Vernal Falls

The first tier of the Merced River’s magnificent waterfall plunges from a jagged granite precipice in a cloud-like curtain and is surrounded by pines.

Make your way along Yosemite’s signature hike, the Mist Trail, to experience the grandeur of Vernal Fall. See the magnificent 317-foot (97-meter) waterfall by walking along the short and shady pathway, which presents unbeatable views along its length. Reach the top to rest next to a tranquil pool of water or continue onward to the thundering cascades of Nevada Fall.

Begin your stroll at the trailhead near Happy Isles and follow the trail south and east through Yosemite Valley. Stretching 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometers) between the start and the top of Vernal Fall, the short trail has a moderate incline and is mostly shaded by pines. Reach the base of the waterfall and look up at the vast curtain of water leaping from the Merced River. In the springtime, when the water flow is strongest, you’ll be drenched with a refreshing mist of cool mountain water.

During the last 30 minutes of the walk, climb up the rocky staircase that leads to the peak of the fall. Stand on the precipice of the fall and admire the water surging off the edge. Take a seat on a rock next to the serene waters of Emerald Pool and Silver Apron and enjoy the atmosphere created by the scene and sounds of the water thundering below. Snap photographs of the monumental rock formation and fine mists rising from the plumes of water.

For an even greater challenge, continue onward to Nevada Fall. The round trip via both waterfalls is 5.4 miles (8.7 kilometers) or approximately 5 or 6 hours total time. Another route to the waterfalls is via the Muir Trail; however, this trail is somewhat longer.

The closest parking for the Vernal Fall hike is a short distance east of Half Dome Village in Yosemite National Park. You can also park elsewhere in the valley and ride the regular free shuttle buses to the trailhead. Restrooms are located along the Mist Trail. Bring rainwear unless you don’t mind wearing a little of the waterfall home with you.

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