Hiking the Mist Trail
'We know that we are too late, but is there a small chance we can get a permit for Half Dome?' we asked a ranger. Unfortunately, there were no more permits for Half Dome available. However, at least we have a reason to come back to Yosemite National Park. We also asked which hike she recommended. The ranger immediately recommend the Mist Trail. Of course we also did our homework, so we asked why we shouldn't do the Yosemite Falls Trail. Well, the answer was clear: the Yosemite Falls are almost out of water, so you can still hike up towards the falls, but you won't get such a spectacular view. She continued that the Mist Trail would also bring us to a waterfall, in fact two waterfalls and also the view is amazing from the upper fall. She convinced us: the Mist Trail it would be.
The next morning, we made an early start. From the Crane Flat Campground, we had to drive for about 30 minutes to get to the valley, where we had to take the bus to the trail head. Nearly nobody else got off the bus at bus stop 16. We immediately started the hike towards the two waterfalls. The first 1.3 kilometer was over a tarmac, wheelchair accessible path. From the bridge, we had a great view on the two waterfalls (together, they have a height of 280 meters). Without seeing anybody else at the bridge, we were able to enjoy the views. Directly after the bridge, the trail really starts (no more tarmac). At a junction with the John Muir Trail, we continued straight ahead (we planned to return via the John Muir Trail). We instantly knew why this hike was called 'The Mist Trail'. Six-hundred stair brought us right to the bottom of the waterfall (Vernall Falls). We were lucky that the wind was blowing in the right direction, otherwise you can get pretty wet on this section of the trail. When you arrive at the top of the stairs, it is only a little further towards the waterfall. We enjoyed to have some breakfast there.
After enjoying a quick breakfast, we continued towards the upper falls (Nevada Falls). Along Emerald Pool, the path was near level. By the way, don't be tempted to take a dive in Emerald Pool. According to website of the NPS, several people get swept away by the strong current every year. With plenty of distance from the water, we made some great photographs from Emerald Pool.
After crossing the river, we continued our hike through the forest. The first half of our hike to the upper fall was near level, but the second half was pretty steep. But even though you don't really see much of the upper falls, the view of the valley down below is worth it. If you dare, you can sit right on the edge of the rocks, with your feet dangling above a deep drop.
After we had taken our rest at the upper falls, we started our descent. As mentioned, we came down via the John Muir Trail. This trail is a much smoother descend, and therefore also more crowded. We also saw the well-prepared hikers on flip-flops... We still question what some people think when they getting ready for a hike? Nevertheless. When walking down, we had to look back at the Nevada falls. What a sight! When we arrived at the lower bridge again, where we had enjoyed the view on the two waterfalls all alone, it was no in fact crowded with people walking everywhere. Thank god we were so early, as there were way too many people for us.
In total, this hike was just 11 kilometer. Not really a day-hike if you ask us. We climbed a total of 580 meter. If you only go to the Vernall Falls, this is 4.8 kilometer (return) hike with 300 meters climbing in altitude.
Nice article, lovely place.