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!
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.
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
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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