Nevada Fall is 3 miles from roads-end in Yosemite Valley and 1.5 miles upstream from Vernal Fall; here the Merced River flows over a high ledge onto a jumble of large boulders 594 feet below, accompanied by much spray and foaming white water. A visit to both waterfalls makes an excellent half-day hike, involving a 6-mile round trip along a sometimes rocky trail with a total elevation gain of 1,840 feet.
Vernal and Nevada Falls topographic map.
After reaching Vernal Fall, the Mist Trail passes Emerald Pool - just a few yards from the cliff edge, this is a wide, shallow but still fast moving section of the river where the waters flow into a natural bowl-shaped depression. A short distance beyond is a pretty cascade, the Silver Apron, formed as the Merced streams over smooth granite rocks with a series of short drops. The wooded river banks in this area have many good places for picnics, though entering the water is forbidden due to submerged rocks in Emerald Pool and the danger of being swept over the waterfall.
The path crosses a footbridge to the north side of the valley and moves away from the river, passing through a cool forested area and climbing steadily. Nevada Fall first comes into view through a gap in the trees after 20 minutes, then soon after is a steep ascent as the path zig-zags up an exposed rocky slope, close to but out of sight of the river, and ends at a junction with the John Muir Trail. From here a right turn leads directly to the river after another 5 minutes walking slightly downhill, after which the path goes back down the south side of the river and eventually to the main road in Yosemite Valley, providing an alternative route to the waterfall (though one that does not pass close to Vernal Fall). A left turn leads to more junctions with trails that go, amongst many other places, to Half Dome and Clouds Rest, while the main route is to Tuolumne Meadows.
Top of Nevada Fall
For several yards above the drop the waters of the Merced surge and swirl most forcefully around a series of pools and small cascades. From the very edge there is a magnificent view west, with the white river flanked by bright green trees and enclosed by huge cliffs of smooth granite. This is a place to think, and rest for a while since unlike Vernal which can be very crowded, the top of Nevada Fall is peaceful and undisturbed, on account of the extra effort required to get here. But like all Yosemite waterfalls, the place can be dangerous; over 10 people have died here, mostly as a result of loosing their footing while swimming in pools just upstream of the edge.
|Mist Trail to Nevada Fall
|Somewhat difficult but still popular trail along the Merced River to a 594 foot waterfall that flows all year but is most spectacular in spring
Length: 3 miles
Elevation change: 1,840 feet
Type: One way; passes Vernal Fall en route. Several other trails branch off, to locations higher up the valley
Season: Spring, summer, fall
Trailhead: At the 'trailhead parking' area, east end of the valley; 37.734,-119.566
Rating (1-5): ★★★★★