For waterfall lovers that can handle an uphill climb, the Nevada Fall Loop Day Hike is for you. This hike gets you right up next to two of Yosemite’s most well known waterfalls, Vernal and Nevada, and along the eastern edge of the aptly named Panorama Cliff. You will complete your circle and return to the valley via the famous John Muir Trail offering new perspectives of the waterfalls you just hiked beside.
Meeting Location: Half Dome Village Store at 4,035′
High Point: Panorama Trail: 6,620′
Elevation Gain & Loss: 2,585′
To start off the day, you will meet your guide at 8 am in Yosemite Valley’s Half Dome Village by the Tour Desk. After brief introductions, safety warnings and precautions, and a brief overview of the day, we will begin the hike warming up with a sociable, short, flat and paved mile to the Mist Trail trailhead near Happy Isles visitor center. This is where the uphill charge begins.
From Happy Isles, it is a strenuous mile trek on a paved trail to the base of Vernal Fall, where there will be public restrooms and running water for use. The next ½ mile following takes us up a steep and strenuous misty, granite staircase alongside 317-foot Vernal Fall, ascending a quick 400 vertical feet. Be prepared to get wet during this long but gorgeous half mile. Reaching the top of the stair-like Mist Trail brings us atop Vernal Fall where you will see the stunning waterfall from nearly every possible perspective. After admiring the gorgeous scenery and a brief history of the area, we will continue another strenuous mile ascending 600 vertical feet to reach the top of 594’ Nevada Fall. This mile brings us alongside the waterfall up a more strenuous and less distinct granite staircase than the first, but will luckily be our last rocky hiking of the day. We will enjoy a relaxation break here at the top of the powerful Nevada Fall, taking time to enjoy the unmatched natural landmarks and sites from our vantage point as we eat lunch.
We will continue on an easy and flat ½ mile or so to the John Muir Trail/Panorama Trail Junction, where we will conquer our last uphill trek. From here, there is an optional 700 vertical foot climb up a mile section of about 20 switchbacks to connect with the Panorama Trail at our high point of the day of 6620’ in elevation. Reaching this destination makes for a nice time to photo-shoot and relax. When ready, we will make a u-turn and head back down the mile-long switchback section we came up, but rather than retracing our steps to the top of Nevada Fall and down the Mist Trail, we will take a left, heading West and descending 2000 feet, down the 3.5 mile-long John Muir trail.
The John Muir trail follows the Merced River from the south, whereas the Mist Trail stays north of the river. The higher vantage Muir trail offers unique perspectives of Nevada Fall, the abrupt rise of Liberty Cap, and the South face of the infamous Half Dome, and is a much less stressful hike down than that of the rocky staircases of the Mist Trail. The John Muir Trail will return us to the bridge at the base of Vernal Fall where you will once again find public restrooms and running water. The next mile backtracks us a mile down the familiar paved trail to Happy Isles Visitor Center. Once in Happy Isles, we will cool down with a short mile alongside the valley’s road to Curry Village, where our day will end right where it began.
Guides carry first aid kits, water purification methods, toilet paper (for emergencies), suntan lotion and bug repellent. Please plan to bring your own lunch, snacks, water bottles, etc. Remember, all profits from our guided trips go towards supporting our youth summer camp program.
Note: Should weather, fire, and/or delayed seasonal openings affect the chosen itinerary, a different itinerary will be offered. You will be kept in contact throughout this process.