“A steep trail along the Merced River leading past two awe-inspiring cascades.
— Brian Smith
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife
This trail features a little bit of everything: very steep switchbacks, stairs, the occasional flat section and, of course, breath-taking scenery. Be careful on the steep bits - the rock can be very slick when wet.
Follow the Mist Trail for 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from the junction with John Muir Trail 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 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. The trail ends at another junction with the John Muir Trail.