Hike the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls in Yosemite NP

Vernal Falls Trailhead

This is an awesome hike to do in the Yosemite valley because of the incredible beauty, easy access and ability to get to the top of a waterfall in a short period of time. 

This is one of the most epic short hikes that you can do in Yosemite. Highly recommend it for anyone staying in the valley or visiting with enough time for a 2-3 hour hike. While the distance isn't long, you will stop a lot along the way to take in the beauty and also spend time at the top of the falls.

The hike starts from Happy Isles (shuttle stop #16).  You can also hike from Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) and add about 1 1/2 - 2 miles round trip to your hike along an easy paved trail. The actual trailhead is very easy to find and the route takes you up one and a half miles with an elevation gain of over 1,000 feet. While this is not a long hike, it is intense since the distance is short for that much elevation gain. It is fairly straight up. However, by the time you have completed the hike up, you will have experienced some unparalleled beauty, a raging waterfall in a lush green setting, mist covering you along parts of the trail and possibly a rainbow from the spray of the falls.

This hike starts out very accessible, paved and is a fairly easy to moderate hike for anyone up to the Vernal Falls Footbridge. The footbridge provides great views of the falls. Even if you don't feel like you can make it to the top, it is the worth the hike to the lower bridge. However, do your best to push on as the experience to come is so worth it and the best part of the hike. The trail gets a little less accessible after the bridge and as you near the top, you are following a path of stone steps up the edge of the mountain. There are railings in the sketchy places and the steps aren't bad at all. The hardest part can actually be coming down the steep rock steps where they are wet and can be slippery where the mist sprays. The National Park System has done an amazing job creating such a complex upper trail to the top of the falls. 

The top of Vernal Falls provides amazing views of the Yosemite Valley as well as the upper falls. Another great thing about this trail is that you hike along the John Muir Trail  for part of the hike and it is a fun experience to see the trail signs and the mileage to Half Dome, Tuolumne Meadows and other stops. For the more advanced hiker or one with more time, continue on the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. Give yourself more time for this portion of the hike. 

There are bathrooms at the Vernal Falls Footbridge and also drinking fountains to fill up your water bottles.

Please remember that in spring and summer this waterfall and river are raging. Do not attempt to ever wade in to the river as the water is running at a fast pace and people have died here by not paying attention to the rules. Also, respect the lush cliffs and fields and do not attempt to climb on them.

If you think you'll have more energy, check out this adventure that continues the hike to Nevada Falls: https://www.theoutbound.com/yo...

Pack List

  • Water 
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Snacks if you are planning on a longer day 
  • Hiking boots or good traction shoes
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RT Distance 2.4 Miles
Elevation Gain 1000 Feet
Activities Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

The Yosemite Hike

If you don't have much time in the park this is the Hike you should do. Fairly easy but so beautiful. Ton of crowds but hey it's Yosemite. Love the waterfall!

Best in the spring

Vernal Falls is roaring right now! You will get wet for sure compared to past years. Definitely worth it for the adventurous person

Yosemite Adventure

Loved this trail a little harder then normal trails but well worth the hike expecially once you make it to the fails. Very steep for someone not used to hiking. But it's a lovely view for sure.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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