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
Click on images to enlarge
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.
Mist Trail Bridge
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
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.
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.