Stomach-churning clip shows hapless tourists casually perched over Yosemite waterfall where dozens have drowned

A rainbow in the mist of Vernal Falls in Yosemite
The popular falls are a must-see destination in the famous park, but it's crucial to see them from a safe distance (Image credit: Julia Clarke)

After a snowy winter in the Sierra Nevada mountains, warming spring temperatures mean Yosemite's waterfalls are rushing, and so are the hordes of tourists hoping to see them in all their glory. However, some visitors are clambering over guard rails and getting far too close for comfort at a site that's proven deadly for many who came before them.

In a video circulated by the Instagram account Tourons of National Parks, which you can view below, around a dozen clueless park visitors are seen casually milling around on precarious rocks overlooking Vernal Falls, which is in full flow. 

One man can be seen sitting on the edge of a flake of rock with his feet dangling down towards the falls while behind him, a woman stands on the narrow fin, both seemingly unaware of the danger they are in.

Several commenters on the post share stories where others have died in the same spot.

"This dude hopped the rail and dipped his head into the water because it was hot.… well 5 days later he was found pinned under a boulder of granite under 10 feet of water and 1000 feet from where he went missing," writes one Instagram user, while another comments: "I was there in 2000, same spot. A woman went over the rail and slipped and got washed away. She was found two days later."

Vernal Falls is one of Yosemite's crown jewels, accessed via the Mist Trail, and few visitors would dream of skipping out on the 1.5 mile hike to these thundering falls. They have, however, proved extremely deadly over the years to many tourists who underestimated their fierce power and got too close, or willingly entered the water.

According to reporting in the LA Times, at least 14 people died in the falls between 2003 and 20013, including the tragic tale of six and 10-year-old brothers who were swept away in 2012. Since that report, at least three more tourists have drowned along the Mist Trail.

Waterfall safety

There’s nothing quite like flocking to wild spaces like Yosemite National Park to see Yosemite Falls and Vernal Falls at their peak, but waterfall hikes can pose some unique risks for hikers, too. All too often, hikers are badly injured or worse while hiking around waterfalls, especially if they're not wearing proper footwear, like hiking boots with traction, or ignore warning signs and safety rails. Learn more in our article on waterfall safety to stay safe and enjoy these natural spectacles for years to come.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.