Vernal and Nevada Falls Loop
ElevationAscent: 1,999' 609 m
Descent: -1,998' -609 m
High: 6,022' 1,835 m
Low: 4,048' 1,234 m
GradeAvg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 54% (29°)
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“A splendid loop past two of Yosemite's most powerful cascades.”— Brian Smith
Drinking water is available at the shuttle stop near the trailhead (stop #16) and also at the Vernal Fall Footbridge (May to October). This is the only drinking water available along the trail, so carry plenty of water for your run.
You'll find an excellent view of Vernal Fall from the footbridge at 0.8 miles (1.3 km). About 0.2 miles (0.3 km) beyond the bridge, the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail diverge. To proceed directly to the top of Vernal Fall, follow the Mist Trail 0.5 miles (0.8 km) up a steep granite stairway of over 600 steps. Prepare for slippery footing and a tremendous amount of waterfall spray in spring and early summer (hence the name for this trail!). You'll delight in views of Vernal Fall all along this stretch of trail and may even be able to see a rainbow in the spray of the fall. At the top of Vernal Fall, you can experience jaw-dropping views straight down the length of the 317-foot waterfall (please don't cross the railings and use extreme caution while you're near any flowing water or wet rock in this area).
From this point, you can: choose to turn around and head back the way you came; continue up to the next junction (about 0.2 miles / 0.3 km) and take the longer route back via the John Muir Trail; or continue uphill on the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Fall. If you choose to continue on the Mist Trail, shortly beyond Vernal Fall, you'll pass by Emerald Pool and Silver Apron. Both of these look may look inviting on a hot summers day, but it is illegal and dangerous to swim here due to the extremely hazardous current.
Continuing along the Mist Trail, youll experience another 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of steep, rocky switchbacks in order to reach Nevada Fall. Crashing down 594 feet, this thunderous waterfall is fullest in spring and early summer, and you'll find terrific photographic opportunities along this stretch of trail. At the top of the climb, head right to reach the footbridge that crosses the Merced River above the fall, allowing you a closer view of it. Use extreme caution while you're near any flowing water or wet rock in this area.
From here, you can either return down the Mist Trail, or continue over the bridge to the John Muir Trail for an alternate route back to Yosemite Valley. If you choose the John Muir Trail, you'll enjoy different scenery, with great views of Liberty Cap and different views of Nevada Fall. The John Muir Trail is longerapproximately 4 miles one-way compared to the Mist Trail 2.5 miles (4 km)so plan accordingly.
Some runners may be continuing from the top of Nevada Fall to run to Half Dome or elsewhere in Yosemites wilderness.
You can run to both waterfalls all year. However, in winter, there is a specific route that remains open while some sections of trail are closed. The lower portion of the Mist Trail along Vernal Fall closes in winter due to risk of falling ice and rock. The upper portion of the John Muir Trail between Clark Point and the top of Nevada Fall is closed in winter due to treacherously icy conditions. Keep in mind that the sections of trail that remain open in the winter may be very icy and/or snowy. View current conditions for trail closures and view historical opening and closing dates for this trail.
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Land Manager: NPS - Yosemite