"Shadow Falls"

Inyo National Forest / Mono County / Fresno County, California, USA

Rating: 1.5     Difficulty: 3.5
The cascade beneath Shadow Lake, which I'm calling Shadow Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

"Shadow Falls" is a name I've made up for this surprise cascade that I happened to see during a hike out to the scenic Shadow Lake. As a matter of fact, this waterfall drains Shadow Lake as it ultimately tumbles mostly unseen down a mini-granite gorge eventually joining the San Joaquin River. I think of this waterfall as more of a side attraction to Shadow Lake, which is a very attractive lake backed by Mt Ritter and a few other mountains whose names I don't remember. The water in the lake seemed to change color from a deep emerald blue towards some slight shades of green around its banks as the sun went higher on the horizon the morning we showed up in late August 2010.

The hike itself was not trivial as we had to go about 3 miles from the Agnew Meadow trailhead (I believe Thousand Island Lake backpackers start from here as well, which explained why there were so many cars at the trailhead) with a slight decline towards a basin or valley before making the steep climb up to the lake on the other side of that basin.

The most visible part of the cascade was about 2/3rd of the way up a series of switchbacks as the trail made a steep climb towards the mouth of Shadow Lake. So if you've made it far enough to see the interesting cascade, you mind as well get all the way to the top to see Shadow Lake. Beyond Shadow Lake, I was told that this was the trail one would take to get all the way up to the very scenic Thousand Island Lakes. I had seen photos and heard many stories about that place, but I have yet to make it all the way up there.

We've seen lots of backpackers or very fit hikers continue beyond Shadow Lake, but this provided good enough exercise for a lake excursion done as a day hike (there aren't many you can do comfortably without backcountry backpacking). In any case, it did seem like this was either a detour or part of the overall route to the very beautiful Thousand Island Lakes. So hopefully one of these days, a visit there could be made so I can finally see what the commotion is about.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Shadow Lake backed by Mt Ritter, I believeShadow Lake backed by Mt Ritter, I believe
Looking back down the valley from Shadow FallsLooking back down the valley from Shadow Falls
In the same reserve as the Agnew Meadows trailhead was the eccentric and namesake Devil's Postpile formation, which was a nice place to see pronounced basalt formationsIn the same reserve as the Agnew Meadows trailhead was the eccentric and namesake Devil's Postpile formation, which was a nice place to see pronounced basalt formations
Just south of the Mammoth area was the easily accessible Convict Lake, which proved to be very beautiful without the need for a long hike or a guelling backpack tripJust south of the Mammoth area was the easily accessible Convict Lake, which proved to be very beautiful without the need for a long hike or a guelling backpack trip
Early birds tend to get bonus wildlife sightings like this oneEarly birds tend to get bonus wildlife sightings like this one

Approaching the basin within the cool shadow of early morningApproaching the basin within the cool shadow of early morning

Olaine LakeOlaine Lake, which we saw en route to the falls

Crossing the valleyCrossing the valley or basin

Fighting through the shadows for this brighter look at the Shadow Falls at the expense of washing out the rest of the photoFighting through the shadows for this brighter look at the Shadow Falls at the expense of washing out the rest of the photo

The trail ultimately reaches the top of Shadow Falls up aheadThe trail ultimately reaches the top of Shadow Falls up ahead

Looking down towards the bottom of the hidden cascade and the valley belowLooking down towards the bottom of the hidden cascade and the valley below

Continuing beyond the top of the falls towards the mouth of Shadow LakeContinuing beyond the top of the "Shadow Falls" towards the mouth of Shadow Lake

Some shades of green starting to show up as the sun continued to riseSome shades of green starting to show in the lake as the sun continued to rise

Starting the hike back to the trailheadStarting the hike back to the trailhead

Descending from Shadow Lake stillDescending from Shadow Lake still


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Top down sweep of the falls ending downstream towards San Joaquin Basin


Semi-circular sweep from right to left of the uppermost portion of the cascade and ending towards some knobs and peaks in the background


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From the intersection of Main St, Minaret Rd, and Lake Mary Rd (there's a traffic light) in Mammoth Lakes Village, turn right to remain on Minaret Road (Hwy 203) and drive for about 15-20 minutes to the Mammoth Summit Ski Area. Here's where you pick up the mandatory shuttle ($7 per person; National Parks Pass not accepted).

If you happen to show up before 7am or after 7:30pm, continue driving 2.6 miles beyond the entrance booth along Minaret Rd until you see the turnoff for Agnew Meadows (about 0.6 miles on unsealed road from the paved Minaret Road).

For context, Mammoth Lakes was about 309 miles (5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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RELATED PAGES



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