Hiking Yosemite’s “Mist Trail”! Here’s Our STEEP Climb To The Vernal Waterfall!

“The last few hundred meters up the Vernal Falls trail are stairs cut into the cliffside…”

With that simple line, the National Park Service warned us that a very steep climb was ahead of us!

Welcome To Yosemite’s “Mist Trail!”

Welcome back to Yosemite National Park, roughly a 7 hour drive northeast of Los Angeles, and about 3 hours slightly south and east of San Francisco. The “Mist Trail” hike is 3 miles round trip to the Vernal Waterfall and back, but you can go much further as well, as this park has trails lacing it like Christmas ribbon!

We were here a few days before Thanksgiving, and the park’s shuttle buses to the trailhead weren’t operating due to Covid restrictions, so we added another 1.2 miles walking over from the legendary Ahwahnee Hotel.

To get to the Mist Trail, you get to follow the gorgeous, serene Merced River on the way: crystal clear and calm, but looks can be deceiving – more on that later.

After reaching the trail head you have a short walk before you reach a bridge across the river, and from there you can look up and see the waterfall that awaits:

Looks are deceiving, however!

Did I mention that you hike UP an elevation of more than 1,000 feet in just a mile-and-a-half?

Yes, it was STEEP!

The beginning of the hike lulls you into a false sense of ease, however: the nicely paved path winds slowly upward through rocks and trees, with the gentle sound of the river off to your right…

The river is constantly nearby – well, until you begin to sense it fading away as you begin to climb up and up and up:

At one point, the well-groomed path stops – because remember what they told us:

“The last few hundred meters up the Vernal Falls trail are stairs cut into the cliffside!”

And are they ever!

After an exhausting 15 minutes, you round the corner and this is what awaits!

This is looking back down the steps – it is really steep! In the spring and summer, when the waterfall is at its most powerful, you understand why they call it the “Mist Trail” – hikers get very wet climbing the stairs and standing here!

And now, a moment of solitude thanks to Alex:

It’s all worth the effort, obviously: gorgeous scenery, the breathtaking view of the waterfall…another of our great hiking adventures in the majesty of nature!

Let’s have one more moment watching the waterfall:

The hike back down isn’t too bad, once you clear those steps and get back to the well paved path…and we ended our hike by crossing back over the Merced River…while quiet now, during the spring the river is quite active!

The “Mist Trail’s” Deadly History!

Finally, I will leave you with this: more people die on the Mist Trail than almost anywhere else in Yosemite. It’s not the waterfalls or the cliffs that are the culprits; it’s the current. The river here apparently looks much less dangerous than it actually is. Typically, when going full force in the spring, hikers slip into the water and find the current too strong to overcome!

This view we had at this time of year was much more peaceful!

This was the second of our terrific hikes in Yosemite:

Yes, we took another grueling climb up to the Upper Yosemite Falls, but it was worth it – see our trek here:

Yosemite was incredible – in fact, here is a shot of the famous “Half Dome” as the sun was setting:

Gorgeous, right?

Alex and I have been on a “National Park” high since the pandemic hit: we can drive to them without interacting with anyone, the outdoor spaces are never-ending, and the hiking and views are spectacular!

That included our exhilarating hike up Angel’s Landing – click to see more about this dangerously fulfilling hike!

I will say that this was one of the most exciting, terrifying and satisfying hikes I’ve ever done, and the incredible beauty of the park all around you is worth the effort!

We did this hike just one day after we hiked in the Virgin River at the place called “The Narrows”:

Yes, miles of this hike and through the fast-moving river, and it leads you into canyons that are spectacular!

Click here to see our entire hike!

If you think Alex doesn’t surprise me with an adventure every day of my life, here’s what she did for me on my last birthday:

She took me 500+ feet straight up a Via Ferrata!

Since I am typing this, I survived, but it was quite the climb!

Click here to see it all!


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Categories: Art, Exotic Travel, Memoirs, nature, Sports, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir

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22 replies

  1. Totally cool! Who needs the gym when you’ve got nature?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John, this is just wonderful! Thank goodness for our National Parks – nature at its most beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow such a breathtaking view! The last time I went to Yosemite was back in more than 6 years ago and I’m itching to going back again😂 My husband also says he wants to go, and you went to a few days before…did you see any snow? It’s a big mountain so I always wonder it’s too cold or some roads are closed?🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great questions! Only a dusting of snow near the top of the mountains around us, but the entire north east road was already closed for the season…we were fine in the Yosemite Valley area – our first time and we loved it! Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh ok! Thank you for the info, john!

        Hmm so we gotta plan ahead and thoroughly when going there around Oct then.

        I’m glad to hear you liked your first visit to Yosemite Valley area because when someone says it’s good, mine will be good one too😊👍

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Cats and Trails and Garden Tales and commented:
    Have you been to Yosemite? My brother takes you there on his blog today, up close to some fabulous falls!!


  5. Wow! Fabulous photos and videos! And yes! I’m relaxed, especially watching from home! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That is undoubtedly a hard hike, John. I can see that in your face.
    But it really is worth the effor!
    Best wishes, Pete.


  7. This looks amazing, John, but quite strenuous too.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. The View From Taft Point! Standing At The Edge Of The World! – johnrieber
  2. Climbing A “Via Ferrata”! Our Wild 500+ Foot Hike – Straight Up the “Iron Road”! – johnrieber

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