The Mist Trail

Distance: 7 miles (11 km) round trip | Elevation at Trailhead: 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) | Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet (580 meters)
Date Visited: 11.06.12

Famed for the powerful Vernal and Nevada Falls, the Mist Trail is coined one of Yosemite’s signature hikes. The trail follows the Merced River and climbs nearly 2,000 feet to the top of Nevada Falls. Since I went in late fall, however, the waterfalls weren’t at their most sublime–spring is when the falls are at their fullest–but the views down towards Liberty Cap and the back of Half Dome more than made up for it.

Though initially a tame hike (and ADA) towards the trailhead at Happy Isles, the Mist Trail quickly transforms into a fairly steep and vertigo-inspiring climb. Perhaps this was overly ambitious given that I arrived late, but I set out to the hike the trail on the same day I arrived into Yosemite Valley; it takes roughly six hours by bus and train (and multiple transfers) from San Francisco to Yosemite.

The ascent was breathtaking, particularly near the top where there were few hikers to be seen. By the time I reached Nevada Falls, the valley and the looming sheer faces of exfoliating granite rock were bathed in the honey, golden light of dusk. It was stunning. The descent was less stunning when the trail began to disappear in darkness–it was terrifying to be alone in the dark, without cell service, and realize you’ve wandered off trail. But that’s another story.

Here are photographs:

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