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Yosemite National Park, California, United States

The Mist Trail - Vernal and Nevada Falls

Hike to two breath-taking waterfalls along Yosemite Valley's most popular hiking trails

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    This guide contains photos
 (47 votes, 12 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 6.5 miles / 10.5 km
Duration: Half day
 
Overview: If you only have time for one hike while in Yosemite look no further: the Mist Trail is the hike for you. It is no wonder why this trail is one of the most popular trails in Yosemite Valley. You will hike so close to 2 massive waterfalls that it will be very difficult to avoid the mist from the falls. The best time to hike this trail is in Spring or early Summer, while the snow runoff is high and the falls are full of water.

The Mist Trail starts at Happy Isles trailhead (YARTS shuttle stop #16, and within walking distance of Curry Village). After a brief stroll along the river, you clime a pretty steep initial accent until you reach the footbridge, which offers the first glimpse of Vernal Fall in the distance (and a water-fountain and restrooms). You will then continue up to Vernal Fall, past Emerald Pool, and alongside Nevada Fall until you reach the high-point for this hike.

Then take the alternate route down along the John Muir Trail to see views of Nevada Fall and Liberty Cap in the distance before meeting back up with the Mist Trail near the footbridge. The route back is slightly longer, but offers a change of scenery and is easier on the knees. Before hopping back on the YARTS shuttle, treat yourself to some ice cream or a refreshing drink at the small stand, or head over to Curry Village for a larger variety of choices.


Tips: There is a water fountain at the footbridge, but you will need to bring at least 1L of water to hold you until you get back near the end of the hike.

Points of Interest

Junction
map

Happy Isles Trailhead

Start your hike at Happy Isles Trailhead (YARTS stop #16), and walk along the Merced River for a while before hiking a fairly steep section leading up to the footbridge. On your right, you may be able to see some water from Illilouete Fall if it is still early in the season. After about 0.8 miles you will arrive at the footbridge where you will get your first glimpse of Vernal Fall in the distance.
map

Footbridge

After about a 0.8 miles you will walk across the Merced River on a wooden bridge, with views of Vernal Fall in the distance. There is a restroom and water fountains here, and it's a good place to take quick rest as it gets quite steep after this point.
Water
map

Vernal Fall

After hiking about 1.5 miles from the start you will arrive at the magnificent Vernal Fall. You likely will have learned why the trail is called "The Mist Trail" on your way up. The rock stairs can be a bit slippery when wet, so be careful. From the top you can take a water break and creep to the edge (don't worry, there are rails) to look straight down at the river below. To see Vernal Fall at its fullest, visit around May or June when the snow is mostly melted and the upper lakes are at their fullest.

If you do not plan to hike onwards to Nevada Fall, make sure to continue a little ways further to admire Emerald Pool, only a little ways away.
Water
map

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool sits at the top of Vernal Fall, and at the end of the Silver Apron, a granite "slide" leading coming from Nevada Falls. While it may look fun to slide down, restrain yourself, and the current underwater is much stronger than it looks, and swimmers have been swept off the edge of the Fall. But that doesn't mean you can't sit by the water, soak your feet, and enjoy your lunch!
Water
map

Nevada Fall

Another 2 miles after Vernal Fall (and up some pretty steep, rock switchbacks) you will make it to the top of Nevada Fall. The best spot for photographs is about half way up the waterfall, and should be fairly obvious.

Once you reach the fork at the top of the climb, turn right for a short trip to the top of Nevada Fall. If you are continuing on to Half Dome, hike back to the fork and continue straight ahead and you will soon enter Little Yosemite Valley. If you are hiking the Mist Trail, continue back down along the John Muir Trail towards the footbridge.
Junction
map

The John Muir Trail (alternate route)

Many hikers prefer to take the John Muir Trail on the way back because it offers fresh scenery, further views of Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall, and mostly because it is not nearly as steep as the Mist Trail, and much easier on the knees (although it is slightly longer).

It is 2.5 miles back to Happy Isles back along the Mist Trail, or about 4 via the John Muir Trail. Either way you will pass the footbridge again, where you can refill your water bottles.
Food/Dining
map

Refreshments

Before getting back on the YARTS shuttle head over to the refreshment stand and reward yourself for your hard work. If you want a little more variety to choose from, visit Curry Village for lunch or an afternoon snack.
Pictures in this guide taken by: chris, jasonchiu, jtg2078, joost
Reviews
stevebhalla
i must say..it is the best falls in the word and best hikes

by stevebhalla on Aug 16, 2014
inqueba
the best hike... must go with friends only

by inqueba on Jul 17, 2014
hairtransplant
vary adventures place....Great Hike

by hairtransplant on Jul 17, 2014
ILKIHWANG
Planing to hike on April 30th 2014 alone....
Anybody who I can join?
I will be staying on Curry village from April 29

just afraid of bears and mountain lions

Visited on Apr 16, 2014

by ILKIHWANG on Apr 16, 2014
kthor
took us about 7 hours hiking this trail on an wet, icy, snowy trail using mist trail to nevada falls and taking john muir trail back to parking .... took our time with tons of selfies, rest to drink, snacks etc ...
Visited on Apr 05, 2014

by kthor on Apr 06, 2014
WaynesWhirled
Definitely a five star hike, though I'll admit that I did get started VERY early in the morning (7am) to miss the crowds that will gather in summer. I was on my own at the top of Nevada Fall and had to wait for a couple from France to show up to take my picture!

I also suggest taking the John Muir route down, less so because of the knees but because of the traffic that will be coming up behind you if you go early.

Visited on Aug 14, 2011

by WaynesWhirled on Jan 11, 2012
joost
The Mist Trail is spectacular, as it climbs up almost vertically next to the Vernal Falls. Only reason I am not giving it 5 stars is that it gets really crowded on peak season days.
Visited on May 31, 2008

by joost on Jan 04, 2012
chris
The best hike for your time in Yosemite. Just the hike to Vernal is an amazing experience, but Nevada is nothing to sneeze at. This hike can be very tough on the knees. If you have tender knees (or plan to), hike down the John Muir Trail, which is a bit longer but much easier on the knees.

The waterfalls and views never fail to impress me, and I've probably seen them 10-15 times.

Visited on Jun 30, 2010

by chris on Jan 04, 2012
fabiorome
Great trail.
I did the Mist-John Muir version of the trip. It took 6 hours enjoying and taking photos. We started the trail with only 1,5 litres of water and half the way (on top of Nevada falls) the water was finished and we had to wait almost the end of the trail (footbridge) to drink again. I suggest you to bring 3 litres each if you plan to take the trip in summer.
If you have camera equipment you should use a backpack water proof.

Visited on Jul 28, 2011

by fabiorome on Jan 04, 2012
pikachiu132
Spectacular views. However a never ending uphill hike with rewarding views along the way. Bring a good rain or windbreaker.

The boyfriend proposed to me up here. Nuff said.

Visited on Apr 28, 2011

by pikachiu132 on Jun 21, 2011
sammydee
My wife and I did the Mist-John Muir version of the trip last weekend in 4 hours. The current rating (half-day, moderate) seems right. Follow this up the next day with a drive up to Glacier Point ... be sure to stop at Washburn Point to look down on Vernal and Nevada Falls, so you can gape in amazement at your hike!

by sammydee on Sep 13, 2010
tbone123
Highly recommended hike--but 1-3 hours is a misprint. 6 hours is going to be more typical. 4 hours is for well conditioned hikers not taking time to stop and enjoy the scenery.

by tbone123 on Jul 25, 2010

The Mist Trail - Vernal and Nevada Falls Trail Map


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chris
chris
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