If time permits one hike in Yosemite, this is it. Vernal Fall / Nevada Fall Trail is a semi-loop hike that leads up the famous Mist Trail that passes two great waterfalls, Vernal Fall & Nevada Fall. On the way down, take the legendary John Muir Trail. It gives specular views of both waterfalls from a distance.

View Vernal Falls in a larger map
Track Statistics -

Distance - 7.24 mi
Elevation Gain - 2100 ft
Difficulty - Moderate
Hiking Time - 4 1/2 hrs

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Nevada Fall Yosemite

Nevada Fall with Liberty Cap

Vernal Fall Yosemite

Vernal Fall with a Rainbow

vernal nevada fall elevation profile yosemite

Finding the Trailhead -
Take the Yosemite Valley shuttle to stop 16, Happy Isles. The trail starts on the east side of the Merced River.
Overview - This trail follows the start of the famous John Muir Trail. Heading south, then turning east, the trail climbs to the Vernal Fall Bridge. The first glimpse of Vernal Fall is in the distance. The start of the Mist Trail is just past the bridge. Heading upstream, prepare to get misted (or wet in May & June). Through the mist, the trail comes to the cliff face. Stairs with a railing guide trekkers to the top of Vernal Fall. Atop Vernal Fall is Emerald Pool. Swimming & wadding in the water is prohibited here, people have been swept over the fall. Here, the trail can be vague. Follow the shore line to a footbridge that crosses the river. Hikers can now see & hear Nevada Fall ahead. The trail climbs through the trees to a series of switchbacks. Once on top, hikers again meet the John Muir Trail. From this junction, head southwest to Nevada Fall. After enjoying the views, continue down the John Muir trail to Clark Point. The trail to the right leads back to emerald pool. Turning left, the John Muir Trail strolls through the trees, switchbacking down to the Vernal Bridge junction with the Mist Trail. From here, retrace steps to Happy Isles.

Trail Fun Facts - Vernal Fall is 317 feet. Nevada Fall is 594 feet. John Muir Trail is 211 miles long. Its north end starts at Happy Isles, with its south end being the summit of Mt Whitney.

Tips - DON'T SWIM ABOVE WATERFALLS. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SWEPT OVER THE EDGE. THE CURRENTS CAN BE DECEPTIVELY STRONG. Recommend hiking up the Mist Trail, makes it less likely of slipping on the wet rocks.
Nevada Fall Yosemite

View of Yosemite Valley from Top of Nevada Fall

Vernal Fall Yosemite

Approaching Vernal Fall

Nevada Fall Yosemite

Below Nevada Fall