Vernal and Nevada Falls, CA • Hike
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Vernal and Nevada Falls, CA

Guide 13 Triplogs  0 Topics
  4.3 of 5 
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Circular Hay Bluff Walk Including T...
Circular Hay Bluff Walk Including Twmpa Via Gospel Pass
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 7.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,027 feet
Elevation Gain 2,014 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,553 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.37
Interest Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
15  2022-09-03
Vernal and Nevada Falls Loop
25  2017-09-11
Half Dome Hike
6  2015-09-17
Mist Trail - Yosemite NP
24  2015-07-21
Nevada Falls Loop
37  2014-05-24
Yosemite NP Loop
12  2013-07-21
Sunrise Creek Loop
19  2012-08-26 trailzrus
29  2012-05-23
Mist Trail - Yosemite NP
Page 1,  2
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 3
Photos 546
Trips 50 map ( 405 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Sierra Nevada Region
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar Map
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Preferred Apr, May, Oct, Mar → 7 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:30am - 4:54pm
Official Route
3 Alternative

exhilarating - jump start your heart
by mikemcg

A popular, moderate-strenuous trail that approaches and climbs to the top of 2 powerful perennial waterfalls, providing spectacular views throughout.

The trail begins at the Happy Isles Trailhead in eastern Yosemite Valley. There are parking lots a half mile and a mile from the trailhead. You can park at either of these (if they aren't full, which they frequently are) and walk or take a shuttle bus to the trailhead (shuttle stop #16).

The first mile of the trail is a wide asphalt walkway with a mild, steady uphill, and pretty views of the Merced River immediately to the right. This section is frequently crowded, and as described by @AZLOT69, "you are almost certain to hear whining and complaining as you pass people pausing, and sitting on rock barriers contemplating on the wisdom of picking this trail.". Eventually, the trail reaches the Vernal Fall Footbridge, which crosses the river. There are typically numerous people on the bridge and in the river below the bridge. From the bridge, Vernal Fall can be seen upstream. Just past the bridge is a fountain with potable water, some restrooms, numerous signs, and often some NPS rangers warning people that it gets strenuous beyond that point and you need to Bring Enough Water.

At this point, you can proceed up Mist Trail, or turn right onto John Muir Trail. They both lead to the top of Nevada Falls, but the Mist Trail is direct and much steeper, while the John Muir Trail has a gentler incline but is over a mile longer with 24 switchbacks. The Mist Trail also goes directly to the bottom of each waterfall as well as Emerald Pool and Silver Apron, while the John Muir Trail only provides views of the falls from a distance. We took the Mist Trail up for better views and a better experience, then took the John Muir Trail down for better knees.

The Mist Trail then ascends 800 vertical feet to the base of Vernal Fall via approximately 500 steps. This will definitely raise the heart rate, but the exhilarating up-close view of Vernal Fall will do the same. Vernal Fall is 317 feet high and there is often a large rainbow arcing across the bottom of the falls. The trail passes approximately 70 yards from the falls but multiple use-trails proceed directly to the base of the falls. After climbing to this point, it can be nice to sit on a rock and enjoy the spectacular view or jump into the swimming hole at the base of the falls. The falls are most powerful in the spring and the mist blows away from the falls to spray hikers on the trail, giving the Mist Trail its name.

From the base of the falls, the trail climbs 100 more steps to the top, where there are beautiful views of the valley. There are railings at the edge to prevent falls in this windy, slippery area.

A little further is Emerald Pool, a peaceful alpine pool with views of Half Dome and Mount Broderick. The pool is clear, cool, and inviting, but swimming is prohibited, as there is a risk of getting caught in the current and being swept over Vernal Fall. Regardless, it is common to see people swimming here, or just enjoying the ambiance. Just upstream of Emerald Pool is the Silver Apron, a granite slab with water rushing over it which could make a fun waterslide. Again, this is prohibited.

The trail crosses the river on a bridge, and Nevada Fall, which is 594 feet high, can be seen in the distance. The trail quickly approaches the base of Nevada Fall, then becomes rocky and ascends to the top of the falls via switchbacks. Again, it is possible to scramble over to the base of the falls before returning to the trail and climbing up. At the top, there is a fork to the left, toward Half Dome, and the John Muir Trail begins to the right. There is another wooden bridge that passes over the river, with views of the valley, Half Dome, Mount Broderick, and Liberty Cap. The John Muir Trail descends gradually, with consistent views of Nevada Falls in the distance, then becomes slightly steeper, with at least 24 switchbacks. Eventually, Emerald Pool and Vernal Fall can be seen from above. Finally, the John Muir Trail merges with the Mist Trail just above the Vernal Fall Footbridge, and the remainder of the trail proceeds on the paved walkway back to the trailhead.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2022-09-11 mikemcg
  • Yosemite Park Map
    area related
    Yosemite Park Map
  • Yosemite Campgrounds
    area related
    Yosemite Campgrounds
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Permit $$

Yosemite National Park
Fees & Passes
Half Dome Permit - Currently required 7 days a week. Check the link for the most up-to-date information.

2014 - 300 permits issued daily, 225 for dayhikers.
2013 - 400 permits issued daily, 300 for dayhikers.

Paved - Car Okay

To Happy Isles Trailhead
Yosemite National Park - From Yosemite Village, take Southside Dr. past Curry Village and park in parking area across from Upper Pines Campground. Walk or take shuttle to stop #16.

From Phoenix, AZ - 681 mi - about 10 hours 45 mins

From Los Angeles (I-5 & I-10) 314 mi - about 5 hours 22 mins
From Sacramento (I-5 & I 80) 171 mi - about 3 hours 37 mins
From Lone Pine (Whitney & US 395) 197 mi - about 4 hours 6 mins
page created by HAZ_Hikebot on Sep 11 2022 11:45 pm

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