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Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite + Central Sierra, California

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Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
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  • The Mist Trail leading up to a high flow Vernal Falls.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Vernal Falls.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • The Mist Trail below Vernal Falls.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Vernal Falls.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Top of Vernal Falls.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • The trail begins at the John Muir Trailhead at Happy Isles. - Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • As the traihead sign suggests, this is also the start of many other classic Yosemite trails.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • The paved lower section winds though oak, pine, and large granite boulders. - Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • This lower section of the trail is paved to accomodate the high foot traffic seen in spring and summer months.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • View over Illilouette Gorge.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • The Mist Trail stems off the John Muir Trail.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • A low flow Vernal Falls in autumn.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • The Mist Trail ascends beneath Vernal Falls. - Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Nearing the top of Vernal Falls.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Merced River Canyon.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • The Mist Trail.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Before plunging over Vernal Falls, the Merced River collects at Emerald Pool. - Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Liberty Cap and Nevada Falls in spring.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Liberty Cap (7,076') from the top of Vernal Falls in autumn. Nevada Falls can be seen in the upper right. - Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • There's a great viewing platform from at the top of Vernal Falls with a great view looking down the canyon.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • It is highly recommend that you opt for Mist Trail at least one way. Just look at this waterfall!- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • Nevada Falls is every bit as awe-inspiring as Vernal Falls, and you can say you climbed BOTH if you take the Mist Trail up.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
  • With a slight detour you can reach the spout of Nevada Falls. Be very careful if you venture down to the water.- Vernal Falls Hike via Mist Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Waterfalls. Can be combined with a longer loop hike to Nevada Falls.
Cons: 
Lots of people on the lower section of Mist Trail.
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Region:
Yosemite + Central Sierra, CA
Congestion: 
High
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
National Park Pass
Total Distance: 
2.70 mi (4.35 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
4,000 ft (1,219 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
1,055 ft (322 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Dogs allowed: 
No
Current Local Weather:
Powered by Dark Sky

Today

Clear throughout the day.
88°F
50°

Tue

Clear throughout the day.
87°F
54°

Wed

Clear throughout the day.
82°F
50°

Thu

Clear throughout the day.
81°F
46°

Fri

Clear throughout the day.
85°F
46°

Sat

Partly cloudy overnight.
83°F
44°

Sun

Mostly cloudy throughout the day.
81°F
41°
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

The lower of the two steps that make up the Giant Staircase, Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail explores a stretch of the Merced River Canyon as it rises off of the valley floor and up to the top of Vernal Falls. The hike is a nice there-and-back option if you are limited on time or are interested in a warm-up prior to setting out on a higher elevation hike such as Glacier Point via the 4-Mile Trail and Yosemite Falls Trail.

The trail begins at Happy Isles Trailhead, which is also the start of the famous John Muir Trail. Follow the JMT along the north bank of the Merced River as it winds through the forest of black oak, incense cedar, and ponderosa pine and passes the occasional house-sized granite boulder. The trail begins a gradual rise up the canyon toward Vernal Falls Bridge, where the first views of the 317-foot waterfall appear. The junction with the Mist Trail is just a few hundred yards past the Vernal Falls Bridge. Leave the JMT and follow the Mist Trail toward the base of Vernal Falls, where you begin your ascent up a steep granite staircase. The Mist Trail is named for this section; during high flow months expect a thundering volume of water and a healthy dose of spray as you climb, and don’t forget your rain jacket!

As you continue up the granite staircase you’ll have full, front-and-center views of Vernal Falls. There are plenty of stairs and ledges on which to rest and enjoy the view. With the final push up a narrow, rocky staircase, the trail tops out on an open granite slab above Vernal Falls. Congratulate yourself, as you have just ascended the first step of the Giant Staircase. Soak in the views and explore the calmer waters of Emerald Pool and the Silver Apron area, but heed signs warning against swimming in this area. Unwitting swimmers have been sucked over the waterfall’s edge.

Return using the same path or continue up the Mist Trail toward the second step of the Giant Staircase and Nevada Falls for the Giant Staircase to JMT Loop.

Note: This is a popular trail that many Yosemite visitors use during their exploration of the park. Set out early to get in front of the crowd and/or consider a visit in the quieter fall season.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(9 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(61 within a 30 mile radius)

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