I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to post photos from this hike on our CA trip in September. It's definitely a highlight (if not THE highlight) of the entire trip. We were very fortunate that we took the hike when we did, as it turned out to be the only totally smoke free day while we were there (other than our arrival day). The smoke from the Rim Fire went north from Yosemite, but occasional shifts brought it south in to the Valley area. We could see the smoke on the horizon on this hike but it was a gorgeous day.
If you want to hike the Panorama Trail in the downhill direction, you can take a bus (fee) from the Yosemite Lodge one-way to Glacier Point. The bus trip was guided so we got a lot of info about geology and wildlife on the way up. Once we were at Glacier Point, we spent some time at the overlook and then set off to the Panorama Trail trailhead. It's all downhill for 2-3 miles down to Illouette Creek, before you start a short uphill section. This part is mostly exposed, but it's just awesome to spend that time hiking and being able to glance over and see Half Dome the entire time.
here's Vernal Fall, where we would end up later in the day
another shot of where we were headed, you can see the small switchbacks across the way, and later we would descend from Nevada Fall and next to Liberty Cap, which is the large round rock at the top left of the photo below
this is probably a better shot of where we were headed, we would continue to descend down to Illouette Falls (out of photo to the right), then ascend that ridge in the center, then we'd continue around the point, into some woods and eventually connect with the John Muir Trail briefly to end up at the top of Nevada Fall (not viewable) before using the Mist Trail down past Liberty Cap (in photo) to Vernal Fall (in photo) and then down to the Valley floor.
this is what we called "the mishap"...I slipped on a small damp spot on a big rock (no where near a ledge thankfully) and ended up bruised and dirty, but no broken skin (or bones) and the hike continued
below Illouette Falls
the uphill portion, smoke from the Rim Fire viewable on the horizon to the north
backside of Half Dome
descending back into the woods
stop for lunch at the top of Nevada Fall, it was getting pretty hot, so we found a spot in the shade...4.5 miles down, another 4 or so to go
here's where I wish I had a photo of the sign at the top of the Mist Trail that suggested hikers use the John Muir Trail to descend to the valley due to steep, rocky, slick footing with steep drop offs, but on we went
this is top of the Mist, looking up at Liberty Cap, as we descended next to Nevada Fall -- this was the hardest and scariest part & I was too focused on my footing to stop and take a photo of the trail itself -- wish I had
this is Emerald Pool which is above Vernal Fall
the bottom of Vernal Fall, you can see brave (crazy?) people jumping off rocks and swimming below
steps, steps, and more steps -- this is when we were really hurting.... probably hiking without enough rests or enough food (we'd split a sandwich). we found ourselves rushing the second half of this trip and still wonder why
And at the bottom waiting for the shuttle bus to take us back to the lodge -- tired and happy (left to right, lol). Looking back, I really didn't take many photos of the Mist Trail due to being hot and tired and just focusing on putting on foot in front of the other.