Be Prepared (to have fun)!
Jeff Utech · Arlington Heights, IL · July 13, 2017
I grew up in Denver, Colorado and spent my childhood hiking, camping, skiing, and generally doing all of the great summer and winter things that the Colorado Rockies provide. With that said, the hike up the Mist Trail was easily one of the coolest, most fun things I have ever done in my life.
While I recognize the danger that others have mentioned, I don't see a need for an age or height limitation. My 12 year-old son and eight year-old daughter went up with no problems. We also went up with some Bay Area friends who had to take their five year-old back down after the tunnel because it was just getting to be a bit too difficult for him. So from an age range perspective...the line is really somewhere between five and eight depending on the physical ability of your child.
There are two points that will make this trip substantially safer and more enjoyable. Recognize this is a difficult sub-alpine hike. The Park Service identifies the Mist Trail as a "strenuous" route. All of us were in good physical shape. We wore boots with good tread on them. We dressed in layers, brought plenty of water, and carried a pack so we weren't risking tying jackets around our waists. Later in the afternoon we saw people with flip flops and baggy jeans going up with no packs and no water. I think those people might have had a less enjoyable trip.
Also, GO EARLY! We were on the trail by 8:30 AM so we had large stretches where we were alone. We went at our own pace and didn't have to worry about crowds of potentially unprepared fellow hikers. Even with multiple short breaks and a bathroom stop at the bridge we were at the rim of the falls before 10:00. Moreover, the pictures you get on the steps through the mist with the low morning sun are breathtaking.
The day we went was hot with a high in the valley in the mid-90s. Even by the time we got to the bridge it was pushing 80. Because of the water pouring off of the falls this summer, however, we ended up pulling on jackets and sweatshirts to keep warm.
Even by 10 AM the trail was starting to fill up behind us and while I was comfortable with my kids hiking UP, I was less excited about them hiking DOWN the steps and competing with others for space on slippery granite steps. So we hiked further up the trail, took the Clark Point cutover and hiked down the Muir Trail instead. This adds some additional mileage and climb, but made the return trip much less stressful.
Warning: a hiker fell to his death from the Mist Trail on June 5th!!!!
Karen & Jon Stahl · Boston, MA · June 23, 2017
We agree with Kim from CA who did this hike 4 days after of us....
THE LAST 100 FEET ARE EXTREMELY TREACHEROUS!!!!
As thrilling as it is to reach magnificent Vernal Fall, this review is intended to accurately describe this trail, so readers will be safer & more prepared, because consequences could be DEADLY.
CURRENT CONDITIONS: During this peak waterfall season, be prepared for wet, narrow, steep steps, unrelentingly spray, & precipitous cliffside drop to raging whitewater rapids below. DO NOT BRING CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 10 YEARS OLD. WITH PRE-TEENS, KEEP PHYSICAL HOLD OF THEM ASCENDING & DESCENDING THE STEPS. NO GOOFING AROUND SHOULD BE TOLERATED, FOR THE SAFETY OF THEM & EVERYONE AROUND THEM.
CROWD CONCERNS: Go as early in the morning as possible. By mid-morning, there will be WAY too many people than the trail can handle safely. There is no ranger present on this section. TAKE EVERY STEP CAUTIOUSLY, DO NOT MAKE SUDDEN MOVES, OR ABRUPT PIVOTS ON THE STEPS, WHICH COULD KNOCK SOMEONE ELSE OFF BALANCE, BE PATIENT & TOLERANT OF SLOWER HIKERS.
SUGGESTIONS TO PARK MANAGEMENT: these were sent to the park superintendent. Hopefully the management will be responsive & take action to improve safety and save lives:
* Station a ranger midway, perhaps near the footbridge & restrooms
* Place barricades or temp fencing across the trail
* Allow this ranger to control the upward flow of hikers
* As done with road construction details, have another ranger up near the overlook
* Radio transmit the numbers of people coming and going
* Install additional handrails than just those at the top, or some rope-rails further down
* Require a minimal age of 10 yrs & height of 4’-6” to take the trail any further
* Require proper footwear to be worn by all hikers
The park administration has a duty to prevent accidental deaths when simple measures could be taken. Saving lives by crowd control and minimal safety installations is a basic solution. If you agree, please send a note to the Superintendent of Yosemite NP, email@example.com.
Vernal Fall is spectacularly beautiful, and we hope everyone has a chance to experience the Mist Trail sometime in their life!
Strenuous but rewarding
Cliff Cox · Winter Garden, Florida · June 15, 2017
As a Floridian Boy Scout Leader, stairclimber treadmills simply cannot prepare you for this hike. We took this hike on June 10, 2017, and the river was high. This means the falls were gorgeous, and wet does not describe how plentiful the water was on the Mist Trail. While the climb itself is not the most difficult, the elevation change in such a short distance was quite considerable, and combined with the relentless water and wildly differing step heights carved into the rocks, it was certainly challenging.
As an asthmatic, I found myself gasping for air throughout this climb. However, with a great team, and taking short breaks throughout, I was able to top the falls despite how bleak I may have felt while on the climb itself.
I certainly recommend good stair climbing cardio to prepare for this hike, and quality rain pants, jacket, and boots. Can you make it less prepared? I guess...I had the gear but certainly was not in the best shape physically to do this climb....but in order to enjoy the hike, the view, and the falls, preparation can make the entire trek better.
