Elevation/Mileage: 9.6 miles/15.5 km round-trip. 6 to 8 hours; 3,200 feet/975 m elevation gain.
Begin at the Four Mile Trailhead along Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley. In summer months, take the El Capitan Shuttle to the trailhead. You can also reach the trail from year-round Valley Visitor Shuttle Stop #7, adding about ½ mile to the total distance. This trail begins near the base of Sentinel Rock and climbs to the top of Yosemite Valley at Glacier Point.
This hike has stunning views of Yosemite Falls, which makes it an ideal hike in the early summer when the falls are still flowing. It also features unique views of Half Dome. Be prepared however, as the switchbacks on this trail are infamous. It is also moderately exposed so wear plenty of sunscreen.
Although many hikers do this trail as a round-trip hike, an alternative in the summer is to purchase a bus ticket to Glacier Point ($) and hike down, this is a much easier way to see the same sights with less strain. Bus reservations are required; visit a DNC tour desk for details. You can also make a longer hike by following the Panorama Trail (below) back to the Valley. This trail closes in winter due to extremely hazardous conditions.