“Hike through the mist”
Along the trail, the Merced River is a tumultuous mountain stream, lying in a U-shaped valley. Enormous boulders, some the size of a house, are dwarfed by the sheer faces of exfoliating granite, which rise 3000 feet (914 m) from the river. Through it all, the Merced River rushes down from its source in the High Sierra, and broadens on the floor of Yosemite Valley. A trail which links to the John Muir Trail starts after crossing from the Happy Isles. Depending on one's conditioning, a bridge which re-crosses the river – the halfway point of a hike to the foot of Vernal Fall – can be reached in 15 to 30 minutes. Hikers stop briefly just below the lower margin of the mist from Vernal Fall To the side of Vernal Fall, the mist from the river blankets the trail, which was improved during the WPA projects of the 1930s. Here is where raingear becomes handy: in the spring, hikers often become completely drenched from water sprayed off Vernal Fall. This is one of the few places where a complete circular rainbow can be viewed. The trail now crosses a sheer face which is made somewhat easier by a single guard rail. At the top of Vernal Fall, the Merced River traverses a shelf of granite, and the hikers frequently sun themselves to dry off. The Emerald Pool is named for the color of the river here. Up the trail, Nevada Fall, a waterfall that is over twice the height of Vernal Fall, awaits the hiker, although there is no cascade of mist over the trail at that waterfall. Behind Nevada Fall is Liberty Cap, an impressive lump of granite. The Mist Trail then rejoins the John Muir Trail: the hiker can travel in Little Yosemite Valley, or take a side trip to the top of Half Dome, using cables to climb the rock. Permits must be obtained in advance to hike Half Dome, and back country permits are required to stay over night along the John Muir Trail.
Great trial and view, but tough. Prepare yourself mentally and physically, and pack lots of water and snacks. Including lots of stops and breaks, we made it up and down in 6 hours...but it can definitely be done in 3-4 hours.
The Mist Trail packs more of a punch than you think. Lots of upward walking and steps, some of which are wet from the falls. Bring plenty of water. You'll climb for a bit before you pass the bridge over the water. Stop and take a bathroom break and refill your bottle before officially heading up the Mist Trail. Rain jackets are a helpful suggestion, as are sturdy shoes. We actually wore our waterproof duck books which kept our feet dry and the soles kept our grip on the wet stone. Once you get up top you'll be rewarded with a great view right atop Vernal Falls. Pack a lunch and sit out by the natural pool before heading back down via the John Muir Trail for a smoother trip down. Or if you're adventurous and in good shape, continue upward to the Nevada Falls with even more spectacular views!
This trek is going to be hard on anyone not used to hiking or little ones with short attention spans, because it will probably take at least 3 hours round trip. More if you need to stop a lot to rest.
Great hike. But pretty easy overall. Just be careful of the steps being wet. Some people bring a poncho, but honestly it's not necessary because it's warm enough where you will dry off pretty soon after. Lots of fun. Great views.
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