Back Into Nature: A Hike to Vernal Falls At Yosemite National Park

            Well after visiting a city with buildings sprouting from its hills; after some beach time with thick sand and chilly waters, I was ready for a hike into the woods. I wanted to stare—jaw-dropped—at towering waterfalls; to chill—literally—in mountain rivers. So we headed for Yosemite National Park in California.
After a strenuous hike to Vernal Falls,
we needed to cool off. What better
way than in a pristine mountain
stream on the valley floor.

            A free shuttle bus system takes visitors around this popular national park. You can drive your own vehicle into and around Yosemite. The shuttle buses aren’t mandatory, but are recommended to help with volume. Plus, everyone gets to enjoy the scenery if you take the shuttle.
            Some of the day hikes in Yosemite Valley are short, easy hikes. We started with these: Bridalveil Fall and Lower Yosemite Fall, both about a half mile loop. We moved onto the Vernal Fall Footbridge hike, about 1.4 miles roundtrip. This was a moderate hike, according to the brochures and park rangers. The children did well. No complaints. I was proud of them. But still, I wanted to get closer to this magnificent waterfall if I could. I wanted a hike I could really sink my boots into.
So one day I talked the family into the Top of Vernal Falls hike. It was only 3 miles, round trip. But it was strenuous. We took the eastern Yosemite Valley shuttle to stop #16, Happy Isles, to pick up the Mist Trail as it’s more direct to head to the top of Vernal Falls. You can also reach the falls via the John Muir Trail at the juncture with Mist Trail.  
Up! And I do mean up, we climbed. The scenery was breathtaking along the Merced River—but so was the hike. The Yosemite Valley lay before us, grand and vast; we could view it in spots along the trail.
            Then we found the granite stairway. 600 steps worth. I thought the family would crucify me. I must admit, we all plodded along slowly. The only way to endure a strenuous hike.  But—wow! 317 feet of waterfall. It was worth it!
Beautiful Vernal Falls in Yosemite
National Park, California.

            The kids vetoed another mile and a half to the Nevada Falls, and I had to agree. We still needed to head back down. The John Muir Trail is longer than the Mist Trail because of the winding around the mountain, so we opted to return the way we came. But I was content—and very proud of my troops!
            There wasn’t a lot of conversation on the trail because it was so tiring, but I want to offer you some hiking tips.
We needed to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion during our roughly 4 hour hike. To do this, we needed to drink plenty of water. I know there are energy drinks and Gatorades, etc. but water works best for the Lees family. The key is to drink often, rather than guzzle down water all at once. You may feel bloated when you drink a lot all at once. Pace yourself. And pace yourself when hiking the trail, too. Rest in the shade when you drink and eat salty snacks like salted nuts and pretzels to replace sodium lost through sweat. We found that water is available at the shuttle stop, but you should always carry water when you hike.  
Stay on the trail! The rangers told us this daily whenever we visited the ranger station to check on a particular trail. You need to use caution whenever you’re near any flowing water or wet rock so as not to slip or fall into a swift current.
We stayed out of the wilderness section of Yosemite, for it is vast. You really need to know what you’re doing out there. We didn’t think the children, ages 12 to 19, were ready for it. Okay. It’s true. My husband and I didn’t think we were ready for it.
As with all hikes—especially into the wilderness—you pack in and you pack out. This means you need to carry everything you might require with you on the hike. Yes! It’s backpacking into the wilderness without road access or any outside assistance readily available. Even experienced backpackers shouldn’t go it alone. You need to take all trash—even biodegradable toilet paper—back out with you.
            Thanks so much for stopping by Camping with Five Kids. Have you been to Yosemite? Please share any family vacations or hiking experiences you may have enjoyed.

We wish you every blessing and happy family memories in the New Year!

17 thoughts on “Back Into Nature: A Hike to Vernal Falls At Yosemite National Park”

  1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Hilary. They are appreciated more than you realize. All the best to you in the New Year.

    Thanks so much for your comment here at Camping with Five Kids. It's truly appreciated.

  2. Yes it was, Michelle. The United States is a beautiful country, and I never cease to enjoy my natural surroundings.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. I wish you and your family every blessing in the New Year.

  3. Ohmygosh, Dawn, it really is beautiful in Yosemite! We need to get back out to the West Coast to visit the parks again.

    It's so wonderful seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. Thanks for your note. I wish you every blessing in 2018.

  4. That picture of the waterfall looks stunning. Good advice re keeping hydrated, although I must admit to not drinking often enough on hikes. It's only when you finish and realise how much you need to drink that shows how dehydrated you are.

  5. Thanks so much for your kind words. I love waterfalls. The sheer power of them amazes me.

    Keeping hydrated while hiking–especially during the summer–is so important, Bill. Children in particular need to keep hydrated. Depending on the age of children, parents need to pay attention to be sure everyone drinks plenty of water. You are right, though. After hiking I find we drink more for the next couple of hours; probably trying to refill our bodily tanks.

    It’s always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids, Bill. I wish you health and hiking in the New Year!

  6. You know, I've never been to Yosemite, but I have hiked the Uintahs to an extreme, done the Wind Rivers, and hit many a trail through the rocky mountains. Oh, and I worked in Yellowstone for a summer, so you can imagine how much of the place I explored. Your images are beautiful. My parents took us on high adventure backpacking trips as soon as my youngest brother was old enough. That's how it goes when your father is a scout master for 22+ years, eh? (He was also a doctor, so many of the health warnings you list are solid rules.)

  7. I can imagine hiking with five kids requires quite the planning! I'm glad you enjoyed this healthy "little" adventure in Yosemite. I do find it sad that visitors constantly have to be reminded to stay on the trails and to "pack in and pack out". What else would you do with your trash? And, do people really expect they can buy food or get water along mountainous trails? 🙂

    Mark and I have been to Yosemite NP twice – once, about 14 years ago with my parents visiting from Belgium, and once last year with my cousin and her husband visiting from Belgium, in the company of the dog we were pet sitting. Such an amazing park. We hope to go back, just the two of us one day, so we can stay as long as we please and hike many of the trails.

  8. Wow! Good for you, Crystal. I've only backpacked with my son and one of the twins on the Appalachian Trail, a few days at a time. It sounds like you've had quite a bunch of adventures yourself. So neat that you were able to spend a whole summer in Yellowstone. Yes, I am jealous. It's truly wonderful that your father was both a doctor and a scout master.

    I truly appreciate your kind words. It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. I wish you all the best in 2018.

  9. There is always so much to see at National Parks. We never get tired of visiting and hiking in them.

    It amazes me as well that people need to be reminded to pack in and pack out. But then again, my children and I take walks in the neighborhood and pick up trash all the time. It's really quite sad.

    I truly appreciate your comment here at Camping with Five Kids. I wish you every happiness in 2018.

  10. Thanks for this post. I lived and climbed in Yosemite for a full year. I loved every minute of it, even the days I had to work.

    When it comes to waterfalls, hiking the Mist Trail is among my favorite of the easy to access trails. You can feel and hear the power of the falls. Amazing.

    Love you writing. Reminds me that I need to practice more.

  11. Hello and welcome to Camping With Five Kids, Emmanuel! You are so very lucky to be able to spend a full year in Yosemite. It is so beautiful there. I wouldn't mind working there, that's for sure. The Mist Trail is indeed a beautiful trail.

    Thanks so much for your comment here at Camping With Five Kids. Please stop by again. Happy Spring Holiday!


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