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The Mist Trail – 8 Common Hiking Mistakes To Avoid

In: Wilderness Safety, Yosemite National Park

The Mist Trail in Yosemite is one of the most iconic, popular hike every visitor desires to hike.  The Mist Trail attracts thousands of visitors every year.   Every year, hikers are eager to hike to the top of Vernal Fall or climb Half Dome.  As thrilling as it is to reach magnificent Vernal Fall, or climb to the top of Half Dome, hiking the Mist Trail can be dangerous.

Things I have Learned About the Place
As a volunteer working for the National Park Service, one of the things that stood out to me is the number of rescues performed each year on the trail. Preventive Search and Rescue Blog is filled with information about people getting hurt.  Some online sources even consider the Mist Trail to be one of the 10 dangerous trails to hike in America. Strava ‘heat maps’ reveal the Mist Trail to be one of the busiest locations in Yosemite Valley.

The purpose of this post to point out common hiking mistakes to avoid and provide helpful tips to stay safe on the trail.

 1. Not Staying Alert 

Staying alert while hiking the Mist Trail is not something everybody does.  While hiking the Mist Trail, it is very easy to get distracted.  Slip and fall injuries often occur due to this reason.  It is crucial to be attentive. It is important to constantly and habitually scan the trail ahead, alternately looking out 10 or more feet ahead to pick out the best route and then looking closer for more precise foot placement. Minimize looking at the Vernal Fall while hiking. It is imperative you stay attentive at all times and watch every step.   Staying alert involves a lot of self-discipline, but it is a mindset that will go a long way in injury prevention.

2. Impatience

The Mist Trail gets crowded every year. It is imperative to be patient and tolerant of other slower hikers. Often, injuries occur due to hikers getting knocked off balance by someone.  Steps on the Mist Trail are narrow, steep and wet.  Injuries and even fatalities on the trail can be prevented if hikers take their time to be patient and cautious with each other.  Practicing good trail etiquette is important  in Yosemite’s difficult, challenging terrains.

3. Ignorance of Weather Reports

Half Dome - Yosemite National Park

Half Dome – Yosemite National Park

Watching weather reports is also not something every hiker does before coming to Yosemite.  Most falls from this trail have happened when the rocks are wet.  It is best to be conscious of the weather reports during your hike or climb to the top of Half Dome.  Hiking Half Dome involves wearing leather gloves, great hiking boots, and an excellent fitness level are requirements for anyone who dares attempt it.

For personal safety, I use a safety harness to get me to the top. I feel much at ease when my safety harness is clipped to the cables. Majority of people, unfortunately, don’t use a safety harness while ascending to the top.  Some hikers even attempt to climb Half Dome without a harness, in wet, rainy conditions.

Descending on Half Dome with my safety harness clipped to the cables.

4. Wearing Improper Footwear

Another common mistake I often see hikers make is wearing flip-flops or basic tennis shoes with the slick bottom.  Injuries often happen due to Yosemite’s uneven, slick terrains. Wearing trail shoes, hiking boots, or footwear with sticky rubber soles can help hikers maintain traction on the park’s trails. Use trekking poles to help with balance and avoid slipping. Having two poles helps and it is quite effective to use on any trail for the purpose of stability and distribution of weight enabling a hiker to remain upright and steady.

5. Not Knowing Your Limits

Each year, a number of Yosemite hikers find themselves in need of rescue after hiking trails that are unmarked, or above their skill level. Scrambling off-trail, for example, is one of the leading causes of serious injury and death in Yosemite. When deciding to venture off-trail, hikers must evaluate the terrain they are entering, as well as their own skills and equipment. You can avoid being one of them if you follow the trail, follow the rules, and follow your instincts.

6. Not Eating Well Or Drinking Enough Water

A good overall diet is essential to overall health. It is an important factor that plays an integral role when it comes to preventing injuries while hiking.  Hikers in Yosemite often get rescued due to dehydration and fatigue.  When hiking, our body and bones are usually under a lot of workloads. As a result, we need certain nutrients such as calcium for strong bones that cannot break due to work overload. The absolute worst thing that I will never do to my body while hiking is to deprive it of essential nutrients that enable it to optimize its functions. While hiking, one can lose between 3000 to 6000 calories which need to be replaced immediately. Carry also at least 2-3 liters of water to stay well hydrated on the trail. Like any other person, if I am not properly hydrated, I will start experiencing incidence of muscle cramps, reduced alertness, and lethargy which makes very easy for me to fall and injure myself.

7. Wading or Swimming

Beyond the clear dangers of waterfalls, Yosemite’s rivers and streams have unseen currents and hidden hazards, such as submerged rocks and logs, and the river beds have sudden drop-offs. It is imperative to carefully assess the situation and the scene before deciding to approach the water. You are responsible for your own safety!

8. Not Carrying A Map

Carry a topographic map! It seems like it is a simple thing to do, but hikers in Yosemite get rescued often due to getting lost. Yosemite’s Topographical Map is excellent and very detailed. The map is loaded with helpful information on camping, hiking, lodging, transportation, regulations, and safety. This map is an invaluable tool for casual park visitors and avid adventurers alike.

In conclusion, injuries and accidents can be prevented when hiking the Mist Trail, climbing Half Dome or exploring any trails in the Yosemite’s wilderness.  I hope the common mistakes I pointed out and safety tips to follow will serve as a basic guideline for you to be cautious while hiking or navigating the wilderness.


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