One last note...soon after beginning the Mist Trail you come across a trail sign that reads 0.3 miles to Vernal Falls. My friends....that is the most deceptive sign in all of Yosemite National Park. Never have I seen a sign in so desperate need of an Asterisk! :)
Mist Trail: Worth The Danger
Kim Bimemiller · Mountain House, CA · June 7, 2017
I first made this hike in 2015, August, when the river flow was very low. My second ascent was in June, 2017 which has a record snow pack melt. I love the hike but one needs to be very careful when you climb or descend as mist creates slippery granite surface. Essentially you are traveling along a granite cliff with a dangerous river below. Focus should not be on speed, but on safety. I would not recommend this trail for children under 8 or those with major health issues. The view along the way and at the top of Vernal Fall is fantastic!
This trail is deadly
Beth · Tuolumne County · June 5, 2017
Another person slipped and fell to his death today while hiking on the Mist Trail. This trail is dangerous and should be closed. The portion of the trail that ascends over slippery, wet granite steps is always crowded, with no handrails, and huge steps that were probably made for mules, not people. Don't go above Vernal Falls on this trail if you value your life. Take the John Muir Trail instead.
Ken · Fresno · February 12, 2017
It is beautiful, exciting and then such a variety of views .. plus you meet lots of European people along the trail. It is best when there was lots of snow fall.. then hit the trail after late May or June. The mist is so refreshing on a warm day of hiking.. the final 100 yards is a real rush as you hear the falls.
Time to take a shower
Ron · Concord CA · February 7, 2017
The Mist Trail is the Half Dome hike's little brother. It's a very popular trail, and deservedly so. If you're in good shape, this is a must-do trail if you couldn't get a permit to scale Half Dome.
I'd rate the strenuous part at a 7. I'd done the steps in my 20s, so the next time I did it - on the way to the top of Half Dome, carrying a camcorder with me to take video of the trail - I had forgotten how steep this part was. By the time I got to the bridge over the Merced River, I was breathing hard. And I'd gone only a mile.
10 years later, my entire family (me, wife, 9-year-old daughter) did the Vernal Falls hike. My wife wasn't sure she could make it, and actually, I hoped she would too. I am so proud of her that she made it to the bridge. While she recuperated, my girl and I went up the infamous staircase. In the spring, you get soaked here; there is nothing standing between you and Vernal Falls and the heavy mist made by the river ROARING over the cliff. Clearly, you must go slow when going down. The top is a beautiful place for a picnic.
I'll repeat the warning: Don't even think of swimming in the pretty pool at the top of the waterfall. The swift current will pull you over, and you will die.
The portion to Nevada Falls is very good, too. But the experience to the top of Vernal Falls is better. It's not much trouble, doesn't take long, so the Mist Trail is highly recommended!
Mist Trail Hike
Russ Butner · Vancouver, WA · October 19, 2016
I've done this trail quite a few times. But in all honesty, many of those times were done in the dark, as I hiked up to climb Half Dome or on my descent from Half Dome. The few times I hiked it in sunlit conditions, I remember it being especially scenic. I highly recommend the hike to the top of both falls. You'll want to start hiking early, if you are going to cruise up Half Dome and back in a day. Well worth it.
Mike · New Jersey · July 9, 2016
This is a strenuous hike (in my view) but well worth it. The trail is steep and feels like it goes on forever- take plenty of rest breaks if you're not in top shape. The stone steps sometimes feel like the stair master from hell but if you push on you'll get to one of the most breathtaking views in the park. Totally worth the effort and pain of getting there.
There is no easy way up or down!
Paul · Kentucky · June 22, 2016
This was THE hike we were all going to do in Yosemite. Some of us are in better shape than others. As we started up the paved trail to the footbridge, you could see the concern in the eyes of us all. This was the EASY part of the trail, and we had to take multiple breaks to get there. But the river running beneath you is motivating, and we all made it to the footbridge. The description is right in that the best view is a few hundred feet up from the bridge. We took some time there, refilled our water bladders, used the restrooms, and shook our heads at the kids egging on the squirrels. Respect the wildlife people! We continued our trek up the trail toward Vernal Falls, with the water roaring louder and louder.
We continued to get more and more wet. Honestly this part is incredibly perilous, and conditions are so wet that it is amazing more people aren't hurt or killed. We were glad to have hiking poles for stability. Again, we took many breaks along the way, enjoyed the views, spoke to people who were on their way down, and made our way to the top of Vernal Falls. It is all breathtaking, and not just because you are so winded! The area at the top of Vernal Falls is a great place for lunch, relaxing, contemplating how the HECK (I read the guidelines for posting) you actually made that climb, and drying out. And of course taking selfies over the falls. But please do it on the safe side of the railing, unlike some fools we witnessed.
We did not plan to try to go to the top of Nevada Falls, and we wanted to take the John Muir trail back down. What we did not realize until we started in that direction was that it was almost as much of a climb to get to the John Muir as it is to just go on up to Nevada Falls. I still recommend this though, because as you make your way to Clark Point, there is an amazing viewing spot of Vernal Falls on the right. It is a bit scary at first because you are way up above the falls and there is no railing - just boulders the size of a beagle to stop you from tumbling down on to some poor soul working their way up the Mist Trail.
