Summer is almost near but the temperature at night still drops to below 10 centigrade. We headed to the shared bathroom, 30 steps away from our cabin, to freshen up and proceeded to have our Western breakfast. We readied ourselves with what we anticipated to be the highlight of our Yosemite tour, hiking the Panorama Trail.
True to what every traveler says, not everything will go according to plan. We were supposed to arrive at Yosemite Lodge at 8:15am for our shuttle to bring us to the Glacier Point. From Glacier Point, we were to start the trail and finish it by taking the Mist trail back to the valley. We arrived at the lodge at 8:35 and while the bus hasn’t left yet, we were no longer allowed to take it since our tickets were sold to another guests. It was sure a bummer, but, they inform us that we can take the next bus departing at 10am or we can opt for a valley tour, in lieu. Not letting it affect our Yosemite experience, we went for plan B. Take the Mist Trail.
Mist trail is probably the most famous day hike in Yosemite evident with the number of people taking the trail. The trail gives you an incomparable vistas passing through two gigantic waterfalls and the commanding view of Liberty Cap, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. With the amount of snow pack the America received last winter, we expected that the falls will be at its most powerful and we were so excited.
The trail started when we got off the free shuttle at bus stop #16, Happy Isles. Following the sign, we commenced our ascent to the footbridge of the Vernal Fall. Though the road is paved and no stone steps, yet, it wasn’t an easy hike. The weather was perfect, the sun was up and there’s a cool breeze emanating perhaps from the falls. After almost an hour with two or three stops in between, we’ve finally reached the footbridge of the Vernal Fall.
The mighty Merced river was roaring and the astonishing Vernal Fall was peeking, giving us a preview of what’s to come. The footbridge was the last stop to replenish our bottled water and to use the bathroom. The next break would be at the top of Nevada Fall, that is if you go all the way up.
The sound of the roaring falls was very inviting that even with the many stone steps ahead of us it was, for a change, welcoming. We can now feel the mist and there was no doubt to where this trail got its name. The trail was crowded with people of different age. The granite steps were slippery, so, hiking pole and hiking shoes were absolutely necessary. The last thing you would want is to fall and bring someone with you.
We readied our ponchos on because the mist was strong. Passing by the fall, even if we got shower wet, was an exhilarating experience. We took our moment admiring the fall and not even once we complained about the steps. After passing the magnificent Vernal Fall, was a switchback of pure stair case, so narrow, that only one person can pass. This switchback was a little steep and only a railing was coming between you and falling to the river. We’ve reached the top of Vernal Fall and we felt like champions.
At the top of Vernal Fall, we took a rest, ate our packed lunch and admire the view from the top. The water was tempting but we knew the hazard of slipping. We didn’t dare. The view of the fall and the river below gave a different perspective of Yosemite. Instead of looking up and be overwhelmed by majestic mountains, we were now looking down and we’re pretty proud of ourselves making it to the top.
This part of the hike was when you decide whether to continue going up to Nevada fall or start your way back down. If continuing, another 2-3 hours will be added and a massive gain on elevation. We decided to not go up and complete the loop by taking the John Muir Trail back down to the valley. Another view of the Vernal Fall from the top awaited us and it was extraordinary.
The ascent continued for another hour and when we thought that we’ve seen it all, the most beautiful sight of the trail came to our surprise. Just arriving at Clark’s Point was the amazing view of the Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap, the back of Half Dome and other mountains in sight. It was so beautiful we didn’t believe it to be real. No exaggeration.
We started the descent via John Muir trail and it was quite long. Yosemite Falls (Upper and Lower) had taken a peek during the hike and we continued going down until we reached the footbridge of the Vernal Fall. We went back to where we started at Happy Isles with the view we would never forget.
Water, ponchos, food, hiking poles, broken in hiking shoes are just some of what were necessary.
After the hike we took the bus from Happy Isles to bring us to our accommodation in Half Dome Village. When we arrived at Half Dome village, we knew that we had to reward ourselves with sumptuous slice of pizza. What a great day!
We might have missed our bus to Glacier Point, but no regrets. It was a once in a lifetime experience and we felt that we were richer when we finished it. Richer with the beauty of Mother Nature, hiking experience, and unending offer of beauty of Yosemite.
When is the best time to go here?
During late spring and early summer. The falls will be eye-popping.
What time to start the hike?
As early as possible before it gets crowded.
How to get here?
Take the Yosemite free shuttle bus to Happy Isles stop #16. The trail is pretty well-marked.
How long is the hike?
Depending on your rest, should be 4-5 hours to the top of Vernal Fall back down. Add two hours if going up to the top of Nevada Fall.
Is it worth it?