Price & Hours
- Hiking, Sightseeing Type
- 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
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The Mist Trail is one of the park's most popular trails. What makes The Mist Trail so unique is not its sites – Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall – but how you get there. To get to the top of the falls, hikers must climb a 600-step granite staircase that snakes right up alongside the hundreds-foot-tall plunge, taking visitors close enough to where mist from the falls sprays out onto the trail. Hence the name, the Mist Trail. The falls reach their peak from late spring to early summer, so if you want the traditional Mist Trail experience, with a light, natural shower while hiking, come during that time.
Because the hike is predominately uphill, many hikers tend to take the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall and back down – a nearly 2½-mile hike roundtrip, which is estimated by the NPS to take about three hours. For a greater challenge, you can continue your hike farther upward to Nevada Fall, which takes about five to six hours to complete and features an elevation gain of an additional 1,000 feet (to Vernal Fall, the elevation gain is 1,000 feet from sea level). If you don't want to hike up the often slippery Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada falls, you can always take the John Muir Trail, which features vantage points of the falls as well as fantastic views of the surrounding forest and valley.
Many travelers say the Mist Trail is one of the best hikes they have ever taken, but advise to be prepared. While visitors say the hike up along the falls is as scenic as ever, it is definitely strenuous. Even when the falls aren't at their peak (from late spring to early summer), it can still be pretty wet, so make sure to have shoes with good traction and bring a poncho or clothes that can get wet.
Be advised that because this trail is so popular, it gets crowded quickly. Take the hike slowly and be mindful of the moisture as well as the ground – loose, rocky terrain is present in some parts of the trail. There are restrooms posted at the trailhead, as well as vault toilets at the top of both Vernal and Nevada falls. The NPS estimates that you should carry about two quarts of water if you hike up to Vernal Fall and three to four quarters if you hike up to Nevada Fall. It is important that you stay on marked trails and do not swim in any portion of the falls – it is illegal. To get to the Mist Trail, you can take the Valley Visitor shuttle, available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round, to shuttle stop No. 16. There are no set hours for this trail but the NPS advises not to hike this trail at night. For more information, visit the park's website.
- Thing to Do