Finally, we reached Clark Point and started our descent. The John Muir trail is beautiful, too. Wildflowers galore, switchbacks, incredible boulders, a few great views of granite faces. John Muir Trail brings you back to the footbridge. Again, we rested, refilled, and took some "after" pictures at the bridge. Then we made the final descent back down the paved path, all the while laughing about how difficult we thought this section was on the way up. We ended the day with pizza at the Pizza Patio - exhausted, excited, and proud. It truly is a unique trail with constant reward for your effort. And if you take it one step at a time, you will make it to the top. Pictures do not do this justice. You just HAVE to do it!
Strenuous but worth it for the views
Jaime · Clovis, CA · June 13, 2016
Just did this hike in late May. With the nice snowfall we had this year, the falls are full and flowing fast. Although the climb is strenuous at times, the views were great. The crowds as I approached Vernal Falls helped keep the pace to a good tempo.
Coming back down the mountain via the John Muir trail was great. A lot less foot traffic than going up, made it easier to go at my own pace.
Put this on your to do list.
Phyllis Diston · Oakland, CA · May 28, 2016
We tackled the Mist Trail in the spring. Mild weather, fabulous views. Many friendly people along the way from near and far. For me personally it was too hard because of a back injury. But I wanted to share with my granddaughter, her 1st time. Drank a lot of water, and was out hiked by a few kids just school aged. If you can, it is so worth the hike. The top is a great place for lunch minus the squirrels, which know this is "the" hang out. They will take your food if you are not careful, very aggressive. I found people were courteous while taking the perfect corner picture looking over the edge. Remember the sun block. And the mosquitoes came out late afternoon. Take pics. and then stop and take more. Everything is postcard beautiful. Salud.
Highlight Yosemite Experience
Beverly · Los Angeles · May 7, 2016
My husband and I hiked this trail to the top of Nevada mid-week in early May when the waterfalls were at their peak. Yes, we got drenched at Vernal, but it was fun and worth every drop. It was a little crowded on the way up to Vernal but not too bad on the day we went. If you want a view of the falls without all the stairs just go to the foot bridge, you will still get an uphill workout but it is very doable. We continued to the top of Nevada which was outstanding. Pack a lunch and hang out there, you won't regret it. Plus the day we hiked there were several groups of pre-teen kids on the trail. It was great to see them and they made it look so easy, ha! We took the Muir trail down which I would recommend - save your knees, and it is beautiful. The stone steps by Vernal are very steep and slippery, plus there are more stairs on the ascent to Nevada. Neither would be fun to do going downhill.
Drink the Water at the Footbridge
Frank Tartaglia · New Jersey · September 17, 2015
The hike is beautiful, but tough if you're a senior citizen. My wife and I only went to Vernal Falls. However I wanted to mention that the water stop at the footbridge had the greatest tasting water. I "assume" it comes right out of the rushing mountain steam under the bridge.
Wonderful. Take lots of water.
James Carter · Edinburgh, Scotland · July 28, 2015
Yes, there are lots of people (at least as far as Vernal Falls). But it's superb. We actually spent the whole day on this hike, continuing from the top of Nevada Falls up to Little Yosemite, where we swam in the river, overhung with fragrant azalea flowers, and took on much needed extra water. The view from the Muir Trail return option is stunning and will have you channeling your inner Ansel Adams.
Amazing Views, Rough Hike
Shawnee · Northern California · July 28, 2015
I hiked this trail up to Nevada Falls for the first time in high school and it was amazing. It wasn't too tiring hiking to Vernal Falls but it was really tough at times hiking to Nevada Falls. All of that hard work was well worth it though once I got to the very top. Ever since then I have hiked that same trail multiple times to take other friends and family to see the jaw-dropping views. Although Vernal Falls is beautiful and the mist is exciting, I wouldn't stop there. I would recommend going all the way to the top. There are usually a lot of people on the trail to Vernal but I was never bothered by them. I have met a lot of nice people on the trail. The hike up and down Nevada does get fairly steep so be very careful on the way down. If you plan on visiting Yosemite make sure you hike this trail!
This is the only hike we regretted doing
Allison · Massachusetts · July 22, 2015
It was in the afternoon on a hot day when we started this trail which we took to the upper portion of vernal falls. I expected the crowds at this time of day; it was a nonstop line of people in both directions. Unfortunately, the trail did not live up to its name. I was looking forward to feeling the mist and cooling off but the wind was either too weak or the California drought has effected the falls to the point that they aren't so misty by mid-July. This was a disappointment. The trail itself is paved the entire way to Vernal falls. Descending the paved path is very hard on the knees.
This is one not to ignore.
Aaron · Wisconsin (originally Palo Alto, CA) · July 15, 2015
The standard review sums it up well. I've been to Yosemite 6 times. As a young child I did the first stage. When I was in my teens and twenties I did Vernal and Nevada Falls trails. I remember them being hard and fantastic for photos. I took my 12 and 13-year-olds this year. They handled it well, physically but I'm now 48 and the only hiccup I would suggest you think about is the impact on knees coming back down. A walking stick would probably have helped me avoid some strain. Your knees will take a pounding.
Totally worth it!
