Nevada Fall - Yosemite National Park - Hiking California

 

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 ValleyHalf Dome, Illilouette Fall and partial views of Upper Yosemite Fall.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA

 

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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Emerald Pool on the Merced River a short distance above the brink of Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA The Emerald Pool on the Merced River above Vernal Fall with the terminus of Silver Apron on photo right.

 

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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA The upstream view of the Silver Apron Bridge over the Merced River and looking towards Liberty Cap.

 

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 FallsIt is a look; do not touch situation.  The roar of the water is overwhelming in this beautiful and exciting location.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA 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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA

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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA A view over Merced River Canyon and Yosemite Valley from the base of Liberty Cap at 5,907 ft (1,801 m)

 

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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA The mercifully flat approach over granite pathway to the top of Nevada Fall, Yosemite National Park.

 

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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Looking straight down Nevada Fall from the Observation Platform on the north side of Merced River.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Nevada Fall from the Observation Platform on the south side of Merced River, Yosemite National Park

 

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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA The spectacular view down Merced River Canyon to Glacier Point on the south side of Yosemite Valley.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA The view of the Merced River looking upstream from the center of the bridge over Nevada Fall

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA The chute feeding the foaming white water of Merced River into Nevada Fall as viewed from the center of the bridge.

 

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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA The bridge over the Merced River above Nevada Fall with Liberty Cap dominating the view.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Beginning descent from Nevada Fall on the John Muir Trail, Yosemite National Park, California.

 

Views from the descent on this short section of John Muir Trail are breathtaking, almost surreal.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Near the beginning of the descent, Liberty Cap with Half Dome behind capture the horizon.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Heading down the John Muir Trail with weeping walls beside us in Yosemite's Merced River Canyon.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Half Dome behind, Mount Broderick, Liberty Cap looming over Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USANevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Sometimes the view is so spectacular it is difficult to turn away.

 

The John Muir Trail switchbacks over major portions of the south side descent of the Merced River Canyon.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA

 

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.

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA Illiloulette Fall along the Panorama Trail near Glacier Point on the south side of Yosemite Valley

 

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).

 

Nevada Fall - Merced River,Yosemite National Park, California, USA 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.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thank you, Christy! I hope I renewed some great memories for you. It is a lot different if you have enjoyed the same experience because the photos bring back your 360 degree memories of sights, sounds and feelings. Our late summer visit was during the time of lowest water over both falls. I can imagine the spring and early summer flow is substantially larger and the descent on wet stone steps would be challenging with much increased risk for injury. Thanks for taking the time to add your experience on this fabulous hike. Yosemite is an incredibly beautiful park.

Wonderful pics! I haven't done the full trail loop you describe since 1984 though I have been to the tops of both waterfalls since. Vernal for a short day hike and Nevada on a backpacking trip to Little Yosemite. I really agree with your advice to take the John Muir trail back down. I've done the Mist Trail as a descent and it is nerve-wracking, especially in spring.

We were blessed with near perfect weather and the John Muir Trail descent was sparsely populated with people in comparison to the Mist Trail on the other side of the Merced River Canyon which was very busy. If you consider an image of Nevada Fall with Liberty Cap and Mount Broderick backed by Half Dome, then add a full range of vision combined with the sound of powerful falling water echoing against granite walls, it really is mesmerising. The vision induces a calm, a peaceful pleasure that is satisfying and emotionally gratifying. It is likely there are others too busy, or hurrying to get back, or focused on other things, who miss it. I would urge anyone, who creates the opportunity to hike that section of the John Muir Trail, to take the time to just stand there and soak up those images. The photos will be a reminder of how incredibly beautiful and uplifting it was. The entire vision, the sound, the smell, the feel of a gentle breeze cooling the warmth of sun against skin, they all come back and remind me of how fortunate I was to be there in that moment. Thank you for your comment, Helen. I can tell you believe.

"Sometimes the view is so spectacular it is difficult to turn away" That I can well believe! Magnificent!

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