The waterfalls of Yosemite National Park are world famous for their size and veracity. There’s the popular waterfalls like Yosemite Falls, the tallest in North America, and Horsetail Fall, which marvels onlookers every February with its natural phenomenon “firefall.”
The most popular waterfalls in the park are traditionally the easiest to find, but if you’re willing to put in a little work, and get a little wet, we have a Yosemite hike that will take you to two incredible waterfalls: the Mist Trail.
This enchanting hike, with its stunning waterfalls and picturesque views, promises a thrilling adventure that will leave you breathless, both figuratively and literally. So, lace up your hiking boots and grab your camera, because we’re about to explore the wonders of the Mist Trail together.
Hiking to Vernal Fall
The Mist Trail is a moderately strenuous 7-mile round-trip hike that takes you to the base of two majestic waterfalls, Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. The trail is well-maintained and includes a combination of paved pathways, stone steps, and rugged terrain. The hike’s difficulty level increases as you ascend, but the magnificent views at each turn make every step worthwhile.
Your adventure begins at the Happy Isles trailhead, located in eastern Yosemite Valley. From the trailhead, follow the signs for the John Muir Trail, which will lead you to the Mist Trail junction. It’s essential to start your hike early in the day, as the trail can get crowded, especially during peak season.
As you progress along the Mist Trail, you’ll soon catch your first glimpse of Vernal Fall, a 317-foot waterfall that cascades down a sheer granite cliff. The trail takes you up a steep series of stone steps, where the mist from the waterfall is so dense that it often creates rainbows. Make sure to have a waterproof jacket and a protective cover for your camera, as the mist can soak you through in no time.
Upon reaching the top of Vernal Fall, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley and the roaring waterfall. Take a moment to soak in the scenery and appreciate the raw power of nature before continuing your ascent.
The Ultimate Reward: Nevada Fall
After conquering the Vernal Fall section of the Mist Trail, you’ll continue your hike towards Nevada Fall. The trail becomes more rugged and steep, but the sight of the majestic 594-foot Nevada Fall will make every step worth the effort. The thundering water creates a mesmerizing spectacle, and the surrounding landscape offers awe-inspiring views of the valley below.
At the top of Nevada Fall, you’ll find a footbridge where you can take a well-deserved break and capture some incredible photos. This is also a great spot to enjoy a packed lunch while appreciating the stunning surroundings.
The Return Journey: Exploring the John Muir Trail
For your return journey, consider taking the slightly longer but less steep John Muir Trail. This alternate route provides new vantage points of both Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall, as well as panoramic views of Yosemite Valley. The John Muir Trail is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the park’s captivating beauty and reflect on the unforgettable experience of conquering the Mist Trail.
Tips for a Successful Hike
- Start early: The Mist Trail is popular, and parking can be limited. Arrive early to secure a parking spot and avoid the heaviest crowds.
- Wear appropriate footwear: Sturdy hiking boots with good traction are essential, as the trail can be slippery, especially near the waterfalls.
- Bring water and snacks: Stay hydrated and energized throughout your hike. There are no water stations along the trail, so pack plenty of water and some trail snacks.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles: Help preserve Yosemite’s pristine beauty by packing out any trash and respecting the park’s rules and regulations.
- Check weather conditions: Before embarking on your hike, make sure to check the weather forecast for any sudden changes or potential hazards.
- Be prepared for altitude: The Mist Trail gains approximately 2,000 feet in elevation. If you’re not accustomed to hiking at higher altitudes, take it slow and give yourself time to acclimate.
- Bring a waterproof jacket and camera protection: The mist from the waterfalls can be intense, so it’s crucial to have gear that will keep you and your equipment dry.
- Know your limits: The Mist Trail is a moderately strenuous hike. Be aware of your physical abilities and don’t hesitate to turn back if you feel it’s necessary.
The Mist Trail is an unforgettable journey that showcases the unparalleled beauty of Yosemite National Park. With its awe-inspiring waterfalls, lush greenery, and captivating views, this hike should be on every outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list. Just remember to be well-prepared, respect the park’s rules, and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.