Vernal Fall is a 317-foot (96.6 m) waterfall on the Merced River just downstream of Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park, California. 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" by Lafayette Bunnell, a member of the Mariposa Brigade in 1851.
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.
Depending on the time of the year hikers can be totally 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 a waterfall is against park rules and can carry with it a great deal of risk: rocks are slippery, and strong undercurrents exist that may not be visible from the surface. Nevertheless, tourists have been swept over Yosemite Valley's waterfalls to their deaths. Though warnings are clearly posted to stay out of the water, more than a dozen people have died in the last decade by entering the water above Vernal Fall, including the Silver Apron and Emerald Pool.
One person died in May 2007 after hopping from rock to rock around Vernal Fall. Three people died after being swept over the falls in the same manner on July 19, 2011.
The fall is shown in error on a 1932 Philippines stamp. Although the stamp indicates that it depicts the Pagsanjan Falls in the Philippines, it in fact shows the Vernal Fall.