This trail begins from the Happy Isles area of the Yosemite Valley. In winter, when the shuttle bus isn't working, hikers can begin from the Curry Village Day-Use Parking Area and walk eastward to Happy Isles. This will add two miles to your trip.
From Happy Isles the trail leads eastward across a small bridge then heads southward. The trail follows the flow of the Merced River, which creates both Nevada and Vernal Falls. This route is paved and moderately steep. Before reaching the foot of the falls the trail turns eastward again. It is three quarters of a mile to the footbridge below Vernal Falls from the Happy Isles Trailhead.
From the footbridge excellent views can be had of the falls. Continuing along the trail hikers will reach a fork. The right side is the John Muir trail that leads south to Mt. Whitney in Sequoia National Park. The left side of the trail is the Mist Trail, which leads to the crest of Vernal Falls.
Follow Mist Trail as it begins the ascent to the falls. This trail is usually wet, so rain gear and good shoes are a must. Begin hiking the stairs along the river bank. There are 500 granite steps that lead to the top of Vernal Falls. At the head of the stairs a hand railing allows hikers to peer down into the falling waters. This portion of the trail is slippery, narrow, steep and usually crowded.
Directions: From Arch Rock Entrance, Travel eastward into the Yosemite Valley, 11.5 miles to the Curry Village day-use area. Park your car and take the shuttle to stop number 16, Happy Isles. Head eastward along the paved path that leads along the northern bank of the Merced River.
Elevation: 4,020 feet
Ending Elevation: 5,070 feet
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