|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
From Happy Isles head south along the Merced River and wrap around Sierra Point; see Glacier Point across Illilouette Gorge to west and a vista of Illilouette Falls, a foaming mass churning between tight canyon walls and falling deep into the mist below. Cross cascading Merced River on footbridge, where the first views of Vernal Falls appear. Go left onto the Mist Trail. Put on rain jacket—you'll get wet on the misty 600-step climb adjacent to Vernal Falls. Rainbows likely.
Reach the top of Vernal Falls and see where the Merced River nosedives again over granite lip. Curve around Emerald Pool and Silver Apron before staying on Mist Trail at the trail junction ahead. Cross bridge with whitewash views of Nevada Falls and continue the climb above Nevada Falls. Cross a footbridge over Nevada Falls and descend on the John Muir Trail (JMT), where a granite clearing offers views of Liberty Cap's rounded knob.
Stay with the JMT and listen to the constant soundtrack of Nevada Falls roaring in the foreground. Reach Clark Point and take in views of Yosemite Valley. Keep on JMT and switchback 1.3 mi. to close lasso-loop before returning to the trailhead via the same route.
-Mapped by Dave Miller
GUIDEBOOK AND MAP: The Complete Guidebook to Yosemite National Park, 6th Edition ($12.95, yosemitegifts.com). Plan other trips in the park using BACKPACKER's Yosemite National Park page.
CONDITIONS: For current conditions and updates, go to nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.
PERMIT: Overnight camping in Yosemite National Park requires a backcountry permit. Check out the latest fees and more details at nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/permits.htm.
MORE PARK INFO: Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-020; nps.gov/yose
FREE TRIP PLANNERS Get news on vacation deals and lodging at myyosemitepark.com