Hike the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls in Yosemite NP

Yosemite Vernal Falls Trailhead

Added by Brynn Schmidt

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
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

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




Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



2.4 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1000 Feet



Family Friendly
Food Nearby

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

3 months ago

Great Hike

Love this hike. Both waterfalls are incredible. Try to catch it in the spring/early summer when the water is really flowing!

3 months ago

Added by Brynn Schmidt

I love wilderness/beaches: photography, hiking, camping, backpacking, and hanging out with my guys while they climb. Mom, wife and co-founder of non-profit organization serving in Gabon and DRC, Africa. Find me on Instagram @brynn.alise.photography

More Adventures Nearby

Hike the Shadow of the Giants Trail

Yosemite / Shadow of the Giants Trail

The Shadow of the Giants National Recreation trail is an amazing 1.1 mile self-guided hike through the heart of Nelder Grove.

Dan Deublein
8 Saves

Hike to Crystal Lake, Mammoth Lakes

Yosemite / Crystal Lake Trailhead, Mammoth Lakes

In Lake George, park along Lake George Road and walk towards Crystal Crag Trailhead sign to begin the hike.

Aaron Jaro
11 Saves

Hike to the Waterfalls of Lundy Canyon

Yosemite / Lundy Canyon Trail

In order to get to the trail you first have to drive past the beautiful Lundy Lake nestled in deep canyon.

Matt Purciel
11 Saves