Laura · Texas · July 13, 2015
We hiked the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls and then back down the John Muir Trail in late June. It was amazing and everything we hoped it would be. It was also quite challenging for 2 moderately in shape 40- something's from flat Texas (and a bit easier for 2 teenage boys). We were winded by the bridge but determined to go on. The stairs up to Vernal were easy in some places and killer in others where you had to take steps of over a foot high. I wasn't sure my knees were going to make it. It was crowded mid morning as expected, but we were rewarded with 2 rainbows in the mist. It was almost impossible to get a photo of the falls without a person in it. The next leg up to Nevada Falls was my favorite part. There were hardly any people and having the falls in sight for so much of the climb made it seem easier. Just sitting and listening to the water was priceless.. It was hot and I measured my rests from shady spot to shady spot. When we made it to the top we found a shady spot along the bank past the bridge and enjoyed dipping our feet in the icy cold water while having a snack. We had read that the hike back down the John Muir trail was less scenic, but there was no way I was walking back down those stairs. And maybe by Yosemite standards it was less scenic, but compared to any other place I've been, it was a spectacular view. You are going down switchbacks with a view of the falls, Liberty Cap and the back of Half Dome. Wow! It took us almost 8 hours to hike the 7 miles, but we weren't in a hurry. We stopped often for water and to take a ton of pictures. Our calves were burning the next day, but it was worth every moment. It's an accomplishment I'll never forget, and one of the highlights of our 4200 mile, 9 National Parks, trip.
Great Views, Great Workout
Jordan Doose · Elk Grove, CA · May 18, 2015
The hike along this trail was great. Looking up at the massive faces of Yosemite granite and then down at the scenic views of the valley was absolutely amazing. The misty part of the hike near Vernal Falls was great for cooling down just before beginning the hike up to Nevada Falls, and the thrill of looking down a 600 foot drop was exhilarating. Overall, this hike gave a nice workout and great views.
You'll want to do it again
Julia Esposto · Canada · May 3, 2015
I hiked the Mist trail (to Nevada and vernal falls) a few days ago with my sister and we met some lovely people on the way up, and down. The entire hike was a major workout and you'll feel it for a while :) .. It was a bit scary at times with the elevation and not having anything beside you to protect you from falling but you just have to be careful obviously. I enjoyed the challenge of the constant uphill hiking and was very proud of myself when I reached the top and coming back down. We hiked from 0930 to 230, stopped for lunch and took lots of pictures. It was magical walking up the stone stairs beside the waterfall and getting wet by the mist, seeing the rainbow and seeing the heavy waterfall right beside you. I would do this hike again if I were there longer. Excellent hike and great workout!
must do hike
sway · simi valley ca · November 16, 2014
This hike is amazing, definitely worth the 4 hours. If you're a first timer it will take your breath away. I recommend going up the stairs to get up close to both waterfalls and once you're on top of Vernal Falls coming down the John Muir Trail. It's a mile longer but less steps, an easy walk down. The Muir Trail is longer but faster.
Saving the Best for Last
Steve · Clovis, CA · May 13, 2014
This hike starts out easy enough at about 4000 ft close to stop 16 of the shuttle. It is paved until you get to the foot bridge. I had started out with indefinite plans and carried more than I needed. You do not need to do this. After the bridge the trail gets a bit more difficult culminating in the 600 rough hewn granite stairs. I am not in the greatest shape in my life and found it a bit challenging, especially with my pack. The steps get wet and slippery from the mist as you get close to the falls, so be patient and wear appropriate foot wear. Some folks had light plastic rain gear, but I thought this was depriving them of the experience. After you get to the top there will be lots of people resting, on the weekends at least. Then you can continue up to Nevada falls or to the John Muir trail. I started out this way but after getting some good pictures of the Nevada Falls I called it enough for one day.
almost died... but worth it
Molica · Fresno · April 18, 2014
This was my first hike ever at Yosemite. We heard that the Mist Trail was the most popular and many people push strollers up there so why not. I wasn't near the half way mark (bridge) when I tripped and and almost fell to my death (over exaggeration). The view is breathtaking and you forget all the struggles when you reach Vernal Falls. When they say "mist" it's more like shower. The waterfall was amazing and cold, people were great, and adventure scale off the charts. Hoping to go again on Easter with the family. This was a great first experience of Yosemite.
Benny Olson · Oregon · April 16, 2014
Hiked up with my 7 year old daughter. She went faster than me! Amazing view, strenuous indeed, worth it absolutely. Had to stop to rest at times both to catch my breath as well as let people come by us, from behind or from the opposite direction.
Camping at Vernal Falls 1971
Pamela Shelby · Lauderdale MS · February 25, 2014
In April of 1971 my friend Becky and I hitched from Los Angeles to Yosemite to meet my brother and a group of his friends for a week in the mountains. We hiked the Mist Trail and camped at the top of Vernal Falls. I'm sure this is probably no longer allowed. It was the most awesome trip of my life. The climb was treacherous but well worth it. Some of the steps were icy as it was in the twenties at night and very cold all day. We drank the delicious icy water and enjoyed the beautiful views. One night bears came into our camp and tossed around a big cooler. They took the food and left us alone thankfully. I have traveled all over the world since 1971 and seen so many beautiful places but nothing could compare to that trip with my brother and friends to the top of Vernal Falls.
