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Mist Trail

The Mist Trail is one of the most popular and exhilarating hiking trails in Yosemite National Park, California. Known for its close-up views of two major waterfalls—Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall—this trail offers hikers a chance to experience the raw beauty of Yosemite’s waterways and its rugged terrain. The trail gets its name from the mist generated by the waterfalls, which can drench hikers as they pass nearby.

Trail Overview

The Mist Trail begins at the Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite Valley and is approximately 7 miles round trip to Nevada Fall and back, with shorter options available if only hiking to Vernal Fall. The trail features steep granite staircases and can be quite challenging, but it rewards hikers with some of the most iconic views in the park.

Elevation Gain and Difficulty

  • To Vernal Fall (top): About 1,000 feet elevation gain and 1.5 miles one-way.
  • To Nevada Fall: An additional 900 feet elevation gain and 1.5 miles one-way from the top of Vernal Fall.

The Mist Trail is considered strenuous due to its steep and slippery steps, especially when the water flow is at its peak in the spring and early summer.

Key Features and Highlights

Vernal Fall

  • The first major landmark on the Mist Trail, Vernal Fall is a powerful 317-foot waterfall that roars especially during the spring runoff. The trail brings hikers close enough to feel the spray, which is particularly refreshing on a warm day.

Nevada Fall

  • Further along the trail, Nevada Fall plunges 594 feet in a dramatic display of natural power. The area around the top of Nevada Fall offers expansive views of the High Sierra, including back towards Liberty Cap and across to Half Dome.

Merced River

  • The trail follows the course of the Merced River as it rushes from Nevada Fall down through Vernal Fall, providing a constant soundtrack of moving water that enhances the hiking experience.

Hiking Tips

Best Time to Hike

  • The best time to hike the Mist Trail is late spring and early summer when the waterfalls are at their most spectacular. However, this is also when the trail is most crowded.


  • The granite steps can be slippery due to the mist and water runoff, especially near Vernal Fall. Proper footwear with good traction is essential.
  • Hikers should be prepared for changing weather conditions and bring water, snacks, and a rain jacket.

Trail Etiquette

  • Given its popularity, hikers on the Mist Trail should be courteous to other trail users. This includes yielding to uphill hikers and staying on the marked trail to protect the surrounding habitat.

Environmental Impact and Conservation

Due to its popularity, the Mist Trail experiences significant foot traffic, which can lead to erosion and other environmental impacts. Yosemite National Park has implemented several measures to mitigate these impacts, including:

  • Maintaining and repairing the trail regularly.
  • Educating visitors about the importance of staying on designated paths.
  • Limiting access during particularly busy times or when trail conditions are hazardous.


The Mist Trail is a must-do for any visitor to Yosemite National Park who is physically able and prepared for a challenging hike. It encapsulates the majestic beauty of Yosemite’s waterfalls and offers a deeply immersive natural experience. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker looking for an exhilarating challenge or a first-time visitor eager to see Yosemite’s famous waterfalls up close, the Mist Trail delivers a memorable adventure steeped in the natural beauty of one of America’s most beloved national parks.

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