Yosemite Waterfalls – Hiking to Top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park. The Mist Trail. Trip Report

Yosemite Waterfall. Vernal Falls with Rainbow.
Photo credit: Annie Yearout

Length: @ 2.5 miles RT to top of Vernal Falls
Location: The Mist Trailhead, southeast side of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park
Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
Exposure: Sun, shade & water spray
Kid Friendly? Recommend 9 years old and older. Children MUST be able to follow directions, step cautiously, control impulses – dangerous, slippery exposures on this trail.
Best time to visit? Spring time run-off. Get ready to get wet! A warm day is ideal. Hike early - avoid the crowds.
What to Wear: Quick dry-clothing or bring a rain slicker.
Video: Vernal Falls - Outdoorsy Mama Mini Video

We pack up the kids for spring break and toss them in The Beast. Time for some giant rocks and big water in the bursting Spring run-off of Yosemite National Park. Destination: Vernal Falls on the southeast side of the park.

We find the parking area just past Curry Village & hike the short, flat walk - or you can take a quick bus-ride - to the Mist Trailhead. 
The raging Tenaya Creek at the Vernal Falls Footbridge

The trail begins with a slow, steady incline that is even stroller friendly - we saw someone doing just that - which ends at the Vernal Falls Footbridge @ .8 miles in. 

This is when the real fun starts and the kids start looking at me - Mommmmmm, what did you get us into? A gorgeous staircase of grey slabs hug the right side of the valley. Up, up, up we climb into the roar of the 317 foot Vernal Falls. 
The mist of Vernal Falls.
Photo credit: Annie Yearout
And then we get wet. The massive spray from the falls creates a cold, steam-room of mist all around us. And it's fun - exhilarating! The five of us are wide-eyed - looking at each other: Can you believe this? Prepare to get wet.
Wet from the mist!

Continuing up the trail, we pass through and out of the misty section and head onward, feeling spritzed & a little surprised at the unusual experience, and eager to get to the top. The grand finale is a tight, extremely precarious section with handrails, squeezing against the side of the mountain.

Summiting, we head straight to the top of the falls and look down. And down. To our right, swirls the inviting Emerald Pool. But don't take a dip - the water has swept too many unsuspecting hikers away. We warn the kids to be smart, stay close. This hike is as much an exercise about safety and thoughtful body organization as it is about just enjoying a gorgeous day in Yosemite.
Top of Vernal Falls

The reward is huge. A giant, sunny slab of granite to eat our snack on & dry out. The view down Tenaya Creek. And the kids jazzed by the experience - Mom, that was one of the COOLEST things I've ever done. 

To get to the top was a physical challenge and the added surprise and bonus of the unusual mist and scary exposures carried out with confident caution made them feel like a million bucks. We can't wait to do it again.

Be. Breathe. Do it! -OM

Disclaimer: Again, the hike to the top is NOT for young children! (Younger kids can hike to the footbridge then turn around.) Recommend kids 9 and up who are well behaved, listen to instructions and have experience in the elements. Have fun and stay safe.

More fun information:
Map of Yosemite Hiking Trails
National Park Service Vernal Falls Trail
Yosemite Valley on Bikes
Visit Glacier Point in Yosemite
Have you had your daily dose of Nature today? The Nature Prescription


  1. Enjoyed your blog. Good info. Will be walking up the Mist Trail next week.

    1. thanks, joyce! enjoy your visit - it was absolutely spectacular