David · Oakhurst, CA · November 11, 2013
Yesterday my buddy and I hiked up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls and back via the John Muir Trail with two 6 year olds and two 8 year olds. It took us about five hours to complete the hike (3 hours up and 2 hours down). The hike up included several brief stops catching our breath and about a half hour lunch break. The walk down was not crowded and was easy on the knees.
This hike ended up being about 9 miles round trip from the trailhead parking lot and included about 1900 feet of elevation gain. Previously our kids had only hiked about 3 hours and only gained maybe 300 feet of elevation. They challenged each other, enjoyed climbing the steps and complained very little. If you go in the spring, it will be more spectatular but be sure to add extra time for waits while ascending to the top of Vernal Falls. Because only about 10% of the hikers continue on to Nevada Falls, you won't need to allow for wait times along that portion of the trail. I highly recommend returning via the John Muir Trail because it offers sweeping valley views and an impressive side view of Nevada Falls.
Just the beginning for me!
Jeremy · Abilene, Texas · October 9, 2013
One afternoon from Glacier Point I watched as many people made their way up the Mist Trail and I said to myself "tomorrow I will be one of those people." And so my hiking addiction began. I did hike the Mist Trail the next morning and then picked up a trails guide. I spent the next week day hiking all over Yosemite. That was almost 10 years ago and I still can't get enough!
One of Yosemite's best
Peter Sarafan · Massachusetts · July 4, 2013
No need to go into detail. This is a must hike in Yosemite. Just a few tips. Do it in the spring when the water volume is still high. Get an early start to avoid the crowds. Consider going down the same trail, as the Muir Trail, though an easier descent, is not as interesting.
came down this trail
Mike · San Francisco · May 22, 2013
I hiked down the Mist trail today from Glacier Point, as the John Muir trail was closed due to a rock fall. It is scenic and it was a little crowded. It is steep and very slippery. Don't be like some idiots and wear sneakers or flip flops. You need boots. The section that is built into the rock can cause a bottleneck so you might have to wait. Take your time! I came across someone who slipped and fell on the upper part of the trail. She had some cuts but she was ok. I would not recommend this trail for young kids because it can be dangerous.
With all that safety stuff said, it is very beautiful and very worth doing. A hike you won't forget but go prepared, be safe and have fun!
Spectacular Vernal Fall
Pompy · San Francisco Bay Area · March 25, 2013
This was my first trip/hike to Vernal Fall. The initial hike to the Bridge was not an easy climb but my enthusiasm dared me to explore further - to the top. Upon reaching the entrance (after the bridge) I was disappointed to find the gates locked and a warning of falling rocks. However, I as others ignoring the posted sign, veered around the locked chain and continued the climb. It was indeed beautiful around every corner and my legs forgot how tired they were. Then began the steps - leading its way through the crevices, mist and dripping water. Some of them were at least 18" high. I had read somewhere there were 600 steps and yes it seemed endless. Fortunately there were handrails near the top where the ledge is so narrow only one person can pass at a time.
Finally I reached the top, only to find it guarded by another chained gate! But that didn't deter the hundreds of hikers, including children, from making it to the closest point to the head of the Vernal Fall. An unforgettable journey. The sheer piece of rock at the top was sunbathers' paradise - it was a gorgeous sunny day after all and anyone who ventured up those steps deserves that pleasure. Continuing my adventure up the falls I, as many others, decided to explore the Emerald Lake above and the gushing river. For a moment I forgot I was at 5000' elevation and wanted to touch the water to take a photograph. As my foot briefly touched the trickling side of the water it almost slipped. It gives me chills to think what might have happened if I had actually slipped and fallen - swept straight down to the edge of the fall in the icy cold water. Never again do I hope to make such a fatal mistake. There were people filling water bottles from the raging river on the slippery rock. No signs warns the DANGER that lies beyond.
Counting my blessings I continued my journey toward Nevada Fall. But after a half mile up I remembered the steps going back down and how treacherous it's going to be on the knees. Thus, preserving whatever energy I had left I reversed the journey back on the Mist Trail. It takes half the time coming downhill but a word of caution if you're trying to 'run' down those wet steps. The 5-hour roundtrip (including exploration, taking in the breathtaking view, lunch and naptime at the Top) was indeed an adventure of a lifetime not to mention an unforgettable one!!!
Linden Webb · Tabernacle, NJ · January 14, 2013
I went on this hike the summer of 2012. I am 11 years old and went on this hike with my mom, and my friend, and his dad. We started out the hike with my sister and dad, and his brother and mom. When we got to the bridge, we left them and kept going while they went back. We were already sweaty and we knew it was a long way to go. The first few steps were easy but we eventually figured out that the "steps" were really rocks and were hard to walk on. Once we made it to the Vernal Falls we stopped and took pictures with them in the background. It was a very good picture opportunity, and we even were lucky enough to have a rainbow in the background. After that we cut through the brush to get to some more steps and avoid the crowd. This part was very steep, but there were rocks to hold onto. If you were just hiking on the trail you could avoid this part in the journey. Only 100 more steps to go!!!! We had made it all the way to the part that led to the top, where we had to hold onto the railing to keep from slipping. Take note that there are no railings on most of the trail. It was crowded and it was like waiting in line for an amusement park the last 30 steps. When we finally made it to the top, it was a beautiful sight. This part of the trip was a great photo opportunity. There was a little stream in the back of the rock, leading to the falls. Be sure to hold onto your hat! The way down was a really easy trip, but there were a lot of possible slipping areas. Definitely a medium level trail. I loved it, it was a great hike. Be sure to visit the Mist Trail if you're in Yosemite!!!!!
