Glacier Point-Illilouette Falls-Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA



We started our day at Glacier Point just before 8am on a Sunday of the May long weekend. There was a huge parking lot, but it was already half full by the time we got there. We headed towards the viewpoints closeby. I was tickled to see Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls across the valley. We hiked the Mist Trail last year to the top of Nevada Falls, and it was awesome to see it all in one panoramic view here. Many pictures later, we headed to another corner for a view of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.

Wandering around looking for our trailhead, we found a sign that indicated a distance of 5.2 miles to the top of Nevada Falls along the Panoramic Trail. We had originally planned to hike to Illilouette Falls and then to Taft Point. But today Nevada Falls was calling our name.

We started downhill, under some redwoods over a meadow, all the time with a view of Half Dome, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls across the valley. Half Dome changed its shape as we walked along; Nevada Falls played peek-a-boo. Having walked the Mist trail exactly a year ago, I know it must have been a zoo on that trail, though from this vantage point, it looked so peaceful. We couldn't see any hikers along Vernal Falls, nor the footbridges that crosses the Mercer River over the top of two falls. It was a good vantage point.

The changing views of Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls, Yosemite NP

Changing views of Half Dome along our trail


Soon after we lost the view of Nevada Falls, and after a few stream crossings over well-placed rocks and a flooded trail, Illilouette Falls came into view. Having shared our previous plans with the boys, they mistakenly thought that this was our turnaround point. After some convincing, we were back on the trail. We heard the river before we saw it. The loud crashing river eventually poured over a cliff to form Illilouette Falls. We were happy to see that there was a footbridge over it. It had been downhill until this point, then we started going uphill again.

Illilouette Falls, from viewpoint, Yosemite NP

Illilouette Falls, from viewpoint, Yosemite National Park


As we walked along, Yosemite Falls came into view in the distance, both the Upper and Lower Falls. Again, it was peaceful vantage point from here, not giving any sign of the crowds that must be at its base. As we followed our trail, Lower Falls disappeared and Half Dome came into view.

Yosemite Falls from the Panoramic Trail

Yosemite Falls from the Panoramic Trail


Some sidestepping under mini falls, and some rock hopping over flooded trails, and we joined the John Muir trail. At this point, a sign indicated we were 0.2 miles from Nevada Falls. The trail got busier here, and before we knew it, a familiar view of the footbridge over Nevada Falls came into view.

We found a spot away from the water to have lunch. Being parents of 3 active boys, sitting close to danger spots is not an option. Lunch was in the company of some very large black ants, who quickly climbed all over our packs to get a share of our lunch. We ate quickly, marveling at the granite dome rising on the other side of Nevada Falls. We noticed some intelligent hikers in their portable hammocks tied between trees here. Note to self.

At the top of Nevada Falls, Yosemite NP

At the top of Nevada Falls, Yosemite NP


When it was time to go, we headed up the trail. After several uphills and downhills, we came across a hiker who warned us of a baby bear up the trail. I got a little tense, held my bear spray in my hand, knowing where there is baby, mama is not far behind. As we walked along, we caught a glimpse of baby hurrying away. He was a cute little thing. No mama in view. Phew. I know how protective nervous mamas can be.


Up the hill some more and both Vernal and Nevada Falls came into view. We're in the stretch run now. When we finally made it to the Glacier Point trailhead, Strava indicated 6 miles for our one way journey from the top of Nevada Falls, a little more than the NPS sign indicating 5.2 miles. The crowd factor on this trail wasn't too bad either. There were a couple of big groups, but they either lost us, or we lost them fairly quickly. Certainly much less crowded than the Valley trails, and about the same as Chilhualna Falls. This hike took us 7.5 hours to complete including all breaks and Strava indicating a 2000 ft elevation gain one way, due to the non-continuous ascent. This hike was a little more difficult than Chilhualna Falls, possibly due to the blisters that had formed on my toes over our 10 mile hike the day before. (I need to get better fitting shoes). We ended out our day at 13.5 mile roundtrip, including the walk around the Glacier Point viewpoints and to and from our parking spot.


Practical Information (as of May 2017):

Features: changing views of Half Dome, Nevada and Vernal Falls, view of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, view of Illilouette Falls, cross the top of Nevada and Illilouette Falls

Our Hike: 12 miles rt from trailhead in Glacier Point to top of Nevada Falls, though our hike was 13.5 miles rt from parking lot to top of Nevada Falls and including exploratory strolls before the hike and at the top of Nevada Falls

Elevation: Glacier Point: 7200ft, down to Illilouette Falls (5800 ft), then up to Nevada Falls (5900 ft), lots of ups and downs in between, 30-40% shade, Strava states 2000 ft elevation gain on way back. Didn't record the way there (afraid of battery loss)

Directions: Trailhead at the end of Glacier Point Rd, follow Panorama Trail towards Nevada Falls, look for trailhead sign indicating Nevada Falls

Amenities: Vault toilets, large paved parking, though it does get full at which point Glacier Point Rd closed to incoming traffic, shuttle is available. Glacier Point Road closes seasonally, check website for updates

Other: Waterproof shoes recommended (stream crossings and flooded trails), walking poles might be useful

Website: Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point Road Hikes


Warning: The safety of these adventures are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to: terrain, weather, wildlife, hiker skill level, human error, and other foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information provided at the time of publication, we do not assume any liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided.  As such, we will not be held responsible for any harm, injury, and/or loss that may result. Your personal judgement on the safety of each adventure is required at all times. Please use your own discretion and be safe.

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