Mist Trail to Vernal Falls

5-star hike.
4 mile out-and-back • Medium difficulty.
Elevation 4,000 - 5,046 feet. Gain 1,000 feet.
Yosemite National Park, Northern California.
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Vernal Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, of which there are several, but you won’t get to see it from the valley floor. This hike along the extremely popular John Muir trail and then Mist Trail will take you there, and give you the option of trekking another mile (and 900 feet in elevation) to the top of Nevada falls, a little further 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.

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.

Alternate Routes:
• Parking to Vernal Falls: 3.7 miles out-and-back (1,010ft gain)
• Happy Isles Bus Stop to Vernal Falls: 2.8 miles out-and-back (1,010ft gain)
• Extend to Nevada Falls: add 2.4 miles out-and-back (900ft gain)
• John Muir and Mist Trail to falls: 7.2 miles part-loop (2,217ft gain)

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