If you’ve hiked the Mist Trail, you know the surreal experience of ascending through the rainbow-enshrouded spray zone of Vernal Fall. The spray zone is a hiker’s challenge, a photographer’s dream and an unusual biological habitat, which harbors specialized water-loving species.

As many as 3,000 hikers pass through the spray zone every day during the busy summer season. Over time, as people stepped off trail to explore the area or get closer to the fall, dozens of social trails formed in the spray zone. In addition to threatening sensitive plant communities, many of the informal trails led to precarious positions near the edge of the swift water.

In 2015, with your support, Yosemite restoration experts worked with Student Conservation Association members to close off and remove 11 unsafe, unsustainable social trails and restore 538 square feet of habitat near Vernal Fall, improving safety for hikers while protecting specialized spray zone plants. They also treated invasive velvet grass near Vernal Fall and neighboring Nevada Fall, two areas where non-native plants pose a threat not only to fall-side flora, but also to habitats elsewhere as thousands of Mist Trail hikers inadvertently pick up seeds and transport them to other parts of the park.

Read more about this project in our December 2015 blog post.

Your support helped protect both people and plants at Vernal Fall, letting visitors safely explore a remarkable, restored Yosemite ecosystem.

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park.

Karen Hockett

Resource Management

Project Notes

Thousands of off-trail footsteps have created dozens of social trails, damaged the sensitive and unique spray zone plant community, and have transported invasive plant seeds, including the highly aggressive velvet grass. Acting now will prevent further erosion, invasive plant spread, creation of more social trails, protect specialized native plants, and will improve visitor safety.