Kings Canyon Falls

Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada, USA

About Kings Canyon Falls


Hiking Distance: 1/2-mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-06-21
Date last visited: 2016-06-21

Waterfall Latitude: 39.15513
Waterfall Longitude: -119.81807

Kings Canyon Falls was kind of an oddity in that it was one of the few waterfalls within the state boundaries of Nevada – said to be the driest state in the United States.

That fact alone made us take the detour from our touring of the Lake Tahoe area to see for ourselves what this place was like.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_067_06212016 - Kings Canyon Falls
Kings Canyon Falls

And as you can see from the photo above, it was indeed a legitimate waterfall.

While this waterfall’s dimensions were modest at around 30ft tall, the feeling of the waterfall’s cool spray in an area we otherwise wouldn’t have considered would have a waterfall like this was what made this memorable to us.

We were also able to get close to and touch the falls while fully enjoying the views from all sorts of different angles.

Indeed, this oasis contrasted mightily with the otherwise hot and dry desert climate that much of the Great Basin (encompassing much of the state of Nevada and western Utah) was known for.

Experiencing Kings Canyon Falls

Kings_Canyon_Falls_073_06212016 - Looking back towards some suburban developments and Carson City from the trail to Kings Canyon Falls
Looking back towards some suburban developments and Carson City from the trail to Kings Canyon Falls

Overall, we had spent about 45 minutes away from the car to experience the Kings Canyon Falls.

Our timing couldn’t have been better because we started at around 5:45pm, which was right when the sun was starting to disappear behind the neighboring cliffs.

Not only did this cause long shadows that provided relief from the desert heat (it was over 90F when we showed up in mid-June), but we also didn’t have to look against the sun at this waterfall.

Had we done this trail earlier in the day, the modest 1/4-mile hike up to the falls (or 1/2-mile round trip) would be a lot more taxing, especially given how dessicating the air was here.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_010_06212016 - Kings Canyon Falls was concealed to us as we looked towards it from the trailhead
Kings Canyon Falls was concealed to us as we looked towards it from the trailhead

In addition, it seemed like the creek could easily dry up not that far into Summer so I’d imagine that it would be best to come here in the Spring or early Summer at the latest.

Our visit took place in mid-June 2016.

Trail Description for the Kings Canyon Falls Hike

We started from a well-signed trailhead right at the edge of what seemed to be a new suburban development on the outskirts of the state capital of Carson City (see directions below).

Sometimes Mom and I wondered what the resident of that home right next to the trailhead must think with so many strangers passing by his property.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_005_06212016 - Mom walking up the steps at the start of the Kings Canyon Falls Trail
Mom walking up the steps at the start of the Kings Canyon Falls Trail

In any case, the trail passed by some signage that included a memorial for a group of firefighters who had lost their lives from a wildfire here that was caused by a campfire that was not properly extinguished.

We noticed there was an old trail that seemed to follow the hidden stream from the waterfall directly.

However, we stayed with the main trail that bent over a couple of long switchbacks as it generally went uphill.

Well after the second switchback, we were able to look down at the parking area as well as glimpse further down Kings Canyon in the direction of Carson City.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_013_06212016 - Looking back down towards the trailhead parking after having gone past the second switchback of the Kings Canyon Falls Trail
Looking back down towards the trailhead parking after having gone past the second switchback of the Kings Canyon Falls Trail

There was a signed trail junction where going left would have led another mile to the so-called Upper Waterfalls Loop.

We kept straight ahead to the right, where the trail ultimately narrowed as it rounded a bend and eventually got us face-to-face with the rare waterfall.

It turned out that the vegetation surrounding the creek responsible for this falls was thick enough to practically conceal the stream as well as the waterfall itself.

That explained why we couldn’t really see Kings Canyon Falls from the trailhead.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_029_06212016 - Mom approaching the well-vegetated gully containing the hidden Kings Canyon Falls
Mom approaching the well-vegetated gully containing the hidden Kings Canyon Falls

Nevertheless, a local that was here sharing the waterfall with us told us that there was an upper waterfall in addition to this one.

However, he said that this lower waterfall was way better and that we did well to find this one first.

So we stuck to his advice and just enjoyed this spot for a bit before we headed back down to the trailhead.

