Yosemite National Park is the most popular place on the hikers’ list. Hikers here find many opportunities to explore the places less traveled or to knock off some most popular hikes. Yosemite provides multiple types of hikes from mild to tough terrain. Getting to the most of these high and tough altitudes, like Half Dome, is a challenge but there is one that is comparatively easy and challenging too. Hike to Nevada Falls.
Nevada Fall, 594- foot high waterfall on the Merced River is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Yosemite National Park. It is located below the granite dome, Liberty Cap. One of the two major Vernal and Nevada waterfalls that are part of the Mist Trail, Nevada Fall is a very popular destination for hikers and backpackers making the long trek to Yosemite.
Its famous bent shape, in which the water free falls to a slick rock slope creates some fabulous views for nature lovers. The mist that occurs due to a high splash of water falling led to its current name Nevada, a snowy mountain.
A brief history
Location: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, Mariposa County, CA, US
World height ranking: 576
There is very much to see in this little Yosemite valley. The history of the Nevada Falls combines with Yosemite valley. Yosemite is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a rich diversity of plants and animals.
Lafayette Bunnell was the first to suggest its name. According to him, “The Nevada Fall was so-called because it was the nearest to the Sierra Nevada, indicative of a wintry spring. The white, foaming water, as it dashed down Yo-wy-we ( Indian name) from the snowy mountains, represented a vast avalanche of snow.”
Yosemite Valley is popular for the beautiful hikes and trails. And the trail to reach the Nevada point passes through Vernal Falls.
How to reach
To capture unforgettable views of Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, and the back of Half Dome, your hikes to these places start from Yosemite valley. In order to reach there, you have multiple options to choose from.
There are multiple flights to the heart of the Yosemite valley. You can access it in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and others that take few hours to reach.
There are also train routes available from San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento to and from Merced/Riverbank and Yosemite.
You can also reach the park in your vehicle. The parking area is available with an entry fee.
Once you have visited the Yosemite valley, find a space in Happy Isles if you have your vehicle and step to take the route towards the most beautiful with some tough terrain The mist trailhead. This is the trailhead to Nevada Falls. If you are hiking on this trailhead read below what to do when you hike to Nevada Falls.
Things to Remember
- Always hike on an established trail route and do not wander around in the woods.
- Swimming is banned for safety and hikers are advised not to walk along the edge of the river.
- Headlamps should be always carried( as the trail is shady and you can find yourself hiking in the dark).
- Add a first aid kit in your pack including Sprain ankle sprays( Due to the slippery and wet trail, sprained ankles and knee injuries are common).
- Restrooms are available all through the hike including Vernal fall and Nevada falls.
Nevada Falls Permit
There is no additional permit required to hike Nevada falls Vernon falls. Hikers only have to pay an entry fee of $30 per vehicle. Yosemite National park is available is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Hike to Nevada falls
Hike to Nevada falls is a 6 to 7 miles round trip hike, which can be conquered in 5 hours. Your hike to Nevada falls begins from Happy Isles trailhead, though further you have two options either go with mist trail or hike up the John Muir Trail. Me and hikers who visit Nevado Falls every year suggestion would be to go with mist trail to reach Nevada falls, and on your return choose the alternative trail which is the JMT trail. This way you will enjoy the view of the JMT trail that it offers you throughout your back journey. Also coming back through the JMT trail is a lot easier, as it is not as crowded as the Mist trail, also the route doesn’t have a slippery surface by which you avoid pressure on your knees.
Journey to Nevada falls through mist trail
As discussed above, to start your hike to Nevada falls, you have to reach the happy isles which is a short distance from the Yosemite trailhead. You should also know that there is no parking lot on the happy isles. The nearest parking lot to park your car is Yosemite trailhead, but you can only park here in the offseason because permits are only given to Yosemite visitors during the season. If you are visiting Nevada falls in the offseason, you will get space to park your vehicle here. The second option would be curry village which is a mile from happy isles. You will get a parking space here to park your vehicle. The further journey you have to cover with your feet because the vehicle is not allowed past this point. It is a mile easy walk for any hiker from curry village to happy isles. Your hike to Nevada falls starts as you reach the happy isles bridge.
As you start your journey the trail starts elevating. After walking for less than a mile, say 0.9 miles you will reach the vernal fall footbridge. As you set your foot on the bridge you will see the spectacular view of vernal falls and waterfall fountain. If the 0.9 miles distance you covered has not soaked up your energy then you will be thrilled to know that the further journey from here is more thrilling and steep.
As you continue forward the trail gets stepper and climbs up to the vernal falls. You will be thrilled and excited at the same point as you have to climb up 600 slippery stairs moving uphill along the river. Be alert and careful here because the surface of the trail is wet and slippery.
