Southern and Central Sierras Waterfalls (California)

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The Southern and Central Sierras Waterfalls are just one of a myriad of scenic attractions in a rugged area that features an interesting mix of 14,000ft peaks, remote pine forests, groves of giant sequoia trees, deep river canyons, and ancient volcanic remnants. In the rainshadow of this mountainous spine of California is the forbidding Death Valley. Nestled within the mountain range of this part of the Sierras are several national forests and national parks. The most notable reserves are Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (featuring some of the largest known living organisms on earth as well as one of the deepest canyons in the US) and the world famous Yosemite National Park.

That said, amidst all this diversity of nature, there was certainly no shortage of waterfalls in the Southern and Central Sierras. Of course, Yosemite is a waterfall haven in its own right and we've devoted a special section on just this park alone. Still, waterfalls galore in the remainder of this mountainous area and you could spend a lifetime trying to collect sightings of all of them. Julie and I have certainly seen our share of waterfalls in this region, yet we're humbled by the fact that it's merely a small fraction of what's out here!

Rainbow Falls To make the listing of waterfalls here more manageable, we've divided up this spine of California into the following subsections - Inyo National Forest and Death Valley National Park, Lee Vining and Bridgeport, Mammoth Lakes, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Sequoia National Forest, and Sierra National Forest. We reiterate that Yosemite National Park is in its own special section apart from this page. Here' the breakdown of each of these subregions...

The Inyo National Forest and Death Valley National Park subregion are primary the places where we managed to visit waterfalls on either side of the Owens Valley between Olancha and Bishop. We're also including any waterfalls we might spot east of the Owens Valley like in the Telescope Ranges and Panamint Ranges - both either in or next to the boundaries of Death Valley National Park. Most of the waterfalls that we're listing here involve multi-day backcountry hikes (e.g. Moonlight Falls comes to mind). And Darwin Falls is the only waterfall that we're aware of within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park.

Peppermint Creek Falls The Lee Vining and Bridgeport subregion are pretty much the waterfalls that we've found north of the Mammoth Lakes area and outside of the Yosemite National Park boundary to its east and north. They're primarily in or around the towns of Lee Vining (which itself is next to the west end of Mono Lake) and the town of Bridgeport further to the north. Among the waterfalls that we've included in this region are Leavitt Falls and the Lundy Canyon Waterfalls.

The Mammoth Lakes region is where Julie and I encountered most of the easily accessible Eastern Sierra waterfalls, including the Devil's Postpile National Monument area with waterfalls such as Rainbow Falls. The waterfalls found here are pretty much in and around the vicinity of the Mammoth Lakes area, which is better known as a skiing destination though it seemed to have been gaining in popularity in the Summer months over the years.

The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are really administered as a single unit by the National Park Service. So we're giving this region a similar treatment, but we're also including the Sequoia National Forest regions that fill in the gaps between the disjoint Grant Grove and Cedar Grove sections of Kings Canyon National Parks along the Hwy 180. While this area doesn't quite have the volume of waterfalls nor the dramatic scenery that Yosemite boasts, we were able to have more peaceful waterfalling experiences as a result. For example, we were able to visit waterfalls like Tokopah Falls on a Memorial Day weekend, and it still felt like we had largely avoided the holiday crush that Yosemite would've surely gotten on that weekend.

Next, we have the Sequoia National Forest, which really pertains to the Tule River District south of Sequoia National Park. This pretty understated section of the Sierras featured many of the more impressive waterfalls that not many people have heard of outside of locals and waterfallers. This allowed us to have some of our more memorable waterfalling experiences in places like Peppermint Creek Falls and Nobe Young Falls among others.

Finally, we have the Sierra National Forest, which covers a large area south of Yosemite National Park and north of Kings Canyon National Park. This includes the Huntington Lakes, where we managed to catch our lone waterfalling experience in Rancheria Falls. Hopefully with more opportunities to explore this understated part of the Sierras, we may add more to our very humble sampling of waterfalls in the region.

Indeed, we've collected the waterfalls in this area in a variety of weekend trips. Although we've seen our share of waterfalls in this area alone, we haven't come close to even seeing half of the waterfalls that exist out here!

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To get a glimpse of what each waterfall looks like, check out the table below. Click on the waterfalls to read more about them.

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Inyo National Forest and Death Valley National Park

Darwin Falls - a rare waterfall in the Panamint Springs area of Death Valley 1.5 Darwin Falls
Death Valley National Park

Second Falls 1 Big Pine Creek Waterfalls
Inyo National Forest

Moonlight Falls 1.5 Moonlight Falls
near Bishop / Inyo National Forest

One of the Onion Valley Waterfalls 1.5 Onion Valley Waterfalls
near Independence / Inyo National Forest

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Lee Vining and Bridgeport

One of several of the Lundy Canyon Waterfalls 2 Lundy Canyon Waterfalls
near Lee Vining / Inyo National Forest

Leavitt Falls on the Sonora Pass Road 2.5 Leavitt Falls
near Sonora Pass / Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

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Mammoth Lakes

the spectacular Rainbow Falls on the San Joaquin River 4 Rainbow Falls
Devil's Postpile National Monument

Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River 1.5 Lower Falls
Devil's Postpile National Monument / Ansel Adams Wilderness

Minaret Falls 2.5 Minaret Falls
Devil's Postpile National Monument

Horsetail Falls in low flow near McGee Creek a short ways off the Hwy 395 2 Horsetail Falls
John Muir Wilderness / Inyo National Forest

Twin Falls seen over the Twin Lakes 2.5 Twin Falls
Mammoth Lakes / Inyo National Forest

Shadow Falls 1.5 "Shadow Falls"
Inyo National Forest

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Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Grizzly Falls 2.5 Grizzly Falls
near Cedar Grove / Sequoia National Forest

Roaring River Falls in Kings Canyon National Park 1.5 Roaring River Falls
Cedar Grove / Kings Canyon National Park

Mist Falls deep in Kings Canyon 2 Mist Falls
Cedar Grove / Kings Canyon National Park

Sheep Creek Cascade on the Don Cecil Trail 1 Sheep Creek Cascade
Cedar Grove / Kings Canyon National Park

One of the interesting ephemeral waterfalls seen on the Kings Canyon Highway (Hwy 180) to Cedar Grove 1 Waterfalls on Kings Canyon Highway
Sequoia National Forest / near Cedar Grove

Tokopah Falls 3 Tokopah Falls
Sequoia National Park / Lodgepole

Marble Falls on the Marble Fork Kaweah River 1.5 Marble Falls
Sequoia National Park

Black Wolf Falls in Mineral King 1.5 Black Wolf Falls
Mineral King / Sequoia National Park

Mineral King Falls 2.5 "Mineral King Falls"
Mineral King / Sequoia National Park

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Sequoia National Forest (Tule River District)

A side view of the Middle Fork Tule River Falls 1.5 Middle Fork Tule River Falls
Sequoia National Forest

profile view from behind Nobe Young Falls 2.5 Nobe Young Falls
near Ponderosa / Sequoia National Forest

Peppermint Creek Falls 3 Peppermint Creek Falls
Sequoia National Forest

South Creek Falls not too far from Kernville 2.5 South Creek Falls
near Kernville / Sequoia National Forest

Long exposure look of Boulder Creek Falls as my mom gazes upon it 1.5 Boulder Creek Falls
near Ponderosa / Sequoia National Forest

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Sierra National Forest

Rancheria Falls near Huntington Lake in the Sierra National Forest 2 Rancheria Falls
Huntington Lake / Sierra National Forest

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Have You Been To A California Waterfall?

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