latest news Yosemite’s popular Mist Trail hike will get a $5 million upgrade

Three thousand people a day visit Mist Trail, which offers views of two majestic waterfalls and is arguably the most popular hike in Yosemite National Park.

Mist Trail will now get a $5 million upgrade.

“We are thrilled,” said Frank Dean, president of the Yosemite Conservancy and former Yosemite ranger.

The nonprofit Yosemite Conservancy, which raises money to preserve and improve the park, said it will donate $17 million to Yosemite this year, with most of the money going to around 50 projects that will restore trails, aid scientific and historical research, and protect wildlife.

A total of $500,000 from this year’s donation will go towards designing and planning improvements to Mist Trail, an approximately seven-mile round-trip hike that can take visitors to popular views of Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall from Yosemite Valley.

The trail, which begins with an easy, paved start, takes hikers to views of Vernal and Nevada Falls close enough to get a spray of mist. Those who hold on to the top of Nevada Fall can also continue the trek and hike up to the iconic Half Dome.

“This is the busiest trail in Yosemite,” Dean said.

The Yosemite Conservancy is working with the National Park Service to identify possible improvements to the park, and the Mist Trail is investigating possible changes, including moving the trailhead to the Happy Isles Nature Center. Improvements are also planned for the Vernal Fall walkway area, located about a mile from the trailhead and one of the easiest points on the trail.

“It’s a turning point for a lot of people, so it’s important to make it more accommodating for people,” Dean said.

Accommodations can include more railings and walls, as well as better signage, to better prepare visitors for the trail.

Although considered one of the “softest” trails in the park, the first paved mile of Mist Trail may give some travelers a false sense of readiness for what can be a tricky trip.

“The track gets more rigorous the higher you go,” Dean said, “so there has to be more preparation for what lies ahead.”

On some summer days, more than 4,000 people visit Mist Trail, where rangers and emergency personnel may be required to perform rescues or twist their ankles.

Taking visitors to admire Vernal and Nevada Falls and meandering along the Merced River, the trail lives up to its name, offering a few slippery steps along the way.

The plan calls for more signage, improvements to the Vernal Fall bathroom, and work on the steep granite steps that follow the Vernal Fall walkway, adding intermediate steps, handrails, and rock faces.

The total cost of the upgrades is expected to be around $5 million and be completed in 2025 or early 2026, Dean said. This amount has yet to be collected, but Dean said the organization is confident that the Yosemite Conservancy will continue to benefit from the support it has enjoyed for 100 years to improve the visitor experience in Yosemite.

The Yosemite Conservancy has donated more than $152 million throughout its 100-year partnership with the national park and has funded about 800 projects since 1923, according to the organization.

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