Trek to the top of Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall along Yosemite National Park’s signature hiking trail. Expect to be generously sprayed by both waterfalls.
Yosemite National Park is full of iconic landscapes and Mist Trail is one of the best ways to experience many of them. As you trek along the short yet challenging trail, appreciate the postcard-worthy sights around every turn.
There is a reason that Mist Trail is considered Yosemite’s signature hike. Many of the park’s trails are popular because they lead to one spectacular destination, but Mist Trail offers several of them. As the name suggests, expect to be enveloped in a shroud of mist from the waterfalls.
Follow the first section of the trail to the Vernal Fall Footbridge, about 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers) from the trailhead. From here, enjoy stunning views of the waterfall crashing before you. After the footbridge, follow Mist Trail directly to the top of Vernal Fall along a formidable granite stairway comprised of more than 600 steps.
At the top of the stairs, admire the 317-foot (97-meter) Vernal Fall and then continue back where you came from. If you want to go on, continue along the trail for 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) to the top of the 594-foot (181-meter) Nevada Fall. Get even better views from the footbridge over the Merced River above the waterfall.
Begin the hike at Happy Isles, shuttle stop #16. The trail is 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) round-trip to Vernal Fall or 5.4 miles (8.7 kilometers) round-trip to Nevada Fall. The distance may seem relatively short, but remember that the trail begins at 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) in elevation, with somewhat thin air. You will climb a further 1,000 feet (300 meters) to the top of Vernal Fall and another 1,000 feet (300 meters) to the top of Nevada Fall. This steep hike entails a lot of climbing. Allow 2 to 5 hours to complete the hike, depending on the distance you choose to climb.
Remember to dress appropriately for changeable weather. Park officials suggest wearing sturdy hiking boots and layers to adjust to changing temperatures during the day. They also recommend a rain jacket to stay dry as you pass by the falls as you follow the Mist Trail.