The Mist Trail is one of the most popular and beautiful trails in Yosemite. Marked by amazing landscapes and waterfalls views, it’s pretty obvious how the trail got it’s name: from the mist that comes off the waterfalls as you’re walking along side it. This trail spends most of it’s time following along the Merced River, climbing along side of Vernal Falls, and then continues on to the top of Nevada Falls.
When Is The Best Time To Hike The Mist Trail?
Given that the main attraction of this trail is the waterfalls, it’s best to go when the waterfalls are at their fullest. Late Spring/ Early Summer is the best time to get the full effect of the waterfalls as the water flow is at its highest during this time of year.
If hiking during the winter, some portions of the trail will be closed due to icy conditions. Follow this winter route when hiking these waterfalls during the winter.
Directs To The Mist Trail Trailhead
There are many places for camping in Yosemite and also a few hotels within the park that are along the shuttle route.
If not along the shuttle route and driving in, once in Yosemite, follow the signs for Curry Village where you can park.
From Curry Village, catch a shuttle bus to Happy Isles (Stop #16) where you can access the trailhead. The shuttles run from 7am- 10pm year round.
Follow the signs for The Mist Trail. There is a parking lot a the trailhead, but it’s much smaller and is often full early.
It’s about 1.5 miles to the trailhead from Curry Village, which is walkable if you don’t want to wait for the shuttle (which are often very full). To walk to the trailhead, just follow the road south east past Curry Village until you reach Happy Isles (there’s only one road, so it’s hard to get lost).
The Mist Trail also intersects with The John Muir Trail and both waterfalls are accessible from this trail as well.
Nearest Food and Water
There’s a convenience store and restaurant located in Curry Village if you want to get any last minute snacks or drinks before starting your hike.
Yosemite Park Fees
If you plan on visiting a lot of National Parks, I recommend getting an America The Beautiful Park Pass. The pass allows you to enter every National Park in the US for one year for just $80.
- Individual (on foot, horseback, or bus) – Good for 7 Days: $15
- Motorcycle – Good for 7 Days: $20
- Automobile with up to 4 people – Good for 7 Days: $30 April – October, $25 other months
- Yosemite Automobile Pass – Good for 1 Year: $60
How Long Does It Take To Hike The Mist Trail?
The trail is one way in and out, so you can stop and turn around at any time. There are three main destinations along the trail that visitors will use as their end point, so the time it takes to hike this trail depends on how far you want to go.
Verna Falls Foot Bridge
Just past the bridge is a view of both falls. Albeit, rather far up stream.
- Distance: 1.6 mi round trip
- Elevation gain: 400 ft
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: 1-1.5 hours
Fantastic views of Yosemite and from the top of the waterfall. You can also see Nevada Falls further upstream.
- Distance: 3 mi round trip
- Elevation gain: 1000 ft
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time: 3 hours
The top of the trail. Amazing views of Yosemite including Half Dome and Liberty Cap.
- Distance: 7 mi round trip
- Elevation gain: 2000 ft
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Time: 5-6 hours
Recommended Hiking Gear
What To Expect Along The Trail
As beautiful as this trail is, the biggest negative is that it’s very popular, so expect to be surrounded by people for the majority of the hike. Many hikers don’t continue past Vernal Falls, so the trail to Nevada Falls is considerably less packed, all though this trail does intersect with the John Muir Trail among others, so there is a little cross traffic.
- Elevation at trailhead: 4,000 feet
- Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet to top of Vernal Fall, 2,000 feet to top of Nevada Fall
The trail starts as a paved path, which is easy and accessible to all, including those with strollers. It’s almost fully uphill, but does offer some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and other falls in the distance.
The paved path lasts for about 3/4 of a mile until you get to the Vernal Falls Footbridge. There is a bathroom and water fountain here across the bridge and is also the final stop for the visitors with strollers.
Pro Tip: Watch out for the squirrels! The squirrels here have become very accustom to being fed by visitors and will hang out around the bathrooms looking for food. They have no problem literally climbing up your legs to get at your snacks!
About 1/4 of a mile past the footbridge, The Mist Trail and The John Muir Trail separate. The trail is no longer paved, but still mostly stone or packed dirt and stable footing. Follow The Mist Trail to the left which climbs steeply along the Merced River. Again, you’ll be traveling almost entirely uphill, including a stairway of over 600 steps as you get closer to the falls.
The mist from Verna Falls spray onto the trail, so be prepared to get a little damp (which is a great way to cool down!) and also for there to be some puddles. The views of the falls are spectacular and you’ll often see a few rainbows in the mist.
The top of Vernal Falls is mostly unshaded and rocky. You can get extremely close to the top of the 317ft waterfall and look over the edge. There are railings for your protection, however it would also be easy to slip on the rocks and fall into the flowing river and be carried over the side.
Emerald pool is slightly up stream and is less populated as you’re away from the edge which makes for a great lunch spot. From here you’ll also see great views of Liberty Cap. Unfortunately it’s illegal to swim in both Emerald Pool and Silver Apron due to the water currant that could sweep you downstream and over the falls.
Continue along The Mist Trail for another 1.5 miles of steep, uphill rocky switch backs and you’ll arrive at the top of Nevada Falls. Nevada Falls is almost twice as tall as Vernal Falls at 594ft high. It’s a loud, beautiful, and extremely impressive waterfall. There is another footbridge at the top of Nevada Falls to the right which allows you to cross the Merced River right above the falls and provides some amazing views.
The get back down, you can either go back the way you came down The Mist Trail (2.5 mi to the valley floor) or continue across the footbridge to The John Muir Trail (4 mi to the valley floor).
Remember to Leave No Trace!
What’s your favorite Yosemite hike? Let me know in the comments!