This trail begins at the Glacier Point Parking Area and leads southward to Buena Vista Peak. This trail leads through the Illilouette Creek drainage to its headwaters in the Yosemite National Park backcountry. It can be used in conjunction with several other trails to create a long loop hike or extensive backcountry trek.
Begin the trail from the Panorama/Pohono Trailhead at the southeastern end of the Glacier Point Parking Area. The route descends from the trailhead using switchbacks and leading southward. Within the first mile and a half the trail forks. The left side of this fork leads to Illilouette Fall, following the Panorama Trail. Follow the right side of the fork, which leads along the western bank of the creek. This stretch of trail provides sweeping views of the upper Merced River Valley to the left.
Past the Panorama Trail, the Buena Vista Trail continues southeastward paralleling Illilouette Creek. The next mile is a slow descent of 200 feet. Beyond that the trail levels, crosses an Illilouette Creek tributary and begins to slowly ascend. Three and a half miles from the trailhead Buena Vista Trail intersects the Mono Meadow Trail. You'll find several stream-side campsites if you follow the Mono Meadow Trail eastward a short distance from this intersection.
Continuing in a southeasterly direction the trail climbs steadily reaching a stream crossing within one and a half miles. Beyond this stream crossing the trail reaches an elevation of 7,000 feet and remains relatively level for the next mile and a half. Within this level stretch the trail crosses a meadow and two small streams.
Once beyond the meadow Buena Vista Trail turns slightly westward skirting the eastern flank of a ridge. The trail curves around this ridge while paralleling the Buena Vista Creek to hikers left. Within a mile of turning toward the west, the trail begins a mile-long climb. Reaching 8,000 feet the trail levels and crosses a small stream. Buena Vista Peak lies directly ahead on this leg of the trail.
The route continues to climb toward the northwestern flanks of Buena Vista Peak. It crosses another small stream after descending slightly from a ridge line. Shortly thereafter the trail crosses Buena Vista Creek then closely follows it for slightly less than a mile. Crossing the stream for the last time the trail switchbacks to 9,000 feet and a trail junction.
From this junction walk eastward to Buena Vista Lake and Royal Arch Lake. The trail to the right leads to Chilnualna Lakes and into the Chilnualna Creek drainage. These routes eventually meet to form a loop around the back of Buena Vista Peak.
Directions from Arch Rock Entrance: Follow Highway 140 into the park. Bear right on to Southside Drive then make a quick left on to Highway 41. Travel 9 miles to Glacier Point Road and turn left on to it. Follow Glacier Point Road 16 miles to the end. Begin the trail from the southeastern part of the parking lot.
June through October
(NOTE: Weather conditions may close the access roads to Panorama/Pohono Trailhead before dates noted above.)