RF, the 4-mile trail starts on the south side road, about 200 yards west of the non-swinging "Swinging Bridge"
. To get to the trail head, you either stop on your way into Yosemite Valley (just past the Sentinel Beach area), or it's almost a half-mile walk from the nearest shuttle bus stop (#7 near Yosemite Lodge). I stopped on the way in, so then took the shuttle at the end of the day to stop #7 and walked the half mile across the Swinging Bridge
and to the car. (If you want to be quick, there's a bus transfer by the Yosemite Village store, I think stop #2, otherwise your bus will take a side trip to the Ahwahnee Hotel.) Ask bus driver for help. Shuttle Map
The hike is fun. It climbs steadily 3200' from the Valley floor in shady forest all the way to Glacier Point. The trail emerges just west of the handicapped trail/ramp that leads out to the GP overlook. Here's the map
showing the Four Mile Trail. This section took me about 2.5 hours. When the store at GP is open, you can buy hot dogs and ice cream, etc. (It was closed this time, since GP had just opened.)
The Panorama Trail starts just up the hill from the GP store and parking area. It descends 1300' over several miles to Illilouette Creek. Just before the creek, there is a little 20-yard detour of the main trail to get a birds-eye view of Illiloouette falls. The trail then climbs about 800', the first part is pretty hot and dry. It then descends to Nevada Falls, first encountering the JMT trail junction. Keep right to head to Nevada Fall. You can return on the JMT if you want to take the longer trail to the Valley floor. I like the steeper trail on the N side of the falls (it starts down at the restroom). The group I was with stopped to eat a lunch by the Nevada Falls bridge. I think this section took about the same time as the climb to GP.
You can descend various ways to the Valley floor:
1. is the JMT, on the S side of the falls. The trail is easier on tired legs, zig-zags more, and stays in the forest more. Early on, there IS a nice section where you look back toward Nevada Falls for a great view. This section has been cut out of the cliff wall, and has a nice retaining wall. Staying on this trail, you avoid the Mist Trail, and join the Mist Trail section near the bridge below Vernal Falls.
1b. Part way down the JMT, there is a side-trail that descends to the top of Vernal Falls. It then goes down the Mist Trail.
2. Cross to the N side of Nevada Falls, follow the trail a short distance to the restroom. Here the JMT continues on toward Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, or you turn left and head down a steeper rocky trail to the top of Vernal Fall. This is the most direct descent. Once at Vernal Falls, head down the Mist Trail.
3. A variation at the bridge below Vernal Falls. There is a horse / pack trail on the S side of the river at this point. I take it sometimes to enjoy a quieter trail. It comes out at the Happy Isles shuttle stop. This route avoids the crowds on the way more popular Vernal Falls main trail. The horse trail actually joins the JMT just above the bridge, but I usually just head uphill from the restroom to find it, I think about 20 yards.
The entire loop took me about 8 hours. I hurried some places, but stopped and talked with people at quite a few others.
Sunday (May 5), I hiked with two German students on the final leg of a 7-month round-the-world tour. Also walked and talked with 6 engineers from Milwaukee who were staying in a rented house in Foresta. And two guys, one a seasoned guide scoping the hike for future clients, another a vagabond living out of his pickup. Also encountered people from France and Belgium. Definitely an international place!