Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park
The climb to Nevada Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the park so don't expect solitude. That said, it is a fantastic hike. It is not quite as hard as the Upper Yosemite Falls and far more interesting a walk as well. You climb 2000 feet over approximately 3 miles to the top of this gushing waterfall. There is a bridge that allows you to almost walk on top of the falls. There are some great rocky spots to get views literally down the falls and also some prime picnicking spots along the river feeding the falls.
The best part is you can take a different route back even though the John Muir up affords some amazing views on the way up. The Mist Trail back is an exciting and wet walk that will bring you by Vernal Falls and spray you with "mist" en route.
Allow ample time for this six-mile loop as you'll want to linger on top and to avoid some of the crowds get an early start from the Happy Isles trailhead.
The next stop along the Mist Trail is great for two main reasons: rainbows and lazy tourists. The first stage of the Mist Trail, even in the first week of June, was busy with tourist traffic, but very few people decided to continue beyond Vernal Falls. From here, it's roughly two more rigorous miles to Nevada Falls. The difficulty level and extra distance helps to weed out many of the tourists and when we were here, we had the trail almost completely to ourselves. When we reached Nevada Falls, a gorgeous waterfall was spanning the base of the falls and we sat on the rocks and enjoyed the sound of the water and the fresh air for about twenty minutes.
If you keep pressing on beyond Vernal Falls, you'll have to accept a long hike that roughly constricts your scenery until you reach Nevada Falls, which at nearly 600 feet in height is roughly twice the height of Vernal. Both falls offer the explosive crashing of terrific output in the right season.
If you're under the right conditions, you might even think Liberty Cap is as prominent an attraction as the much smaller Nevada Falls. Liberty Cap (like nearby Half Dome) is a strange formation that rises oddly from the rest of the range, visible even from the footbridge below Vernal Falls much lower in the same canyon.
Nevada Fall is a 594-foot plunge of the Merced River down the Giant Staircase from Little Yosemite Valley. It is one of the most powerful falls in the park; the volume of the fall exceeds both Yosemite and Wapama. But there aren't any trails that can lead you to the mist and spray of the falls, which somewhat dims the excitement of hiking to it. Still, Nevada Fall is a very beautiful drop. If you have followed the John Muir Trail or the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Fall, you'll find good areas to picnic. There's a good view of Liberty Cap from the top, as well as distant Yosemite Valley. On the north side of the footbridge over the Merced River above the falls, you'll find a short spur trail that will lead to the edge of the cliff. An iron railing protects you when you stand at the very brink of Nevada Fall; you can often see rainbows from here. This brink-of-the-falls view is better than the one above Vernal Fall, and much more worth the hike up.
Nevada Fall can also be viewed from your car, at Glacier Point and Washburn Point.
At roughly about twice the height of Vernal Falls, this is a sight to see. From the top of Vernal Falls, the trail via Mist Trail ascends for another 1000 feet. Hikers can go along the Mist Trail for another 1.3 miles to the top of Nevada Falls from Vernal Falls.
The trails is harder than Vernal Falls part because it goes up through a granite rock without the mist. During the summer it gets pretty hot and tiring. Make sure you bring enough water to carry you to the top. Once you're at the top, grab fresh water from Merced River. It's so refreshing after a long hike up 2000 feet in elevation! Make sure you refil your water bottles with water from the river. You won't regret it! Enjoy the scenery and the quietness once you reach the top. This is where most tourists are weeded out. They usually track back Mist Trail and hike down Vernal Falls.
There are two trails that you can pick to go down. You can track back to Mist Trail or go around and take John Muir Trail. We took John Muir Trail down from the top of Nevada Falls. You get a great view of the falls from the trail with Liberty Cap on the left. Although the trail is a little longer than Mist, it's less strenuous. Especially after a really long hike, it's nice to have an easy hike down.
There are 2 ways to get to Nevada Falls from the bottom of Vernal Falls: the Mist Trail via the top of Vernal Falls and the John Muir Trail. We went up the John Muir Trail, whose zigzagging switchbacks lead to the top of a ridge where Nevada Falls will be in view. The trail flattens out toward Nevada Falls, and the rock on your right will start getting wetter and wetter. Nearing the falls, water will shower down on you from the rock wall, which is nice and cooling. There are lots of good views of Nevada Falls all the way until you reach the top, where you can dip your feet in the ice cold water before it makes the nearly 2000 foot descent. You can also look straight down over the falls from several vertigo inducing veiwing areas.
The elevation difference between Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall is about 1,000 feet. The hike between the two Falls is steep and strenuous. You pretty much trek along the rock walls of Nevada Fall as shown in photo. When the water volume is high and the wind blowing, you are likely to get wet and realize how Mist Trail got its name.
At 5,907 feet, Upper Nevada Fall is actually a series of cascades that merge and become the spectacular Nevada Fall. Several trails intersect here and you need to decide which way to go. You can return to the Valley floor by either the Mist Trail or the John Muir Trail. Or you can turn south towards Glacier Point via Panorama Trail (see my other tip). Better yet, keep going east and conquer Half Dome (on my to-do list).
There is a nice relaxing little area at the top of the falls where you can soak your feet in the ice cold water and get some sun. It's a big contrast to what is only feet away: a nearly 2000 foot sheer drop to the valley floor. Walk over a bridge to view the precipice and waterfall itself up close. You're literally right there next to the top of the falls as it descends to the valley floor below.
To get to Nevada Falls, take the Mist Trail or John Muir Trail up from Happy Isles Trailhead. I think it took about 2.5 hours to get to the top, but we were so busy relaxing in the water we didn't really check.
Nevada Falls is just above Vernal Falls and would be a moderately strenuous hike if the Mist Trail was open. During our visit, we had to detour around the Mist Trail, adding about 3 miles to our hike, plus about 500 extra feet in elevation change each way, all the way up to Clark Point on the John Muir Trail.
From Vernal Falls the hike to Nevada Falls is just 1.3 miles, but the strenuous route rises another 1,000 feet in elevation and takes about 45 minutes. If the Mist Trail is open, the total route from Happy Isles is 2.8 miles each way. In the winter you have to detour via the John Muir Trail and the trip each way is 3.7 miles each way.
Nevada Falls drops 594 feet from top to bottom with the water looking more like flour on the way down. The Falls are located right beside the towering granite peak called Liberty Cap which towers 1100 feet above the falls. After Nevada Falls, the Merced River continues across the Silver Apron into the Emerald Poll before dropping off the Vernal Falls.
After Vernal falls you can continue on toward the top of Nevada Falls.
It too is worth the hike.
I recommend hiking up one way (going over the bridge initially hiking on the side left of the waterfall) and hiking down the other way.
The view is staggering. And it`ll really make your heart pound in your chest. For those that have a slight fear of heights it`ll scare you.
Falling 594', is located above Vernal Fall in an area known as the Giant Staircase. It is best viewed from Glacier Point, but can be accessed via the Mist Trail.
Slightly disappointing after Vernal Falls, not because it's less beautiful, but because, due to the angling of rocks at the bottom, it's practically impossible to approach as close.