Nevada Fall is the major fall above Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park, California.
The ascent to the top of Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park begins on a continuation of hiking the Mist Trail from Yosemite Valley to Vernal Fall. Nevada Fall requires additional ascent for 1½ miles (2.4 KM) and 900 vertical feet (274.3 m).
As elevation is gained, the long views over the Merced River Canyon to Yosemite Valley become increasingly more spectacular. Scenic highlights include spectacular views of Glacier Point on the south wall of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Illilouette Fall and partial views of Upper Yosemite Fall.
After basking in sun on the granite slabs near the brink of Vernal Fall, the restoration of drier socks and boots begin the hike a short distance on the Mist Trail upstream along the Merced River to the very tranquil, beautiful and chilly Emerald Pool which begs for a swim, but once again, the calm surface is deceptive and certainly there is fast water creating powerful undercurrents which head directly to the brink of Vernal Fall.
A short climb past Emerald Pool leads, first, to the junction of the Clark Trail with the Mist Trail. The Clark Trail traverses on switchbacks from the Mist Trail to the John Muir Trail which would be the preferred down route from Vernal Fall. This would avoid descent, and higher risk for injury, on the wet, slippery, steep and irregular granite steps which were used for ascent beside Vernal Fall.
Continuing onward and upward, passes the Clark Trail Junction and heads left onto granite slab, then cross the Silver Apron Bridge over the Merced River.
Looking downstream from the Silver Apron Bridge provides a direct view of an incredible, natural, water slide as the Merced River negotiates the glacier-created chute feeding foaming, white water into the still waters of Emerald Pool. Many adventuresome souls have succumbed to the nearly irresistible urge to make the slide.
There are hidden rocks, combined with the inability to maneuver in the fast, very cold water, and many people have been seriously injured, or lost their lives by drowning or by being taken over Vernal Falls. It is a look; do not touch situation. The roar of the water is overwhelming in this beautiful and exciting location.
The view downstream on the Merced River from the center of Silver Apron Bridge where the Silver Apron 'slides' water into Emerald Pool above Vernal Fall. People on the granite slab, near the water, provide scale.
Soon, after crossing the Silver Apron Bridge, a viewpoint along the Mist Trail features the Nevada Fall.
The Nevada Fall
The hike continues along the north side of the Merced River on switchbacks over many irregular, granite steps which gain elevation aggressively as the trail curls around the lower flank of Liberty Cap.
Arrival at a flat plateau is also a major trail junction where left leads to the campground in Little Yosemite Valley where registered, permit-holding, participants will stage to make the cable climb to the 8,836 ft (2,693 m) summit of the world-famous Half Dome. The right fork, on mercifully flat ground, continues the short distance towards the top of Nevada Fall.
There are great photographic opportunities everywhere and off to the right, my eye catches a fence on a rock outcropping below me, and very close to Nevada Fall, so I work my way over granite slabs and find an intermittent trail leading to this observation platform for incredible photos of Nevada Fall up close and personal. The roar of white, folding, pounding water against solid rock is deafening.
A wooden bridge crossing the Merced River, very near the top of Nevada Fall, provides the contrast between relatively tranquil terrain upstream and the torrent of white, foaming water occupying the raceway to the brink of 594 foot (181 m) Nevada Fall. Like Vernal Fall, there are slanted granite slabs near Nevada Fall. It is an excellent place to relax, absorb and appreciate incredible vistas.
When leaving Nevada Fall, there is the choice of taking the infamous Panorama Trail which accesses 370 ft (112.8 m) Illilouette Fall on the way to Glacier Point en route to the south side of Yosemite Valley. These are distances beyond the reach of a day hike so the choice is descent on the south side of Merced River Canyon via the incredibly scenic John Muir Trail.
Views from the descent on this short section of John Muir Trail are breathtaking, almost surreal.
The John Muir Trail switchbacks over major portions of the south side descent of the Merced River Canyon.
A moment is taken to capture a telephoto image of 370 ft (112.8 m) Illilouette Fall on the south side of Yosemite Valley. The scar on one side of Illilouette Fall was caused by major rock fall during the winter of 1968 - 1969. The descent towards the floor of Yosemite Valley was, long ago, under nearly 2,000 ft (610 m) of glacial ice.
Back at the junction with the Mist Trail the remainder of the descent is on familiar trail to the Vernal Fall Bridge for the hike back to the trail-head via same route hiked in. Along the way a spring-fed cistern at trail side punctuates what is arguably the most popular, and one of the most spectacular trails in Yosemite National Park.
The hike has been an outstanding experience of phenomenal and occasionally deceptive beauty. Total hiking distance up the Mist Trail and returning via the John Muir Trail is 6.0 miles (9.6 KM) with elevation near 1,900 ft (579 m).
A spring-fed cistern at the side of Mist Trail as we near the end of our hike to Vernal and Nevada Fall in the Merced River Canyon 'Grand Staircase' at the east end of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California, USA.
In the book, 'Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite', Chapter One is devoted to casualties sustained by plunging over waterfalls. There are many which have been documented beginning in 1913.
Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall are mentioned most often. It likely relates to volume of traffic over terrain demanding great respect. Please, do this amazing hike and take every precaution to be absolutely certain to stay safe.