The trail is incredibly great condition. In fact, the lower portion of the Mist Trail isn’t much of a trail because it’s paved up until the Vernal Fall viewpoint. From the Vernal Fall viewpoint, the trail continues on pavement for a while until it turns to dirt and granite steps. This is where the real fun begins. When Vernal Fall is at it’s peak, the mist from the waterfall sprays up against the trail making it feel like a steady mist/rain. If the winds are blowing the water against the back of the canyon wall, the mist could leave you completely drenched. I got by with a water resistant jacket and was unscathed. My fiance’ who did the hike a year prior got drenched with just a water resistant jacket because of the way the winds were blowing the mist.
I want to use a word of caution here: granite rocks are incredibly slippery when wet so although this is a relatively safe trail, please use caution and watch your step when going up the wet part of the trail
. Most accidents and deaths that happen occur when people wander off the trail and get too close to the river and slip and fall in. After the mist portion of the trail, it continues on granite steps up to the top of Vernal Fall. There is one portion of the trail that is narrow and only really passable for one person at a time. Please be courteous to those going up. This part of the trail is lined with a metal handrail to use for those where slippery narrow surfaces and heights make people nervous. Once at the top of the waterfall, the there is a viewing point at the Vernal Fall overlook and a large granite slab that is popular for picnicking. Do not go over the rails at the overlook – people have died doing this.
Heading To Nevada Fall
The Merced river continues through the meadow to the east past Vernal Fall and to the back of the valley wall. Once here the trail transitions to granite step switchbacks until the top. While heading up the switchbacks, the view of Nevada Fall spilling over the cliff will constantly be there to look at. At the top of the switchbacks the trail crosses paths with the John Muir Trail and there is a restroom located here. There is another viewing point at the top of Nevada fall. Again, do not go over the railing here. The top of Nevada fall is heavily traveled but less populated than Vernal fall. From the top of Nevada fall there are a couple of different ways to return to the trailhead. You can return the way you came up or you can come back down through the John Muir Trail or the winter route. The latter makes the trail longer but is more interesting as it makes a portion of the trail a loop instead of an out and back.
Coming down the John Muir Trail or the winter route is a series of switchbacks made up of mostly dirt and granite trails. Both trails will drop you off just shortly above the Vernal fall viewing point. Most of the trail is not exposed to the sun until the higher elevations of the trail near Nevada fall. Rain, snow, or ice can make portions of the trail dangerous or impassable. Be aware of weather conditions. Weather can change suddenly in this area throughout the year. Dress appropriately for seasonal temperatures and conditions.As a reminder, rattlesnakes can commonly be seen
along portions of this trail. Poison oak
is highly unlikely along the trail but is possible in some of the undergrowth off the trail. Therefore, stay on the trail. Be prepared to encounter all types of wildlife on this trail. I did see a bobcat on one of my visits.