Yosemite is filled with icons revered around the world: Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and so much more. Yet, I haven't gone in decades because I've been deterred by the seemingly omnipresent and crushing crowds. This year, we decided to go despite the crowds because the huge runoff meant the waterfalls were running especially high.
We parked at Curry Village, took the shuttle to the Mist Trail trailhead, and hiked up the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls. The Mist Trail is noteworthy on three fronts. First, the trail is beautiful, especially as it goes into the splash zone and then to the fall's top with its emerald pools. Second, the trail was PACKED with people. At some narrow junctures, we had to wait for traffic going in the opposite direction. Third, it is dangerous! We went right after 3 people went over Vernal Falls to their death, and more people have died since. Some of those folks made riskier choices than we did, but the trail is very steep and very slippery.
Remarkably, both kids handled the trail fine. My 8 year old son Jacob is a bit of a mountain goat, so I wasn't worried about him, but my 5 year old daughter Dina likes the concept of hiking more than she likes the reality. My wife found a way to motivate Dina, however, by promising an ice cream cone back at Curry Village if she got to the top without complaining much. Dina got to the top, didn't complain much, and got her earned treat. Everyone won!
We went on a Monday, and Yosemite was still quite crowded. It was unquestionably better than going on a weekend or holiday, but the off-season is a better time to visit.