The Mist Trail is Yosemite’s iconic hiking trail and the most popular in the park. And not without good reason! You get up close with two spectacularly HUGE waterfalls and have marvelous views of the Merced River the whole way up. This hike is entirely uphill but not to worry if you aren't much of a hiker... you can still enjoy excellent views of Vernal Falls from the footbridge at less than a mile into the trail. Even though this hike can be very crowded (especially in peak season) it is well worth the effort as you will not find another hike quite like this.
STARTING POINT: Happy Isles
DISTANCE/TIME: 7 miles roundtrip to Nevada Falls (5 to 6 hours)
ELEVATION GAIN: 1900ft
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Strenuous
BEST TIME TO HIKE: Spring, Summer and Fall
WATCH VIDEO: Hiking the Mist Trail To Nevada Falls
HIKING TIPS FOR THE MIST TRAIL:
Bring a flashlight if you choose to start the hike later in the day so you don’t end up walking back in the dark.
You can refill water bottles at the Vernal Falls footbridge.
Pick up a Yosemite Hiking Trail Guide book if you want to take on more hike’s during your visit.
Bring a packed lunch to enjoy at the top of the trail.
YOSEMITE GUIDE BOOKS
Hiking the Mist Trail
Get off at the Happy Isles shuttle stop and make your way up a paved moderately steep path. At 0.75 miles you will reach the Vernal Falls footbridge where you get excellent views of Vernal Falls. This is where non-hikers usually turn back but if you plan on going further you can stop to go to the restroom one last time or fill up your water bottle at the water fountain here.
You can see in the photo below how busy this trail gets in the middle of July (which is when we visited) but from here the crowd begins to slowly thin out as some hikers choose to turn back. You can also view in one of the images below that it is possible to have the trail all to yourself if you wait to come back late in the afternoon.
Beyond the bridge, the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail diverge. Stay on the Mist Trail (although the JMT has a lot less people if you would prefer to choose that option). To reach the top of Vernal Falls follow the Mist Trail 0.5 miles up a steep granite stairway of over 600 steps. Be prepared to get wet from… you guessed it - the mist from the waterfall!
The trail here narrows significantly and can be very slippery. It can also be very hard to get through the crowds depending on the time of year you may be visiting.
As you can see in the photo below there aren't too many people on the trail at this point because I guess they don't want to get wet... or because the steps can be a bit too much for some.
You will see some pretty mist bows on your way up. Yes, they are called mist bows - not rainbows as one hiker had told us the previous day.
The top of Nevada Falls is reached by continuing another 1.3 miles along the Mist Trail. The waters were raging when we were there because of the high snowfall from the previous winter.
Be careful along the trail and do not get too close too the water’s edge as you can get swept away which is how the majority of deadly accidents happen inside Yosemite National Park.
Bring a packed lunch with you to enjoy the views from the top before making the trek back down and be sure to take a few photo’s while you’re up there. You can never take a bad photo in Yosemite!