Mist Trail, Yosemite’s Most Popular Waterfall Hike

Hiking past Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail in Yosemite. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Hiking past Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail in Yosemite. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Starting from Happy Isles on the Yosemite Valley floor (Shuttle Stop 16), the challenging Mist Trail climbs a granite staircase beside Vernal Fall, which is a hardy three-mile round trip. If you continue for another two miles along the same trail, you’ll reach the top of Nevada Fall.

Mist Trail Trailhead

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Start the Mist Trail after the bridge at Happy Isles, shuttle stop 16.

Start the Mist Trail after the bridge at Happy Isles, shuttle stop 16.

The beginning of the Mist Trail is in Yosemite Valley near the Happy Isles Nature Center. Stop at the snack shop for an ice cream treat or cool beverage. Then head across the bridge over the Merced River to find the trailhead. Both the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail share the path for the first mile.

Hikers enjoy a shady spot on the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Hikers enjoy a shady spot on the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Mist Trail Bridge

Photo opportunity at the Vernal Fall Bridge. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Photo opportunity at the Vernal Fall Bridge. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

At the 0.8-mile mark, you get your first glimpse of Vernal Fall at the Vernal Fall Bridge. It’s a popular spot to take photos, so you may have to wait a bit to jockey into position for a long-distance waterfall photo or a selfie. After the bridge is a welcome water-filling station and a privy.

Stone Steps Leading to Top of Vernal Fall

Yosemite's Mist Trail to Vernal Fall

Yosemite’s Mist Trail to Vernal Fall

As you approach Vernal Fall, the wide stone steps with occasional metal pipe railings give you a sturdy path up the wet and misty canyon edge. The final ascent to the top of the water requires navigating over slippery boulders on a steep hillside, not for those afraid of heights.

Hikers walk the Mist Trail beside Vernal Fall in Yosemite. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Hikers walk the Mist Trail beside Vernal Fall in Yosemite. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

The viewing platform at the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite

The viewing platform at the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite

Nevada Falls

Sunset at Nevada Falls. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Sunset at Nevada Falls. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Not ready to head back? Continue on another two miles to view Nevada Falls. A short distance after the waterfall, you rejoin the John Muir Trail, so you can head back with a different view.