Marble Falls actually consists of several cascades both upstream and downstream from the main falls itself. I suspect the waterfall got its name because it seemed to be in the presence of rocks that appear to be made of marble, which was something that we found to be a rather unique feature concerning waterfalls that we’ve seen.
In order to access the main part of this waterfall (shown in the photo at the top of this page), we had to partake in a tiring and sun-exposed 7.4-mile round trip hike (though Ann Marie Brown has it at 7 miles) with 1500ft elevation gain. Given the relatively low elevation of this hike, I recalled that it was very hot during the Memorial Day weekend that we did it so I could only imagine just how much of scorcher it would be in the Summer. Yet at the same time, it might be a good early-season waterfall in the Winter when the rest of Sequoia National Park would be under snow.
So with that said, we were wise to get an early start so we could at least take advantage of the morning shadows from the low angle profile of the sun. Then, when we would be done with most of the uphill climbing, the remainder of the hike (which would surely be under the hot sun) would at least be more bearable, and the downhill return hike would at least be not as much of a physically taxing (and potentially dangerous) exercise.The trail began at the Potwisha Campground (see directions below) next to campsite #16. It started off by following what looked to be a little canal (with some contraptions possibly for small scale hydroelectricity) before veering up the hill and starting to ascend up some switchbacks. This would be the start of what felt like a non-stop uphill hike.
The trail up was a bit narrow and overgrown in many parts during our visit in 2005, and so the presence of ticks using the overgrown foliage as launching points for warm bodies to suck blood from was definitely something to watch out for. I happened to get bit by one later on in the trip (see trip report below) and I wasn’t sure if it came from this trail or not.
Throughout the hike, the canyon was always to our left dropping off steeply and sometimes revealing the raging Marble Fork Kaweah River though it would usually remain visibly concealed amongst the thick foliage blanketing the canyon. Yet even when the river was not always visible from the trail, it always seemed to be within earshot though.
Eventually after about 90-120 minutes or so on the relentlessly uphill hike, we’d eventually reach the apex of the elevation gain. That was when we started to see in the distance where the river dropped steeply revealing powerful cascades that we suspected were the Marble Falls themselves. From here, the trail descended and got closer to those falls, and by the time we got to a part where we were next to the Marble Fork Kaweah River, we were only able to see bits and pieces of the rushing river. The trail ended next to a roughly 30-40ft rushing waterfall (though it might possibly be shorter than that) where we showed up just in time to see rainbows in its mist.
Further progress to see additional cascades was not possible given the state of the river, though I have heard that under less turbulent conditions, people have been able to continue along the river. Then again, people have died here attempting to proceed further perhaps underestimating the underlying danger of the slick and turbulent conditions when the river would run too high. So I’d imagine that continuing on would only be possible when the water levels would be low in late Summer, but I have to believe you’d still want to watch out for the slippery granite and marble terrain as well as the possibility of flash floods from mountain thunderstorms.
Indeed, it was a lot of work just to get to this point of the hike, but the flip side was that it was all downhill on the way back to the trailhead. Furthermore, we pretty much had this entire trail to ourselves (I recalled seeing one or two other couples). To say that we had a waterfall trail almost completely to ourselves on a Memorial Day weekend was no small feat to say the least!
The Potwisha Campground is about an hour drive (18 miles) south of the Lodgepole Visitor Center in Sequoia National Park along the twisty Generals Highway. Going in the other direction, the Potwisha Campground is roughly 30 minutes drive (10 miles) northeast of Three Rivers. Coming from Lodgepole, we were able to access the campground just one stop southwest of Hospital Rock. Heading in the other direction, it’s just under 4 miles east of the Ash Mountain Entrance Station at the southern end of Sequoia National Park closer to Three Rivers.
Even though the Potwisha Campground turnoff will be to your left as you head uphill away from Three Rivers, you’ll probably realize that there’s no parking for day hikers (unless you’ve secured a campground there). So across the Generals Highway from the Potwisha Campground turnoff, there’s spillover parking, which was where we managed to park our car when we last did this hike.
For context, Three Rivers was about 35 miles (40 minutes drive) east of the Hwy 99 and Hwy 198 junction near Visalia and Tulare. Lodgepole was about 79 miles (nearly 2 hours drive) east of Fresno along a combination of Hwy 180 and Hwy 198. Los Angeles was about 188 miles (3 hours drive) from Tulare/Visalia and 219 miles (3.5 hours drive) from Fresno.
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