NileGuide Expert Says:
If you really only have time for one hike (and you're fit enough for this burly climb) this is the hike to do. Steep cliffs, the crashing Merced River and one gorgeous waterfall.
East end of Happy Isle Loop Road
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
+1 209 372 0200
NileGuide Expert tip:
The Mist Trail is closed in winter due to ice buildup.
The Mist Trail parallels the John Muir Trail from Happy Isles to the top of Nevada Fall and many people make a loop of the two. Here we'll describe just the Vernal Fall section. The trail is paved or granite and is very popular for a good reason - astonishing scenery, a stiff ascent and an astounding 300' waterfall. Bring water, sun protection, and if it's May or June, consider bringing raingear, when the route beside Vernal Fall could be called the "Firehose Trail." The climb from Happy Isles runs steadily up a good paved surface with a few views of the Merced River's rapid descent. You first see Vernal from below at the footbridge, where in summer there is drinking water and a restroom. Another 20 minutes up and you'll reach the mistiest section. About 600 granite steps, with steel railings where needed, get you to the top of the fall.
Be careful of the slick granite as you top out on the stairs and descend to the edge of the fall. Aggressive ground squirrels haunt the top - do not feed them or leave your stuff unattended. Peer over the railing at the edge, back down the gorge you've just climbed. Be careful around the swiftwater- too many people have been lost in the river along this stretch of trail; swimming above the falls is most unwise.
There's a restroom just above the top of the waterfall, and the trail continues on up to Nevada Fall or to an airy view near Clark Point.
The Vernal Fall section of the Mist Trail is closed in the winter because of the coat of ice that builds up.