Mist Trail and Tourists
I realized that In my waterfall post, I didn’t really have the space to explain/show the Mist Trail properly. This is a wonderful, yet moderately strenuous trail (if you do the whole thing). It is also a source of frustration for me as a hiker because it is so popular that you see All The Mistakes Tourists Make.
Mostly this means not being prepared. I’m not talking a Boy Scout level of preparedness, I mean simple things like shoes, or water.
Water is chief in the mistakes, but it is sometimes baffling. Did you not have a bottle? Did you not have the ability to buy a bottle? Why is only one of you in a group of five people carrying a half liter nalgene for a hike that lasts all day? Did you not read the mileage sign? Or a map to know that the Yosemite Falls Trail gains 2,700 thousand feet (823 m)?
Seeing day hiking tourists carrying nothing in the way of water, sometimes in the dead heat of August, is incredibly common. I’ve seen this on trails that *should* be obviously strenuous if you can read the mileage/kilometers and hours roundtrip next to their name on the guide maps and the lack of amenities symbols like restrooms and water at the end points of these trails. There are even those who are clearly wearing good gear and clothing who still take no water, like a French family we saw just a week ago climbing their way towards the top of Nevada Fall. So many, many tourists (rather than day hikers, I don’t think they should be termed that) get to a point on the trail where there is an incredible view and they realize the sheer magnitude, that this is a day hike, that there are no convenient American water fountains on the trail, that they are only half way through. They look around in despair, mutter a few words, admire the view, and turn around.
Please, if you are going on a hike, take water with you. Your body needs it, and it won’t be springing out. Despite the amazing quality of water from springs and the cleanliness of water in the backcountry, many waterfalls are along horse/mule trails as well, so don’t rely on them as a clean water source. Just don’t. Giardia is not fun.
So if you happen to take the Famous Mist Trail, understand a few things from the pictures: going to the top of Nevada Fall, and back, is about 5-6 hours over 5.4 mi/8.6 km with an elevation gain of 2,000 ft (and loss to come back down!). The path is short because the granite steps are tall, and in spring they are slick with water. The rocks below are sharp and the current unforgiving. But the payout is wonderful. But please, for a trail comprised of this (see below) bring water and snacks to keep you going. Be smart.