Lower Falls (of the San Joaquin River)

Devils Postpile National Monument / Ansel Adams Wilderness, California, USA

About Lower Falls (of the San Joaquin River)


Hiking Distance: 3.6 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2001-09-01
Date last visited: 2015-08-02

Waterfall Latitude: 37.59509
Waterfall Longitude: -119.08947

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Lower Falls is the overlooked neighbor to Rainbow Falls near the southern boundary of Devil’s Postpile National Monument.

Both times I’ve been to this waterfall, it was peaceful and quiet as visitors often don’t even bother taking the effort to continue on to this falls or even know it’s there.

Rainbow_Falls_15_159_08022015 - Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River
Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River

Therefore, it definitely contrasted with the constant traffic from the hordes of visitors found at Rainbow Falls.

In fact, Lower Falls is technicaly not even within the Devils Postpile National Monument boundary.

It’s as if it was treated like a castoff into the the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Nonetheless, I found this waterfall to be a very relaxing experience even though it may not have the eye-candy factor that Rainbow Falls has.

Lower_Falls_006_08192010 - Looking over the brink of Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River towards it plunge pool and beyond
Looking over the brink of Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River towards it plunge pool and beyond

However, like Rainbow Falls, it flowed on the San Joaquin River so its flow was just as reliable as that of its more famous neighbor.

Each time I’ve been to this waterfall, I was either the only person here or there was no more than two or three other people tops.

Thus, I was able to experiment more with photo compositions while also contemplating the scenery as the San Joaquin River continued to meander further downstream.

The Trail to Lower Falls from Rainbow Falls

In order to reach the Lower Falls, I merely had to walk an additional 0.5 miles from Rainbow Falls (thus making the round-trip hiking distance a total of 3.6 miles).

Rainbow_Falls_15_134_08022015 - Traversing through a burn area en route to the Lower Falls from the Rainbow Falls
Traversing through a burn area en route to the Lower Falls from the Rainbow Falls

That said, most of the walk was a continuation of the sun-exposed burn area and it was mostly downhill on the way there.

As a result, I found it to be surprisingly tiring on the way back due to its upside-down nature coupled with the high altitude and the prevalence of fine dust particles from the sandy trail.

Such fine particles could easily get into the lungs and make it even harder to breathe over time.

In addition to views of the 30ft falls from its top, I was able to take a fairly straightforward but steep scrambling path to the bank of the Lower Falls’ plunge pool.

Rainbow_Falls_15_141_08022015 - The steep and narrow path leading to the base of Lower Falls
The steep and narrow path leading to the base of Lower Falls

On one visit in late August 2010, there were still mosquitoes, which probably illustrated how unusually high the flow was that late into the Summer.

Contrasting that with my first visit back in September 2001 as well as August 2015, I found there were no mosquitoes and that allowed for a few people to be chillin’ at both the top and bottom of the falls.

I even noticed an angler trying his luck at the base of the falls during my first visit here back in September 2001.

Authorities

While Lower Falls resides in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, the common trailhead starts in the Devils Postpile National Monument near the Mammoth Lakes area in Inyo County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the national monument as well as current conditions, visit the website or Facebook page.

Rainbow_Falls_15_126_08022015 - The trail beyond Rainbow Falls still meandered through the burn area en route to Lower Falls as seen in August 2015
Rainbow_Falls_15_130_08022015 - Even from down in this very quiet section of trail en route to the Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River, I was able to look back over the burn area towards the bare top of Mammoth Mountain. This photo was taken in August 2015
Rainbow_Falls_15_163_08022015 - Looking back up at the steep scramble on a sandy and overgrown use-trail to get to the plunge pool before Lower Falls as seen in August 2015
Rainbow_Falls_15_143_08022015 - Looking directly across the plunge pool back at Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River as of our August 2015 visit
Rainbow_Falls_15_160_08022015 - Profile look at the Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River as seen in August 2015
Lower_Falls_002_08192010 - While walking between the Rainbow Falls and Lower Falls in August 2010, this was the extent of the burn area that I had to walk through en route to the Lower Falls
Lower_Falls_015_08192010 - Looking across the profile of Lower Falls as the skies were starting to get dark during our August 2010 visit
Lower_Falls_018_08192010 - Looking downstream towards the mouth of the plunge pool beneath the Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River as seen during our August 2010 visit
Lower_Falls_022_08192010 - View of the Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River towered over by pine trees in August 2010
Lower_Falls_027_08192010 - The uphill walk as we were leaving the Lower Falls and returning to Reds Meadow during our August 2010 visit
Lower_Falls_001_scanned_09012001 - Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River as seen from its base in September 2001

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You can access the Lower Falls by taking the same trail as that of Rainbow Falls.

So see the Rainbow Falls page for directions regarding the drive from Mammoth Lakes as well as some context of our drive from Los Angeles.

Checking out the plunge pool and waterfall from an outcrop before scrambling down to the plunge pool itself to examine the waterfall from the bottom


Top down sweep of the falls then sweeps to left ending with a look downstream in high flow in August 2010

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Tagged with: devils postpile, mammoth, mono, fresno county, inyo, sierra, california, eastern sierra, waterfall, san joaquin, john muir, reds meadow



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