Mist Trail (Vernal & Nevada Falls) Hiking Map

Note: if you're on a cell phone, you might need to zoom the map out a bit to see the trail.

Distance from trailhead:  3 miles (4.8 km) round trip to Vernal Fall, 7 miles (11 km) round trip to Nevada Fall
Elevation at trailhead:  4,000 feet (1,200 meters)
Elevation Gain:  1,000 feet (300 meters) to top of Vernal Fall; 1,900 feet (580 meters) to top of Nevada Fall

Map Notes: The red line marks the first section of the trail, from the trailhead to the top of Vernal Fall. The yellow line marks the climb from Vernal Fall to the top of Nevada Fall. The light blue line marks the alternate route (actually two of them) via the John Muir Trail. The two blue balloons mark the locations of Vernal and Nevada Falls, respectively. Click on them to see bite-sized photos of the falls.

The two big blue "P" icons show your nearest parking options for the Mist Trail. The one on the left is the lot at Curry Village. You can catch a free shuttle bus from here directly to the trailhead. The one on the right is the trailhead parking lot. It often fills up early with the cars of hikers who woke up at an unhealthy hour to hike to the top of Half Dome. It doesn't hurt to drive through and see if there's space available, though. The trailhead lot is down a road that appears to be marked as accessible to official vehicles only, but in fact you're allowed to drive down it as far as the parking lot.

Though the map may give you the impression that you're hiking through a level canyon and avoiding any strenuous climbing, this definitely isn't the case. The trail is flat until you turn east at Sierra Point, but from there on it climbs steadily, and at a couple points - alongside the falls themselves - steeply. The trail parallel to Nevada Fall is a grueling series of rocky switchbacks, and the trail beside Vernal Fall is so steep that the trail makers dispensed with switchbacks altogether and just carved a giant staircase into the cliffside. (That may sound daunting, but it's actually an improvement - before the stairs were carved, you had to climb ladders to get to the top of the fall.)

The Mist Trail intersects with a few other very popular trails. If you continue eastward along the trail that departs from the top of Nevada Fall, you'll be on a trail that can take you to Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and ultimately all the way to Tenaya Lake. And if you take the squiggly white line that departs the John Muir Trail to the southwest, you'll be on the Panorama Trail, which eventually reaches Glacier Point.