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Vernal Fall – 3.7mi / 6km
Vernal Fall pours over a granite cliff in a powerful curtain of water, spraying the narrow canyon and giving the Mist Trail its name. The paved path starts on the east side of the bridge opposite the Happy Isles shuttle stop and parallels the Merced River as it splashes over large, granite boulders.
While initially level, the trail quickly begins to climb until it reaches the bridge. Here is your first glimpse of Vernal Fall and your last chance at drinking water and use of a toilet. Continue and stay left onto the Mist Trail, as it transitions to dirt, along the river to the falls.
It exits the forest to a stone staircase (be careful as it can be slick) which serve as a perfect, continuous vantage for this stunning waterfall. Mist blows out from this powerful waterfall giving the trail its namesake. You have a front row seat at this wonderful curtain of water plunging 300ft/100m over streaked granite. The vegetation stays vibrant green all along this section.
Continue up the steep trail, which traverses the cliff, via a path carved in the granite, to the brink of the falls. Explore the area to see Emerald Pool and Silver Apron cascades before turning around. To make it a longer loop, continue up to Nevada Fall (see Nevada Fall).
Trailhead: Take the free bus shuttle to the Happy Isles/Mist Trail stop #16, or drive to the trailhead parking past the Half Dome Village and walk 0.5mi/0.7km to the trailhead.
Elevation Gain: 1,250ft / 375m – Elevation Loss: 1,250ft / 375m