Friday, September 26, 2014
Hiking Vernal and Nevada Falls
from left to right: Back of Half Dome, Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall from John Muir Trail
Mileage: 7 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 2000 ft
Best Time: Late Spring to Early Summer, when the waterfalls are at their thunderous best.
Trailhead: at Happy Isles ( from the valley, take the Yosemite free shuttle bus and get off at Happy Isles)
Let me start this post with a quote from blogging friend Jo of Poetic Shutterbug: "Yosemite is God's country". Indeed, Yosemite is such a beautiful place and a sight to behold, it's more than just a great valley. Yosemite is one of the first wilderness National Parks in US ( 3rd after Yellowstone and Sequoia). Though it is most well known for its numerous waterfalls, but in Yosemite you will find nature's beauty and power through glacially carved massive granite rocks, an almost heaven on Earth meadows, pristine alpine lakes, giant sequoias, and miles of trails that wind through nature's beauty.
When we were deciding before which trail to hike, Vernal and Nevada Fall or Yosemite Fall ( probably the most popular waterfall in Yosemite is the Yosemite Fall, North America's tallest waterfall), we considered the following information:
1. Yosemite Fall can be photographed from the valley. In fact, most of the people who visit Yosemite probably have seen only this waterfall thinking this is the only waterfall in Yosemite.
Yosemite Fall from the Valley Floor
Vernal and Nevada Fall on the other hand cannot be photographed nor can be seen from the valley floor. One really has to exert an effort to take a glimpse of what it is like.
2. Hiking to the top of Yosemite Fall is more strenuous and more exposed to sun. Whereas, hiking to the top of Nevada Fall is mostly shaded by pine forest.
3. On the day we were deciding which trail to hike next, we just finished a 13 mile Valley Floor Loop Hike plus a 4 mile round trip to Mirror Lake and Tenaya Canyon. With already tired feet, for about the same hiking mileage ( 7+ miles), a 2000 ft climb to Nevada Fall sounded better than the 2600 ft climb to the top of Yosemite Falls.
4. We already have tons of pictures of Yosemite Fall from the valley but none of Nevada Fall.
5. We will be back to hike Yosemite Fall and Half Dome via Cloud's Rest :)
So here goes a little bit more description of the hike to Vernal and Nevada Fall. Since you can find complete details of the Vernal and Nevada Fall hike at Yosemite Hikes, I will instead let our pictures speak for our experience.
From Happy Isles Stop to the footbridge of Vernal Fall is about 0.8 miles, 400 ft climb. This is the view from the footbridge when we were there.
Vernal Fall From the Footbridge
( can you spot some of the people at the top of the waterfall? see how small they are compared to Vernal Fall?)
I met some tourists who probably did not do their research prior to this hike. They turned around from the footbridge very disappointed! Saying, "ahhhhh, I worked so hard for nothing!"- yes, because of the very thick leaves from the trees, the footbridge view is obstructed and the waterfall was hardly seen. What some of these tourists were meaning about working so hard was that a climb of 400 ft in 0.8 mile is very steep for those who are not much into uphill hiking and climbing stairs is a battle. But for those who did their assignment, they knew that there is so much more to Vernal fall beyond the footbridge.
After the footbridge, we continued hiking the Mist Trail, in another 0.5 mile and 400 ft climb, we were greeted with the unobstructed view of the Vernal Fall.
Unobstructed view of Vernal fall, less than 0.5 mile from the footbridge
Rainbow at the base of Vernal Fall
( we got there at Vernal Fall between 10:00- 11:00 am, early summer or late June- but anyone can ask the park ranger at visitor Center at what time does rainbow appear in specific waterfalls because it varies with day and month of the year)
Vernal Fall and Rainbow
From the base of Vernal Fall, the trail climbs up over 600 steps over a steep granite stairway. The trail is very slippery here because of all the waterfall mist and spray. In about 0.7 miles from the footbridge, and 600 ft climb, we reached the top of Vernal Fall.
left to right: granite staircase, rainbow, and Vernal Fall from the top
At the top, there is a very scenic pool ( sorry, I forgot the name) where we stopped for our nutrition and hydration break.
Pool @ the top of Vernal Fall
( this pool is closed for swimming due to very close to Vernal Fall and some tourists who did not pay attention to the "no swimming signs" had lost their lives being swept by rushing current down to the fall )
After our nourishment break, we continued up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Fall. In less than half a mile from that pool above, we were greeted by the beauty of Nevada Fall.
Nevada Fall from the Mist Trail
Then, we continued up the rocky strewn slopes to get to the top of Nevada fall. For a while, we got lost of the sight of Nevada Fall in the trail, but we knew we were close because of all its thundering sound. When the trail opened to the sight of Nevada Fall again, we were again meandering an exposed trail of rocky strewn steep slopes.
Nevada Fall from the Exposed Rocky Strewn Trail
The Power of Nevada Fall
( I took this picture with a fast shutter speed since I wanted to show the power and action of Nevada Fall. I usually use the cotton effect or slow shutter speed for waterfall shots when the waterfall is not as powerful and thunderous)
After about 1.2 miles and another 1000 ft climb from the top of Vernal Fall, we reached the top of Nevada Fall. Before reaching the top of Nevada Fall, there is a legal swimming hole where a lot of kids and other tourists stop to have a cool swim. This swimming hole is safe enough for swimming, but because we did not do our research, we did not have swimsuit, we passed the opportunity to swim in the frigid waters of Merced River. We instead moved away from the swimming crowd and seek a cooler place to enjoy the scenery with more solitude.
Where we stopped at the top to enjoy the fruits of our hike, this is where most hikers also refill their water container
When we were done resting and enjoying the scenery at the top of Nevada Fall, we looked down and looked back at where we've come from.
Looking Down and Back from Where We Came ( Though of Course we could not see the trailhead here)
Nevada Fall from the Top
Instead of returning the same route, we took the longer but less steep John Muir Trail. We had several purposes for taking a different trail, first is to photograph the very first picture above. The shot of Half Dome, Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall is from the John Muir Trail. Second was to see different scenery from a different trail. And third, it is friendlier to the knees to go downhill when the miles is longer since it means the slope is less steep.
Here are my other posts about Yosemite and places near Yosemite:
4. Mono Lake