You will be getting up close to two large and powerful waterfalls that flow all year long. The falls are strongest in spring and early summer and they create a cooling mist that blankets the trail continuously.
In the spring the mist is so strong that you will need to wear your rain gear.
You start the hike by strolling next to the river then you begin your climb until you reach a footbridge. At this bridge, you will get your first glimpse of Vernal Fall. This is a good place for photos, a bathroom break and to fill your water canteens or bottles. There are no more services along the trail.
The trail gets steeper after the footbridge and you will have to climb up a long string of rock stairs to reach the top of Vernal Fall. The stairs are difficult and can be very crowded so climb carefully and take frequent breaks along the way.
When you reach the top you can get close to the edge of the waterfall and admire the tons of water tumbling down 317 feet from the granite cliff to the bottom. The edge of the fall is protected by a rail but keep an eye on young children.
After admiring the rushing water and the view below the waterfall, continue your hike following the river. You will first come across Emerald Pool – so named because of the color of the water. Although there are a lot of warning sign banning swimming, you will see a lot of brave souls jumping into the pool or sliding along the granite slopes into the pool. It is fun to watch but I decided to pass on this small adventure.
If you still have the stamina, continue climbing the trail to reach the Nevada Fall upstream. The hike to the top of Nevada Fall is another 2 miles of mostly steep trail.
The name Nevada is an old Spanish word for snow. The fall from a distance looks like a great snow avalanche. This is due to the water cascading down a steep rock slope – a third of the way down from the top.
The twin waterfalls can also be seen from vantage points along Yosemite NP. Some of the most spectacular views are seen from Glacier Point.
The total distance from the trailhead to the top of Nevada Fall is around 3 miles and the total climb is around 900 feet. If you are a seasoned hiker, you can continue your hike along the John Muir Trail which takes you on a 210 miles journey through the wilderness.