Vernal Falls, California

Vernal Falls in May 2011

You can find all of the information you need about Vernal Falls on the internet, but one place I read about it was in the book “Easy Hikes Through Yosemite.” I feel there are some things I should say about the hike to the falls.

First off, it’s not as easy as it seems. There are much easier hikes in the park. If you are handicapped or have difficulties walking, this is not the hike for you. It’s 1.5 miles, and it’s consistently UPHILL the way there. Bring water, as you’ll be panting. And there’s another conundrum here…When I first started out, it was chilly. As I started hiking uphill, I became much warmer. Wear layers that can easily be removed. If it suddenly gets colder, you won’t be completely shocked.

Second, the book I had only suggested hiking to the bridge, which is a beautiful point to stop, but you really can’t get an up-close view of the falls from here. If you’re up for it, continue along the trail to the base of the falls. You’ve already come this far, and the extra distance isn’t any different in terms of terrain. I think it might have been easier as there were steps along that portion. Near the end, there are a lot of steps, but caution is required. There are pretty large drops as you start climbing upwards. In mid-May, it was VERY wet…It had just snowed a few hours before, and the trail was slippery. Wear good shoes. I should mention that people have died while going to the falls, one case in July 2011.

Nevada Falls can be accessed by a longer hike continuing along the Mist Trail. I was already hot and sweaty just from the first hike, and hadn’t really eaten much and so I decided against the longer hike. I’m under the impression that the second portion of trail between Vernal and Nevada Falls is more difficult, just considering the elevation changes listed between the two falls.


  1. In late April and early May, the best choice of roads is likely CA-140. (I was on CA-120, and discovered after some distance that the road was closed near the park entrance, and had to take an alternative route). Call (209)-372-0200 for current road conditions.
  2. Head east along CA-140 from Merced/Mariposa to the entrance for the park.
  3. At the entrance, you will need to pay the entrance fee, which is good for 7 days.
  4. Continue through the park. When I visited in mid-May, it was possible to drive to a parking area nearby the Happy Isles area. Head toward Camp Curry, and you’ll find a parking area on your right. Otherwise, when the park gets busier, park in one of the designated parking lots and take the shuttle bus to stop 16 (Happy Isles), and start from there.
  5. Head toward the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls. Then follow the signs.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Height: 317′
Length of Hike: 3 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Vernal Falls?


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