After you climb up the 600 stairs steps you will reach the vernal falls and you can enjoy the view here. It is one of the main highlights while hiking to Nevada falls.
To reach Nevada falls you have to cover 1.6 miles more through the same trail. The only point that makes further journey easy in some way is that there is no wet surface as you move further, though the trail is as steep as it is while climbing vernal falls. The trail will take you through forest winds and climbs up to the rock staircase. The trail will go along the southern banks of the Merced River. You will pass through the Emerald Pool and Silver Apron section of the Merced River.
These two sections draw much attention during the summer section, as one can able to slide over the silver apron or can swim in the emerald pool. Before doing so, you should also know that it is prohibited to enter the water and it is seen as violence. The reason behind all this is recent deaths that have occurred. The water may be appealing but you should avoid entering it, as it is as dangerous as it sounds.
As the journey continues you will pass another footbridge. Past the footbridge, you will start seeing top Nevada falls or also known as upper Nevada falls.
As the journey continues the trail maintains the flat surface until you reach the granite series of steps again. The one plus about climbing up these granite steps is that the surface is dry, unlike what we faced in vernal falls.
While climbing up you can take breaks and enjoy the scenic views that the trail offers you. Slowly and gradually as you make it to the top of the climb, you will see the John Muir trail junction. You will find restrooms here. The left route from the junction leads to the Yosemite valley and further continues to the half dome. But you have to head to the right route which takes you to Nevada falls footbridge.
As you continue past the footbridge there is a place where you can see people enjoying the view of the waterfall. While the view is spectacular, one must also be alert and careful and avoid getting too close to slippery edges, as there is no protection.
After that, you divert your directions away from the waterfall and continue your back journey from Nevada fall to happy isles. As you head forward, the trail will lead you to another junction that leads you to the panorama trail.
As you continue, you pass through the water, which is basically high during the snowmelt period. While passing this section, you may get your feet wet, but you will pass it easily and continue your journey further on the trail.
The trail leads you to the panoramic cliffs through the forest. As you clear the forest section you will reach the open environment which means panoramic cliffs. Here you will witness the breathtaking view of Nevada falls and Liberty cap, together in a frame.
As you continue your journey further, the trail will take you through a lot of switchbacks until it meets another junction. Near this junction is Clark point which leads to the silver apron after vernal falls. But you have to follow the same path which will descend and take you through more switchbacks. This part of the trail is also steeper and a pain in the knees. Anway as you continue the trail starts to join up with the mist trail near the vernal footbridge. As you reach there, you will continue on the paved trail for another 0.9 miles, until you reach the happy isles trailhead.
Best time to visit Nevada falls
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Gear for the Hike
Hiking with the perfect gear makes your trip more adventurous and safe. Although it is a small hike, there is some essential gear you must pack with yourself. You can’t predict the weather and may get wet on a cold day or get too hot in the winter season. So, prepare yourself with enough gear we included in the list below.
As you know you are visiting the magnificent waterfall, you’ll get wet from the mist. If you are visiting during the spring and into summer, the waterfall is at its peak level and often leaves hikers soaked with the sprays from the Fall. Raincoats also benefit you from the Sierra mosquitoes as it is difficult for them to penetrate.
Layered clothing is mandatory for this hike due to the changing weather conditions. Also, on your hike you are going to face a good amount of mist, so dress accordingly.
Clothing changes according to the season you are visiting the Nevada falls. If you are planning to visit Nevada Falls in the extreme summer months of July and August, you can pack a lighter and a few layers of clothing. But as you gain elevation, the temperature starts decreasing, so to be safe pack some additional layers of clothing in your backpack.
If you are visiting Nevada falls from falls through early spring, always pack extra layers of clothing.
Begin with wearing a good synthetic thermal base layer of clothing ( top and bottom). On top of that wear a sweatshirt and for additional protection, get yourself a waterproof jacket or a raincoat will be sufficient too.
Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, gloves, hiking poles, rain pants, supplemental snacks, Headlamp, First aid kit.
Note: Umbrellas can sometimes be useful but, strong winds from the waterfall make them impractical.
The trail wet and slippery, so without good hiking boots, it will be impossible to complete the hike without getting hurt. So get yourself a good pair of hiking boots. Waterproof hiking boots are necessary during the winter and spring when the trail is wet. With the hiking shoes add synthetic or wool socks. Our recommendation – Lowa Renegade GTX Mid. It is popular for its durability and wearing this feels light and springy like a running shoe. You’ll have no problem hiking this trail with these tremendous reliable hiking boots as they offer additional ankle and grip support.
It is impossible to complete this hike without packing yourself 4L of water. National Park staff advise you to carry a minimum of 2L of water. Although you’ll be hiking towards the waterfall, it is impossible to drink freezing water from the waterfall. Also, it is prohibited to get close to the waterfall, and there is a risk you could fall in the waterfall and wash away.