Vernal Fall

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Vernal Fall
Vernal Fall, Yosemite NP, CA, US - Diliff.jpg
Vernal Fall from Mist Trail
Location Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
Coordinates 37°43′39″N 119°32′38″W / 37.727426°N 119.543773°W / 37.727426; -119.543773Coordinates: 37°43′39″N 119°32′38″W / 37.727426°N 119.543773°W / 37.727426; -119.543773
Type Plunge
Total height 317 feet (97 m)
Number of drops 1
World height ranking 860

Vernal Fall is a 317-foot (96.6 m) waterfall on the Merced River just downstream of Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park, California.[1][2] Vernal Fall, as well as Nevada Fall, is clearly visible from Glacier Point. The waterfall runs all year long, although by the end of summer it is substantially reduced in volume and can split into multiple strands, rather than a single curtain of water.


Vernal Fall and the Merced River flowing toward the Yosemite Valley


Yan-o-pah (little cloud) was the local name of the fall before it was named "Vernal"- meaning relating to Spring - by Lafayette Bunnell, a member of the Mariposa Battalion in 1851.[3][4]

Mist Trail[edit]

The trail begins at the Happy Isles trail head in Yosemite Valley and travels generally east-southeast. This is one of the shortest (1.3 mi or 2.1 km)—though in places steep—and most popular trails in Yosemite. The trail is mostly shaded and is progressive in incline until it reaches the base of the waterfall where mist sprays onto the hikers.

At times, mostly in the spring, hikers may be drenched by the time they pass the mist from the waterfall. The final 15 minutes of the trail is a very steep climb up rocks to the top of the waterfall. Once atop the falls there is a pool of water called the Emerald Pool around which hikers lounge and rest. There is also a 20 degree slope of rock with water flowing into the pool called the Silver Apron.

US postage stamp erroneously identifying Vernal Fall as Pagsanjan Falls in the Philippines

Swimming above Vernal Fall can carry with it a great deal of risk: rocks are slippery, and strong undercurrents exist that may not be visible from the surface. Tourists have been swept over Yosemite Valley's Vernal Fall to their deaths.[5] Though warnings are clearly posted to stay out of the water, a few deaths have occurred in the last decade by entering the water above Vernal Fall, including the Silver Apron and Emerald Pool. In the past decade a number of deaths have occurred at other waterfalls in Yosemite, but the park continues to permit swimming in these area with signs advising against swimming.

One person died in May 2007 after hopping from rock to rock around Vernal Fall.[citation needed] Three people died after being swept over the falls in the same manner on July 19, 2011.[6]

Postage stamp[edit]

The fall is shown in error on a 1932 Philippines stamp. Although the stamp indicates that it depicts Pagsanjan Falls in the Philippines, it in fact shows Vernal Fall.[7]

Vernal Fall in 1872, by Eadweard Muybridge.


  1. ^ N. King Huber. "The Geologic Story of Yosemite Valley". USGS Western Region Geologic Information. Archived from the original on 2005-11-11. Retrieved 2005-09-20. 
  2. ^ The official name is singular, see U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Vernal Fall
  3. ^ Farquhar, Francis P. (1926). "V - Vernal Fall". Place Names of the High Sierra. San Francisco: Sierra Club. OCLC 2871447. 
  4. ^ Bunnell, Lafayette Houghton (2003) [1880]. Discovery of the Yosemite and the Indian War of 1851 Which Led to That Event. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, National Digital Library Program. OCLC 51675913. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Brad Knickerbocker (July 21, 2011). "Yosemite waterfall accident a cautionary tale for Yosemite visitors". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved July 21, 2011. 
  7. ^ Poblete, Johanna D. (2008-07-04). "Bits of history". Business World. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 

External links[edit]