Don't Miss "the rock"
Debby · Fairview, TN · January 5, 2013
Everything you've read about the Mist Trail is true ... it's paved, steep and wet. It is also something you just don't want to miss! The paved trail to the footbridge is steep at some points, but overall it's not difficult. Once you reach the footbridge, the trail is rocky and when you reach the "staircase" things get pretty damp. We passed a large rock outcropping above the footbridge and noticed several people sitting out on the rocks. It looked like it would be difficult to get out there, but it wasn't. My 70 year old mother made it without a problem. The view from this vantage point is spectacular. It is a great view of the falls without the hassle (or knee pain) of climbing further up the trail. Unless you just MUST get to the top of the falls, this is a great place to stop. The only price of admission is a few peanuts for the squirrels.
Easy, but Hard
Betsy · Rochester, NY · November 27, 2012
My husband and I are in our 60's and have never really done hiking before Yosemite. We did some trails, but nothing as steep as some at Yosemite. This trail was relatively easy to maneuver since it is paved. However, the steepness of it was quite a challenge for us. We had to stop many times to catch our breath. (We found the hike to the top of Sentinel Dome actually a little easier on our bodies.) There were even people with wheel chairs and strollers on the Vernal trail. We struggled just with ourselves, can't imagine pushing anything! After we got back down, we found out that there was another trail to the falls that was more like a switchback. We wish we had known about it before we did this one.
Worth its billing as one of Yosemite’s signature hikes
Robert & Susan Dunn · Little Rock, Arkansas · September 27, 2012
Hiked the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall (Emerald Pool) on our first day in the park – what an awesome introduction to Yosemite! (We naively thought it couldn’t get any better, but it did!)
The first section of this trail (to the footbridge) is paved and wide, but it’s a steady climb – pace yourself! Based on everything we had read on this site and elsewhere, we were prepared with ponchos, water shoes, and waterproof camera, but didn’t need any of them. The light mist we experienced was refreshing. Enjoyed a leisurely rest break near Emerald Pool before heading back down – don’t fool yourself into believing that the descent will be much less strenuous than the ascent!
Although the park overall wasn’t terribly crowded on the day we hiked the Mist Trail, this trail itself was, which made the hike a bit less enjoyable. Maybe the fact that it was a Sunday had something to do with the large crowd. The head-on view of Vernal Fall is the highlight of this hike, with the view from the railing at the top of the fall being a close second. It’s an impressive waterfall from any perspective.
Wife and I both nearly had a coronary when a father foolishly allowed his two young daughters to go beyond the railing to the water’s edge just above the fall – what do people think the railing is for, anyway?
The 600+ stairs will wear you out if you aren’t physically prepared for this challenging hike. Wonder how many of the folks we encountered that day couldn’t get out of bed the next morning.
There’s a reason there are restrooms just beyond the footbridge – use ‘em before you head on up the trail or you’ll wish you had! Also, take advantage of the water fountains there to replenish your water supply. As always, sunscreen, bug spray, and an adequate amount of water are essential. And some energy snacks will make a welcome treat while you’re enjoying a well-deserved break on the shaded banks of Emerald Pool before you begin your descent.
Hike the Mist Trail and you’ll understand why it’s one of Yosemite’s signature hikes.
matt · orlando · September 26, 2012
Just returned from Yosemite and a beautiful hike to Vernal Falls. There was a small stream of water flowing, but the trail was dry all the way. The last 0.3 miles is strenuous, so go at your own pace. Great views from the top and overall a nice doable hike for a few hours. Crowds got bigger as the morning progressed.
Georgette Noble · Walker, CA · August 30, 2012
This was worth every step. Take your time and it's not that difficult. I will remember this always.
Lions and Tigers and Bears
Robert Specht · Portola Hills CA · May 14, 2012
OK there really were not any Lions or Tigers but we did see 2 bears on our hike, one came across the trail maybe 20 yards in front of us, very exciting. The hike is a tough one if you're not in shape, plenty of shade to stop and rest along the way, bring water not alcohol, nice view of the Illilouette Fall as you get up the hill a short way, bring your camera and keep it handy, Vernal fall is worth the hike and yes there was a crowd of people on the bridge all vying for the perfect place to take a picture, be patient and you will get your chance. The walk back is a piece of cake. I recommend the hike even with the possibility of seeing Bears.
Beautiful but crowded
Claire · NY · March 24, 2012
I loved this trail! My boyfriend and I went before 6 AM and pretty much had the trail to ourselves. You will get wet if you go just after spring thaw, which lasted well into June in 2011. My only complaint is that it gets mobbed once the rest of the tourists wake up. SO crowded. Go early or late to avoid the masses.
A word to the wise: I saw numerous people on the John Muir Trail and around Vernal Fall in tennis shoes or even flip-flops. Bad idea. I think a lot of them underestimate the steepness of the trails, even the JMT. Bring real hiking shoes! Your feet will thank you.
