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  • Writer's pictureVien R. Guenther

Hiking to Vernal & Nevada Falls, Taft Point & The Fissures -Yosemite National Park

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

There are over 800 miles of trails in Yosemite, from easy, moderate to strenuous. Some trails, of course, requires backpacking. Almost 95 percent of the park is wilderness with 750 miles of trails, and backpacking here requires a permit.

Trail Sign

We didn't plan on doing long hikes here, in fact we didn't even bring along our hiking boots and hiking sticks. But how can you resist not hiking in this place. We only did a couple of day hikes since we combined visiting other two national parks on this trip - Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park. We were not equipped for hiking in the wilderness, so we hiked the two most popular trails, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and a short hike to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point.


This trail begins at the Happy Isles trailhead which gives access to the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail, which begin about 0.6 miles from the parking lot. If you take a shuttle bus, it’s stop #16 (Valleywide or East Valley Shuttles). This trail is mostly uphill, so you can choose how far you want to go, either to the Vernal footbridge, the top of Vernal Fall, the top of Nevada Fall or all the way. To Vernal Fall bridge is about 0.9 mile and another 0.5 mile to Vernal Falls. Both waterfalls are fed by Merced Lake high above.

Stairs to Vernal Fall
Vernal Fall

About 0.2 mile from Vernal Fall is a junction. It splits into a loop trail, so either way will take you to Nevada Fall. Both trails also connect to the John Muir trail. The Mist Trail continues on the left while the trail to the right will take you to Clark Point and then to Nevada Fall. This trail is longer but scenic all the way.

Vernal Fall from the trail to Nevada Fall
Trail to Nevada Fall

You have a choice to end your hike at Clark Point, or continue on the John Muir Trail all the way to Nevada Fall. From here the trail is even more scenic, or I should say, spectacular.

Clark Point

Along the trail you will see Nevada Fall from afar and the impressive Liberty Cap, a granite dome above the fall - the park contains dozens of granite domes and you will find them everywhere you look.

On the trail to Nevada Fall and Liberty Cap

The loop trail ends past the Nevada Fall, while the John Muir Trail continues on into the wilderness area, interconnecting with other trails in its 200-mile length. We ended our hike here at Nevada Fall, enjoying the view as much as we could while we had our lunch.

Looking down from above Nevada Fall
Canyon view from Nevada Fall

Above the waterfall is Emerald Pool, from which the water flows down the waterfalls. You can easily find a nice spot here, to rest and recharge for the journey back down. There were people here but it was not crowded when we were there.

Emerald Pool


There are two trailheads on this hike - Pohono/Artist Point Trailhead and Taft Point Trailhead. Taft Point was named after the 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft, who came across the point while visiting the area with John Muir in October 1909. The short hike is accessed via the Glacier Point Road, the only access by car to this trail. The Glacier Point Road opens around late May or early June and closes sometime in November. For a longer hike, you can start at the Artist Point Trailhead via Wawona Road, near Tunnel View overlook.

So, we opted for a short hike from the Taft Point Trailhead, an easy short hike but with the same spectacular views of the valley below and the wilderness beyond. From here, Taft Point is just 1.1 miles, but if you want to add some miles, you can follow a loop trail around Sentinel Dome and Roosevelt Point, then on to Taft Point.

On the trail, after passing through sparsely populated pines, the view opens up where a stunning view of the Yosemite landscape is revealed. There is El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Valley right before your eyes. Would you dare to stand at the edge of the cliff? Some people do, we did also, but not right to the edge, at least. It's not for the faint of heart, I can tell you especially if you have vertigo.

In 1900, Kitty Tatch and Katherine Hazelston, waitresses at Yosemite National Park hotels, danced on Overhanging Rock at Glacier Point. Their pictures were later made into postcards, autographed and sold for years.

Look down at the fissure - it's one of the attractions on this trail. It's a natural crack in the granite rock that drops all the way down at some point.

The fissure


Check the park's website for road closures, reservations, tickets and permits if you are planning to visit Yosemite National Park.


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