By Jordan Nicholson
Hikers slop around on the wet rocks on the Mist Trail, which leads to Vernal Fall at Yosemite National Park in California on August 5, 2011. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
I could spend all day and night in Yosemite National Park. Some people do, and I have always envied them.
Instead of abandoning my education and going rogue, I try to take time out of my busy schedule to head up the mountain to Yosemite. If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend that you take a hike there.
All you have to do is take a walk near Curry Village and see that unique breed of park-dwellers; those who look as though they haven’t trimmed their hair in months and have the wonderfully worn look of long days spent on the trail. Some of you may know the type.
Climbers are free to sleep along a route and hikers can pitch tents along the backcountry trails. This kind of natural living has always tempted me. When I explore Yosemite, it’s as if Mother Nature herself is speaking to my conscience, telling me to embrace the elements fully. Luckily, you can find a happy medium if Mother Nature isn’t already your best friend.
For this weekend, I recommend the Mist Trail in Yosemite Valley. This is a very popular trail and offers spectacular views of Glacier Point Apron, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls.
The hike is relatively strenuous, even starting from the trailhead. It climbs steadily until you reach the Vernal Falls Bridge, where it levels off and you can enjoy the freshwater spring there.
Continue on past the spring and be prepared for moments of steep incline as you work your way up to Vernal Falls, which is past the cave, stone steps and cables. Once you’re past the cables you will arrive at Vernal Falls and the Emerald Pool, which is roughly 1.5 miles from the trailhead. It is a beautiful place to rest and have lunch.
The great thing about the Mist Trail is that you can continue on to Nevada Falls, which is 3.4 miles from the trailhead, or if you’re feeling ambitious, you can hike to the top of Half Dome but make sure you have a permit.
If you only want to go to Vernal Falls, expect to hike about three miles round trip. If you decide to hike to Nevada Falls, it will be roughly seven miles round trip. Don’t let the numbers scare you; either trek is worth the views.
Travel north on Highway 41 until you reach the entrance to the park. The entrance fee is $20. Turn left and drive about 40 minutes to the valley floor. You will see signs for Curry Village in the valley; I suggest parking in the village or somewhere along the main road and start walking from there. Continue walking down the main road past the village and you will start to see signs for the Mist Trail.
The most enjoyable part of this trail is the people that you can meet. The trail coincides with the John Muir Trail and I have met some pretty extreme trailblazers during my time in the valley. Keep a lookout for those hikers with massive packs and a look of mission on their faces and pick their brain for some expert hiking tips.
Lunch is a definite must, so be sure not to munch on all of your granola and beef jerky before you reach Vernal Falls. Pack a lot of water and refill your bottle at the spring. This hike will definitely get your blood pumping, so lace up those sturdy shoes and see if you can make nice with Mother Nature.