Fabian · Fresno · November 7, 2011
I did this hike last Saturday 11-5-11. The scenery was awesome, a little dusting of snow, nice cool temps and not too crowded. I went all the way to the top of Nevada falls. WOW!! Great views all the way up. Only thing I will do differently next time I do this hike is not coming down the way I went up. Killer on the knees all those stairs! Not sure which way is more difficult going up or coming down? I recommend coming down the Muir trail.
Jack Petras · Massachusetts · September 13, 2011
At first we were a little put off by the asphalt section of the trail thinking we were on the elder hostel walk by mistake, then got captivated rather quickly by all the scenery. So much beauty and an element of danger around every turn. A great workout and a reminder of why Yosemite gets under your skin and stays with you forever.
Vernal/Nevada Falls hike
Jeff · Oregon · September 12, 2011
The hike from Happy Isles to Vernal and Nevada falls is pretty terrific. We took the Mist trail up and the John Muir trail back down. There are great views all along the trails. After our hike, we decided we had made a good choice in route, as it was much easier to go up the very steep Mist trail, and come back on the much gentler, but longer John Muir trail. We hiked in late August, and typically there isn't much water going over the falls at this time of year, but this year (2011), there was still a lot of water flowing, and it was spectacular. Some reviews have stated that there is a good view of Vernal Fall from the bridge. We found this was not the case; we could barely see the falls through the trees. Hiking up the trail another few minutes yielded a great view. The steps/trail up the side of the falls were very steep, wet and slippery, but the view from the top of the falls was definitely worth the trouble. Further upstream, the pool was pretty, and the river flowing down the sheet of rock into the pool was amazing. There was quite a crowd of people up to this point, but beyond the pool there were far fewer people.
While Vernal Fall is a classic beautiful falls, Nevada Fall is her wild-west cousin. The water flowing from the top of the cliff hits the rock face and jets off to the right in a pure white spray and then cascades down the rugged face of the not-quite vertical rock. As we climbed the Mist trail next to the falls, we were treated to a perfect side-view of the falls. Once at the top, the view of the last vertical 2000 feet we had climbed was a great pay-off. The trip down the John Muir trail had some great views of Nevada Fall, but we were somewhat disappointed to find that there is no view whatsoever of Vernal fall from that trail.
In all we estimated we hiked about 7 miles in 5 hours. Normally this would be an extremely leisurely pace, but the elevation gains made our view stops all the more welcome.
The drinking water and restrooms at the bridge were very welcome. There are restrooms at a couple other strategic locations on the trail, but we didn't find any other drinking water, so you will want to bring some of your own. Also, the condition of the trail is quite poor in some locations, particularly along the John Muir trail, where horses are permitted. Watch your step there or you could easily twist your ankle.
Overall, I rate this hike 100% recommended.
Good but not so easy--except getting wet
vimeo.com/jimonabike · Sacramento · August 4, 2011
Quite enjoyable, the water was full bore 7/4/2011. The Gloomy Gus commentary: be aware not to be lulled by the paved route--the hike is quite steep in many places. A reasonable challenge for the old and very young is the bridge with drinking water, toilets, and a waterfall view. From there, if the water is flowing you WILL GET WET along with your cell phone, camera, etc. unless you've a poncho on.
Remember, what goes up must come down and this can be harder to do and certainly is the riskier of the two. This all said, I'd certainly do it again, though next time with water protection.
Mist Trail & John Muir Trail
Heather · Temecula, CA · August 3, 2011
Incredible hike!!!!! I've been to Yosemite several times since I was a small child, but have never hiked these two trails. My hike was during the month of May 2011. You have to be in good shape to hike these trails, since 90% of the Mist Trail is all uphill to Vernal Falls. You can feel the power of the rushing water from Vernal Falls as you ascend the staircase. Remember your jacket or covering and make sure you cover your camera, because you will get wet. The views and scenery are completely worth the work, once you get to the top of Vernal Falls. I suggest, after taking in the scenery at Vernal, take a rest at Emerald pools, since it's less crowded.
I continued on hiking to Nevada Falls. The switchbacks on the trail to Nevada Falls, were difficult, but again SO WORTH IT! From the top of Nevada, I then descended the John Muir trail back into the Yosemite Valley. Round trip approx 9 miles. There is so much to see and photo opportunities on this hike. Please remember to bring enough water and food. Even in the month of May when it was cooler, you definitely need to be drinking water and eating. Enjoy and be safe and PLEASE read and obey the warning signs!!!
janet Bucci · Pennsylvania · July 28, 2011
My husband and I spent a week in Yosemite a few weeks ago. We support our National Parks and visit various heavenly wonders each year. They are all awesome in their unique way. However, spending time in Yosemite was one of the greatest gifts we have ever experienced. One that will remain in our hearts and souls forever. The Mist trail was a good work-out (for us old-timers) but managed it just fine taking our time and using great caution. As we climbed it felt like we were in our 20's again. The beauty and anticipation in each rugged step we took made us feel like kids again...filled with excitement and awe! As if the view climbing to the top wasn't a truly blessed gift in itself, we were rewarded with great granite resting places warmed from the sun. Being drenched and chilled from the spray, I immediately sprawled my body upon a huge rock. It warmed my body and more so, my soul! I thank God I had the opportunity to spend time in "nature's playground." I will be back! So much more to explore and discover. Thanks to all the park's rangers and workers for maintaining the park's beauty and allowing me to wander about freely. Thank you!
