Mist Trail, Yosemite's Most Popular Waterfall Hike

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Hiking past Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail in Yosemite.

Yosemite’s most popular path, Mist Trail, deserves every bit of attention it gets. This spectacular, rainbow-streaked trail skirts 317-foot Vernal Fall and 594-foot Nevada Fall and extends to Little Yosemite Valley. Hike 1.2 miles (one-way) and 1,000 vertical feet to the top of Vernal Fall; going on to Nevada Fall adds 1.5 miles and 1,000 feet to your trip. Start early to avoid crowds. 

More importantly, watch your children closely since the path can get slippery when it is wet. And don't go near the water. The current is deceptively strong, even in what looks like still pools of water. A number of fatalities have occurred when children and adults have waded into the water on this trail. 

Mist Trail Trailhead

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 at shuttle stop 16. Stop at the snack shop for an ice cream treat or cool beverage, but don't make the mistake of thinking your 16 oz. soda will be enough for the hike. Make sure you have a bottle or two of water for the trail. 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.

Hikers enjoy a shady spot on the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park. 

Mist Trail Bridge

Photo opportunity at the Vernal Fall Bridge.

Stop for a photo opportunity at the Vernal Fall 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

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.

Hikers walk the Mist Trail beside Vernal Fall in Yosemite. 

The viewing platform at the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite

The viewing platform at the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite

Nevada Falls

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.

Sunset at Nevada Falls. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Sunset at Nevada Falls.