The Mist Trail, beginning near the Upper Pines campground is a 6.5 mile loop that takes advantage of the John Muir trail as a return option.Upon approaching Vernal Falls, the moisture in the air is pretty dense and it becomes quite clear how the trail got its name. The air on this part of the trail is indeed laden with mist, which gives it an eerie, yet very refreshing and invigorating feel.
I did realize very quickly that I wasn’t very well prepared for this stretch however and had a difficult time keeping my camera and myself dry! The rocky and very slippery trail made for some good hiking however, although it was difficult to keep my eyes on the trail itself with such fantastic scenes improving with every step I took.
Only once you’re quite near the falls themselves does the mist become incredibly dense and intense. Luckily there are rails to assist the hiker and prevent him from tumbling over the slippery edge of the cliff.
From Vernal Falls, you can proceed another 2 miles to the fantastic Nevada Falls higher up. Unlike the hike up to Vernal, this hike provides a brisk climb with a bit of elevation gain and compared to the previous, offers a bit of serenity and peace. In fact, we practically had this stretch to ourselves, as it appears that most people turn around from Vernal.
After hiking half an hour or so, Nevada starts to peek into view as you twist and turn up the rocky mountain and shows in full glory just below the falls with the water crashing down with all the splashing and intensity that accompany.
From here, the final stretch was pure rock with partially crafted stone stair work assisting the way. With the roar of the falls in the near distance, the grade didn’t seem as intense as it probably would have on a less exciting journey.
Return on the John Muir Trail
After poking around at the top of Nevada falls for a while, we returned to the valley via the portion of the John Muir Trail that runs through this part of the park. For me, this was one of the loveliest stretches of trail that we encountered during out trip.
The trail runs mostly cliff-side, providing striking vistas of the gorge and falls below. Nevada Falls is particularly striking from above and the photos here can’t do it real justice. The clarity of the air and the vibrancy of the light and colors made for a truly remarkable hike.
As on the link up to the Nevada Falls, we encountered only a few other hikers on this section, so we pretty much had the entire route to ourselves until we got back down to Vernal Falls, where the less adventurous hordes appeared once again.