This towering flow of water is one of Yosemite’s best known waterfalls, accessible on the ground by a moderate hike. Its volume depends on the season, though it generally runs year-round.
Depending on the amount of water, there is either one massive waterfall or several smaller strands falling across the rock to the valley below. Vernal Fall flows from the Nevada Falls above before plunging over the rock. The waterfall is about 317 feet tall, so it’s impressive (and often a bit damp) standing right at its base. Aside from the water there is often lots of greenery surrounding the falls, which adds to its scenery. The falls also produce a fine mist that can create rainbows.
The steep hiking trail that leads to Vernal Fall is mostly rock steps, but the views are worth the climb. There is also plenty of natural scenery, of Merced River and Yosemite Valley, to enjoy on the way up. If you’d rather see it from a distance, Vernal Fall is also visible from the Glacier Point overlook.
Vernal Falls is accessible on foot via the Vernal Falls Trail or Mist Trail. It’s a steep climb to the footbridge at its base (.8 miles from the start of the trail.) The trail can be wet and slippery, so it’s best to use caution and wear proper footwear. Peak flows are in May and June each year. Hiking to the very top of the falls is about 3 miles roundtrip, and the trailhead is located at Happy Isles (shuttle stop 16.)