Last updated: January 18, 2024
The very popular John Muir and Mist Trails offer spectacular, up-close views of two large waterfalls, enjoyable scenery along the Merced River, and unique views across Yosemite Valley. About 1 trail mile from the trailhead, beyond the Vernal Fall Footbridge, the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail diverge. Consider accessing Vernal and Nevada Fall via the Mist Trail, looping around and taking the John Muir Trail back down to the Valley. Prepare for slippery footing and a tremendous amount of waterfall spray in spring and early summer. See more information about trails.
Drinking water is available at shuttle stop #16, near the trailhead, 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 hike.
Amount of water to bring
Vernal Fall Footbridge 1 quart/liter
Top of Vernal Fall 2 quarter/liters
Top of Nevada Fall 3-4 quarts/liters
Restrooms are located at the shuttle stop, near the trailhead. Additionally, restrooms are located at the Vernal Fall footbridge, approximately 1 mile up the trail (May to October). Vault toilets are available beyond the top of Vernal Fall (along the Mist Trail) and at the top of Nevada Fall (along the Mist Trail).
Vernal Fall Footbridge (Moderate)
1.6 miles (2.6 km) round trip; 1-1.5 hours
400 feet (120 m) elevation gain
Top of Vernal Fall (Strenuous)
2.4 miles (3.9 km) round trip (via Mist Trail); 3 hours
1000 feet (300m) elevation gain
Top of Nevada Fall (Strenuous)
5.4 miles (8.7 km) round trip (via Mist Trail); 5-6 hours
2,000 feet (610 m) elevation gain
You can also take the John Muir Trail to the top of Vernal Fall (via the Clark Point cutoff) and the top of Nevada Fall, or combine the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail into a loop. See map.
Year-round, however, the lower portion of the Mist Trail along Vernal Fall closes in winter due to risk of falling ice and rock. Also, 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.
Located at Happy Isles at shuttle stop #16. Follow the signs across the bridge to where the trail begins. There is no parking in the immediate area.
Rules & Regulations
- Stay on the established trail: do not swim or wade in the river and do not walk along the edge of the river.
- Observe warning signs and railings - these exist for your safety.
- Pets, bicycles, and strollers are prohibited.
- Do not shortcut switchbacks, which causes rapid trail erosion and results in injuries.
- Keep your food within arm's reach at all times and do not feed the wildlife.
- Carry out all trash and food waste (fruit peels, shells, etc.).
Hazards & Warnings
Carry a head lamp (with fresh or extra batteries) in case you end up hiking more slowly or farther then planned and find yourself hiking back in the dark.
Sprained ankles and knee injuries are common on this trail. There are many areas of loose rock/decomposed granite, mixed with steep steps, and water, which makes for slippery footing in places.
Avoid becoming dehydrated or experiencing heat exhaustion. Drink plenty and drink often; pace yourself; rest in the shade; and eat salty snacks.
The granite steps along the Mist Trail leading up to the brink of Vernal Fall can be slick and crowded. Consider making a loop by continuing on the trail, past the brink of Vernal Fall and Emerald Pool, taking the cutoff trail to Clark Point, and then hiking down the John Muir Trail.
This trail is not accessible.
- 7 minutes, 42 seconds
In this video, a ranger describes strenuous hikes in Yosemite Valley, including the Yosemite Falls Trail, Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Fall, and Panorama Trail.