Tuolumne Falls

Yosemite National Park / near Glen Aulin, California, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 4.5
Tuolumne Falls
Tuolumne Falls is the first major waterfall we encountered as we made our way from Tuolumne Meadows towards the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. Of all the waterfalls that we encountered on the Tuolumne River, this one probably had the most vertical drop. Therefore, we thought it was one of the more photogenic ones as well.

I've seen literature claiming it falls 100ft, but I'm more inclined to think that's true only if you count some of the cascading sections above and below the main tier. As a matter of fact, the white water starts well above this waterfall at some footbridges and continues to cascade below the White Cascade. So who knows where this waterfall technically begins and ends?

Starting from Tuolumne Meadows, we encountered this waterfall at roughly 5.4 miles after a loss of 500ft in elevation (Tuolumne Meadows is around 7000ft high). Thus, if we were to do only this waterfall as an out-and-back hike, then it's about 10.8 miles round trip, which makes for a pretty long day hike. Of course, for that much effort, we were better off extending this hike a little more to see more waterfalls, and that was pretty much what we did.

Our hike began near Lembert Dome at the far eastern side of Tuolumne Meadows. From there, we hiked on the obvious trail that led us through the extensive alpine meadow towards Parson's Lodge via Soda Springs. Throughout this stretch of the hike, we saw impressive peaks in the distance such as Unicorn Peak, Cathedral Peak, and Fairview Dome.

The trail then entered a forested area where the trail moved closer to the Tuolumne River. Eventually, the trail reached a footbridge where we crossed the river and granite terrain started to dominate. The trail descended steeply down granite steps alongside Tuolumne Falls offering various angles to see the waterfall.

We could've turned back from the base of the waterfall if it was our destination, but we continued on the trail eventually reaching Glen Aulin Falls (described on a separate page).

Directions: The Glen Aulin trailhead is about 7 miles west of Tioga Pass (where the Summer only Eastern Entrance is) along Route 120. You can find parking along the side of the spur road leaving Route 120 near Lembert Dome (near signpost T32). Or, if you don't mind walking an additional mile, you can park at the official backpacker's permit station further east along Route 120 where there seems to be plenty of parking space. Day trippers may also consider parking in one of the pullouts near Tuolumne Meadows (signpost T29).




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PHOTO JOURNAL
When starting out on the hike towards Tuolumne Falls, we had to pass through the vast Tuolumne Meadows, which featured a large meadow backed by attractive granite peaks like Fairview Dome shown in this photo
Reflections in the Tuolumne River on the trail to Tuolumne Falls
Looking up towards Tuolumne Falls from further downstream
Looking back at Lembert Dome as we started the hikeLooking back at Lembert Dome as we started the hike

We were actually intending to backpack to the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, hence the large packs we were carryingWe were actually intending to backpack to the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, hence the large packs we were carrying

Some flooded parts of the trail near the Parson's Lodge vicinitySome flooded parts of the trail near the Parson's Lodge vicinity

Parson's Lodge and Unicorn PeakParson's Lodge and Unicorn Peak

Now on the formal trail beyond the network of trails near the Soda Springs and Parson's Lodge areaNow on the formal trail beyond the network of trails near the Soda Springs and Parson's Lodge area

We eventually got to where the trail got close to the Tuolumne River.  The sharp peaks in the background I believe belong to Unicorn PeakWe eventually got to where the trail got close to the Tuolumne River. The sharp peaks in the background I believe belong to Unicorn Peak.

Now the terrain became more granite as we left Tuolumne MeadowsNow the terrain become more granite as we left Tuolumne Meadows

Looking downstream on the Tuolumne River as we crossed it over the footbridgeLooking downstream on the Tuolumne River as we crossed it over the footbridge

Looking upstream where the Tuolumne River was picking up speed on its way to Tuolumne FallsLooking upstream where the Tuolumne River was picking up speed on its way to Tuolumne Falls

Another look at Tuolumne Falls and rainbowAnother look at Tuolumne Falls and rainbow


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS



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MAP OF THE FALLS

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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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