Mist Trail, Vernal & Nevada Falls CA

• 5-star hike
• 2.5 to 5.7 mile options
• Medium difficulty | Gain 1,040 to 2,020 ft (Peak 5,980 ft)
• Yosemite, CA | Yosemite National Park
• Driving Directions: Trailhead

Vernal Falls through the trees
Vernal Falls closeup as viewed from the Mist Trail.

Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls are two of the most spectacular waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, but you won’t get to see them from the valley floor. This hike along the extremely popular John Muir trail and then Mist Trail will take you to either or both of the falls as you hike up the Merced River.

This hiking route follows the canyon cut out by the fast flowing river, past the towering Grizzly Peak and up many stone steps carved out of the rock by trailmakers of the past. The views of Vernal Falls get better and better, until you’re finally climbing up sheer rock trails – thankfully protected by handrails – before reaching the top of the falls and the Emerald Pool. Here you can catch your breath and admire the views from the flat expanses of granite before heading back down. There are restrooms up here. Also, as inviting as it looks please do not disregard the signs and swim in the Emerald Pool – people have died getting swept up by the river and been taken over the falls.

red icon Trail to Vernal Falls, purple icon Nevada Falls.

Red icon Trail to Vernal Falls 5★
2.5 mi (3.5 mi from parking), Out & Back, Medium, Gain 1040 ft
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

Purple icon Trail to Nevada Falls 5★
4.7 mi (5.7 mi from parking), Out & Back, Medium, Gain 2020 ft
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

We mentioned that this trail is extremely popular. Not only is it the shortest route to these waterfalls, but it’s also the path to the summit of Half Dome. So expect crowds, and do your best to time your visit when you can. As the name suggests, the mist trail can also get very wet. Expect spray from Vernal Falls, and wear footwear which affords you some grip. This trail is also closed in months when icy weather makes the route treacherous.

Depending on your mode of transport and the availability of trailhead parking your trail length may vary. The formal trailhead is located by the Happy Isles Bridge that is reached via bus, but if you're arriving by car then you'll be starting in a parking lot that is located a further half-mile to the West. Our article describes the trail length depending on whether or not you're beginning at the Happy Isles Bridge and bus stop.

Many people on the Mist Trail. Trees below and Glacier Point in the distance.
The Mist Trail is very popular at all times, except when it's closed in icy conditions.

(1) Hiker on a very smooth paved trail. (2) Vernal falls dropping into a chasm, with rainbow coming off the mist
Paved trail on the return to Happy Valley.  | Vernal Falls in full.

• Trail Links: Official, Public Map at AllTrails
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

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