I DID IT!!!!
Kristine Pedroza · Mountain House, CA · July 25, 2011
To celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary my husband and I decided to return to Yosemite where we met 21 years ago (our oldest son came along). Not knowing what was ahead I agreed to hike to Vernal Falls with them. The incline was very steep and I tried to give up at least 5 times. Just before reaching the Mist Trail, I was hot, sweating and thirsty and again wanted to quit. I looked up and saw a rainbow, lush greenery and the mist from the waterfall was spraying all over me. It was a beautiful experience!
With encouragement from fellow hikers, my son and husband along the way I had the strength to go all the way to the top.
The end of an era
Lucy Herrera · Reedley, CA · July 23, 2011
I remember going to this waterfall in the early 90's when they did not have the guard rail at the top of the waterfall. It is a spectacular view and you seem drawn to its beauty. It was very hard not to step into the river to get a closer look. Nature is for us to enjoy but it can also be very unforgiving when we go beyond our boundaries. Many have fallen to their deaths and it is sad that those rails had to be put in place for our safety. It does take away some of its natural beauty to see the rails there, but it is the sign of the times, otherwise this is a very wonderful wonder of nature where we can stand back and just admire it for what it is, and can only be found in California.
Best Hike Ever
Randy and Lauren Wagner · Tulsa, OK · July 22, 2011
We are avid day hikers and have taken many beautiful hikes, but we agree that this is the BEST HIKE EVER, if you've got the legs and the lungs for it. This is a stairmaster, straight-up-the-side-of-the-cliff hike that is too tough for small children. Wear sunscreen and good hiking boots. I'm a big fan of trekking poles, too, for taking some of the pressure off your legs and helping with balance in the steep spots.
We were very fortunate to hike this hike in a July when 200% snowpack made the waterfalls full even in midsummer. If you are hiking the Mist Trail when the falls are full, you will get soaking wet unless you take a raincoat.
This is a plush, incredibly well maintained trail with multiple toilets (at the bridge, the top of Vernal and the top of Nevada). The toilets at the bridge and at the top of Vernal were being CLEANED the day we hiked.
The first section to the bridge below Vernal Fall is surprisingly steep. The relentless uphill make us flatlanders wheeze at the beginning of the hike, and the relentless downhill at the end of the hike made our thighs, knees and toes hurt.
At the top of Vernal Fall, we elected to hike the Mist Trail steps up to the top of Nevada Fall and the John Muir trail back down. This is DEFINITELY the way to go to save your knees. The steps are narrow, wet and slippery and navigating down them seems even more treacherous than going up. Our technique was to carefully watch our feet for a dozen steps or so, then stop, catch our breath and look around at the scenery. In truth you don't notice how much your legs hurt on these steep steps, because being right next to the roaring, drenching falls is so fascinating.
A few days after we hiked this hike, three hikers were swept over the falls after they ignored the warning signs and barricades and waded into the Merced River above Vernal falls. Do not wade or swim. The current is too strong to overcome.
I think the flat stretch after the top of Vernal Falls is one of the most beautiful sections of the hike. Then suddenly you are right next to thundering Nevada Fall and the rocky switchbacks to the top begin. They are worth it though, for the beautiful granite plaza at the top with the green river flowing through it. We could have stayed all day, watching the river, the valley, the peaks, clouds and the other hikers. Take your picnic lunch, sit in the shade and enjoy as long as you can.
My favorite section of the trail is after you cross the bridge at the top of Nevada fall and hike the John Muir trail along the cliff. Stop and look back often for more amazing views of Nevada Fall at eye level. We thanked the crews along this section who were doing trail maintenance the day we hiked. Most of the rest of the trip down is through the woods, and there is a good rest stop on a granite outcrop where the trail rides stop. You'll know it when you get there.
We descended the final section below the bridge late in the day when it was crowded with daytrippers with tired children. Navigate through them patiently and then head for the beer and pizza at Degnan's Loft.
Andres · Reedley, CA · July 3, 2011
the hike was very pleasing, a couple of buddies and I, along with my 10 year girl twins went up there this 4th of July weekend. It was a blast!!!! the girls who I thought would complain, had none! they were all smiles! it's strenuous, but well worth it! can't wait to go back...
The Perfect Hike!
Anthony Rodriguez · San Diego, California · June 15, 2011
I went with my dad and I thought it was perfect cause I wanted to break a sweat, but I didn't want my dad to pass out on the side of the trail! It was a bit of a challenge at parts, but the hike is greatly rewarding because the view was amazing!!! You know you're almost done when you start feeling the mist off the fall before the higher Nevada Fall (I didn't hike up to the Neveda Fall but could have). Definitely get an early morning start because at 10 o'clock in the morning, the trail gets packed. We were coming back down at that time and we knew the tourist rush was coming. I'm going to the valley this weekend to hike the Upper Yosemite Falls and I can't wait cause it's going to be the last notch right before Half Dome! Anyways it's the perfect hike if you want to test all the workouts you have done at the gym.
CYA Boilerplate: The opinions on this page are those of the reviewers themselves, and are not official advice from or the responsibility of yosemitehikes.com. You're responsible for your own safety when you're hiking in Yosemite. Please be cautious and sensible when you're in the park and don't take unnecessary risks.