Once you see the Vernal Falls you will say the trip was worth it. The Merced
River pounds and roars over the granite and falls 317 feet to the granite
boulders below. The huge boulders were left by glaciers as they carved out the
valley below. Stop and take pictures of the falls as you ascend the final
hundred yards. You get some great views and it is very impressive.
Once you have reached the top look around you. The granite rocks are all
around. You can see the Merced River pool just above the falls. This is a great
place to rest. Eat a little snack, fruit, peanut butter crackers or trail mix.
Drink the water you brought with you. Please DO NOT feed the squirrels or
birds. Not even a little bit. Yes, that one morsel is not good for them.
Continue Up The Giant's Staircase
You may at this point choose to continue up the Giant's Staircase to see the
Silver Apron and to get a close up view of Nevada Fall. The trail is rather
difficult to find. Go just a little ways away from the river and falls and
start hiking along the river. Soon you will see the trail. We followed someone.
It was not clear to us where to go. Keep your eyes open for the Silver Apron.
You will cross the River on a bridge as you ascend to Nevada Fall.
If you choose not to continue on up to Nevada Fall, begin to go down the way
you came up, but look for the signs that point you to the John Muir Trail. It
is drier and not as steep. This trail is a horse or mule trail so your shoes
will get dusty, but if you have bad knees like I do it will be an easier walk
down. I think it will be more walking (longer) and you travel in the forested
area away from the crowd. You will finish the John Muir trail at the Vernal
As you travel down the John Muir trail you will meet up with hikers who plan to
stay on the mountain overnight. It is fun to see all the different footwear
hikers wear. Some have on good strong hiking boots. But, don't be surprised to
see hikers wearing flip flops. I was totally amazed. Some of the back packs on
the smaller women appear to weigh more than they weigh. If you are planning on
staying overnight, maybe with the intent of going for an ascent of Half Dome
the next day, the John Muir trail is a better way to get you and your stuff up
the mountain. It is less crowded and not as steep with many switchbacks.