Authorities

Kings Canyon Falls resides near the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Carson City, Nevada. It is administered by Carson City. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_011_06212016 - Mom hiking in the welcoming expanding late afternoon shade amidst the desert brush while ascending the Kings Canyon Trail
Kings_Canyon_Falls_027_06212016 - Mom making the final approach to the head of Kings Canyon and its waterfall within its well-vegetated gully surrounded by unforgiving desert
Kings_Canyon_Falls_030_06212016 - Mom rounding the last bend before being right in front of Kings Canyon Falls
Kings_Canyon_Falls_035_06212016 - Looking right at the main part of the Kings Canyon Falls
Kings_Canyon_Falls_042_06212016 - Broad look back at the inviting Kings Canyon Falls, which felt refreshing considering how hot it was away from the immediate area
Kings_Canyon_Falls_046_06212016 - This person went right into one of the segments of the Kings Canyon Falls to really cool off
Kings_Canyon_Falls_055_06212016 - Profile view looking across the base of Kings Canyon Falls
Kings_Canyon_Falls_064_06212016 - Contextual direct look at Kings Canyon Falls with a hint of the surrounding cliffs
Kings_Canyon_Falls_068_06212016 - Mom checking out one of the smaller segments to the left of the main part of the Kings Canyon Falls
Kings_Canyon_Falls_076_06212016 - Making our way back down to the trailhead after having our moment at Kings Canyon Falls. We didn't explore the branch that went further up the hill to the upper waterfalls
Kings_Canyon_Falls_080_06212016 - Almost back down to the Kings Canyon Falls trailhead. We wondered what the owner of that house must think given how popular the waterfall seemed to be
Kings_Canyon_Falls_085_06212016 - Looking at the context of the private gate adjacent to the start of the Kings Canyon Falls Trail. After all, that resident was right up against the start of the hike. I guess the flip side for that resident is the ability to go up to the waterfall whenever they want

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We drove to Kings Canyon Falls from South Lake Tahoe so we’ll start the driving directions from there.

Driving from South Lake Tahoe to Kings Canyon Falls

From South Lake Tahoe, we’d have to drive east on Hwy 50 for about 29 miles.

Then, we headed north on Hwy 395, which became Carson Street as it entered the city center of Carson City.

This part of the drive took us just under an hour.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_002_06212016 - Trailhead parking for the Kings Canyon Falls
Trailhead parking for the Kings Canyon Falls

Once we were on the main drag through Carson City on Carson Street, we had to keep an eye out for one of the many parallel side streets leaving Carson Street.

We had to choose one that hooked up with W Kings St since W Kings St didn’t hook up directly with Carson Street.

The road we ended up taking was W 5th Street (right at the 395/513 intersection roughly 3 miles north of the Hwy 50 on-ramp).

Once we turned left on W 5th St, we then followed it for three blocks before turning right onto S Division St.

Then we drove another four blocks before turning left onto W King St.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_084_06212016 - The start of the Kings Canyon Falls Trail went up these steps as it immediately ascended from the trailhead parking and bypassed the private property next door
The start of the Kings Canyon Falls Trail went up these steps as it immediately ascended from the trailhead parking and bypassed the private property next door

We then followed W King St for the next 2.5 miles or so as it eventually became Kings Canyon Rd, then it ultimately reached the trailhead right when the pavement started to end.

The drive on W King St and Kings Canyon Rd was an exercise in patience as the speed limit was pretty much 25-35mph the entire way.

Driving from Reno to Kings Canyon Falls

To get to Carson City from Reno, it was about 32 miles on the I-580 (taking just over a half-hour).

We would then leave the freeway and go south on Hwy 395, which became Carson Street.

Just like with the south approach, we had to look for a side street that left Carson St and ultimately hooked up with W King St to the west.

Kings_Canyon_Falls_009_06212016 - Looking back at the trailhead parking for the Kings Canyon Falls
Looking back at the trailhead parking for the Kings Canyon Falls

We were actually forced to make this exit on W Park Street before heading south on N Division St because Carson St was closed for a long stretch through the city center during our visit.

Had it not been closed, we probably would have turned right onto Museum Street before turning left onto N Division St.

Anyways, once N Division St intersected with W King St, we then turned right and followed this street all the way to the trailhead.

Finally, we should note that if we started from further south along the Hwy 395, it was about 130 miles (or about 2.5 hours drive) north of the Mammoth Lakes turnoff to get to Carson City. Mammoth Lakes was about 315 miles (5.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

Comprehensive sweep of the falls trying to take in as much of it as possible

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Tagged with: humboldt, toiyabe, national forest, waterfalls, nevada, carson city, tahoe, nevada, waterfall, desert



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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