Yosemite National Park: Nevada Falls Loop

This 6.2-mile loop leads into a land of rainbows and big waterfalls among the granite faces of Yosemite Valley.
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This 6.2-mile loop leads into a land of rainbows and big waterfalls among the granite faces of Yosemite Valley.

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

PLAN IT

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

OTHER RESOURCES

GAS
Lee Vining: Chevron
51557 Highway 395
Lee Vining, CA 93541
(760) 647-6330

Groveland: Claim Jumper Outpost
17586 Highway 120
Groveland-Big Oak Flat, CA 95305
(209) 962-7153

GEAR
Mammoth Mountaineering Supply
3189 Main St.
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
(888) 395-3951

GROCERIES
Mammoth Lakes: Vons
481 Old Mammoth Rd.
Mammoth Lakes, CA
(760) 934-4536

RESTAURANTS
Mammoth Lakes: Angel's Restaurant
20 Sierra Blvd.
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
(760) 934-7427

Curry Village: Degnan's Deli
9015 Village Dr.
Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
(290) 372-8454

Lee Vining: Nicely's Restaurant
Highway 395 and 4th St.
Lee Vining, CA 93541
(760) 647-6477

Groveland: Cafe Charlotte
18736 Main St.
Groveland, CA 95321
(209) 962-6455

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 8.3

Waypoints

Liberty Cap and Nevada Falls

Location: 37.7223930358887, -119.535957336426

The powerful, tumbling wisps of Nevada Falls pour below the smooth slopes of Liberty Cap in the foreground and the south face of Half Dome in the background. ©Volker Neumann

NFL001

Location: 37.7323608398438, -119.559600830078

Go S from Happy Isles along Merced River and wrap around Sierra Point; see Glacier Point across Illilouette Gorge to W

NFL002

Location: 37.726188659668, -119.555694580078

Vista of Illilouette Falls, a foaming mass churning between tight canyon walls and falling deep into the mist below

NFL003

Location: 37.7263488769531, -119.552299499512

Cross cascading Merced River on footbridge; first views of Vernal Falls

NFL004

Location: 37.7264251708984, -119.548667907715

L @ Y onto Mist Trail. Put on rain jacket--you'll get wet on the misty 600-step climb adjacent to Vernal Falls. Rainbows likely

NFL005

Location: 37.7271003723144, -119.543098449707

Top of Vernal Falls. Here, Merced River nosedives again over granite lip. Curve around Emerald Pool and Silver Apron

NFL006

Location: 37.726676940918, -119.541564941406

L @ Y, staying on Mist Trail

NFL007

Location: 37.7264747619629, -119.540397644043

Cross bridge with whitewash views of Nevada Falls

NFL008

Location: 37.7259712219238, -119.529998779297

Head R to climb above Nevada Falls

NFL009

Location: 37.7245483398438, -119.533302307129

Cross bridge over Nevada Falls and descend on the JMT. Granite clearing offers views of Liberty Cap's rounded knob

NFL010

Location: 37.7224807739258, -119.535003662109

Stay R on JMT; constant soundtrack of roaring Nevada Falls

NFL011

Location: 37.7249984741211, -119.544898986816

Clark Point: Views of Yosemite Valley. Keep L on JMT and switchback 1.3 mi. to close lasso-loop @ WPT 4. Return to trailhead

Trailmarker at Happy Isles

Location: 37.732292175293, -119.559463500977

The fabled sign that gives distance to Whitney on the John Muir Trail. ©Dave Miller

Illilouette Falls

Location: 37.7266273498535, -119.556053161621

Tumbling white mass in Illilouette Gorge. ©Dave Miller

Vernal Falls from Afar

Location: 37.7265281677246, -119.55241394043

Tucked beneath the mist, Vernal Falls falls from a ledge. ©Dave Miller

Nevada Falls

Location: 37.7247047424316, -119.533294677734

Contributor Dave Miller at the wall of Nevada Falls. ©Dave Miller

Top of Nevada Falls

Location: 37.7246055603027, -119.532920837402

©Dave Miller

Nevada Falls from Below

Location: 37.7249755859375, -119.533226013184

©Dave Miller

Nevada Falls from above

Location: 37.7226486206055, -119.534843444824

©Dave Miller