Photo of Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park

Nevada Falls is one of Yosemite’s most spectacular waterfalls but is only reached with some effort. A 3.5 mile hike (one-way) up the Mist Trail, which includes a good soaking while passing by Vernal Falls along the way, is required to reach the summit of Nevada Falls, including 1900′ of vertical ascent. Nevada Falls lies, along with Vernal Falls, in the joints of narrow Little Yosemite Valley, faults in the valley that form angles and walls as the glacier-formed valley descends from Yosemite’s backcountry down to the main valley floor. It is at the joints that Nevada and Vernal falls occur, both dropping over sheer granite walls into boulder-strewn riverbeds below. Above Nevada Falls the Merced River flows placidly, green and glassy through pine forests. In the last several hundred yards before the brink, the river slopes downward a bit and increases in speed, enough that when it reaches the brink it shoots out dramatically and thunders 600′ down to the huge boulders before racing through forests to Vernal Falls 1.5 miles downstream. The hike to Nevada Falls begins at the summit of Vernal Falls, a natural resting point for the hiker who has just finished the soaking wet, thigh-burner steps alongside Vernal and needs a breather to recover and dry off in the sun. Leaving Vernal behind, one hikes through brief switchbacks open to the sun (not hot yet, since you are still wet) then through trees that obscure Nevada Falls for a while. After a half-mile or so the trees begin to open up, yielding stunning views of Nevada ahead. The trail then moves to a series of switchbacks among granite boulders that pass alongside Nevada Falls, near enough that one really appreciates the power manifest in the enormous amounts of water barreling over the cliff. Finally the summit is achieved, offering broad views of Little Yosemite Valley below all the across to Glacier Point. A bridge over the Merced River is placed just before the Merced plunges over the falls, and wide granite aprons on either side of the river make for great picnic spots. For the descent to Vernal Falls and the valley, its best to take the alternate route back down via the John Muir trail as it has superb views of Nevada Falls with Half Dome and Liberty Cap rising above it.

Nevada Falls marks where the Merced River plummets almost 600 through a joint in the Little Yosemite Valley, shooting out from a sheer granite cliff and then down to a boulder pile far below, Yosemite National Park, California

Nevada Falls marks where the Merced River plummets almost 600 through a joint in the Little Yosemite Valley, shooting out from a sheer granite cliff and then down to a boulder pile far below.
Image ID: 16114
Location: Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Nevada Falls, with Liberty Cap (center) and Half Dome (left). Nevada Falls marks where the Merced River plummets almost 600 through a joint in the Little Yosemite Valley, shooting out from a sheer granite cliff and then down to a boulder pile far below, Yosemite National Park, California

Nevada Falls, with Liberty Cap (center) and Half Dome (left). Nevada Falls marks where the Merced River plummets almost 600 through a joint in the Little Yosemite Valley, shooting out from a sheer granite cliff and then down to a boulder pile far below.
Image ID: 16115
Location: Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Nevada Falls marks where the Merced River plummets almost 600 through a joint in the Little Yosemite Valley, shooting out from a sheer granite cliff and then down to a boulder pile far below, Yosemite National Park, California

Nevada Falls marks where the Merced River plummets almost 600 through a joint in the Little Yosemite Valley, shooting out from a sheer granite cliff and then down to a boulder pile far below.
Image ID: 16116
Location: Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Keywords: Nevada Falls, waterfall, Yosemite National Park<