"Shadow Falls"

Inyo National Forest, California, USA

About “Shadow Falls”

Hiking Distance: 6 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2010-08-20
Date last visited: 2010-08-20

Waterfall Latitude: 37.69611
Waterfall Longitude: -119.11072

Find Nearby Accommodation



“Shadow Falls” is a name I’ve made up for this surprise cascade that I happened to see during a hike out to the scenic Shadow Lake. As a matter of fact, this waterfall drains Shadow Lake as it ultimately tumbles mostly unseen down a mini-granite gorge eventually joining the San Joaquin River. I think of this waterfall as more of a side attraction to Shadow Lake, which is a very attractive lake backed by Mt Ritter and a few other mountains whose names I don’t remember. The water in the lake seemed to change color from a deep emerald blue towards some slight shades of green around its banks as the sun went higher on the horizon the morning we showed up in late August 2010.

The hike itself was not trivial as we had to go about 3 miles from the Agnew Meadow trailhead (I believe Thousand Island Lake backpackers start from here as well, which explained why there were so many cars at the trailhead) with a slight decline towards a basin or valley before making the steep climb up to the lake on the other side of that basin.

The most visible part of the cascade was about 2/3rd of the way up a series of switchbacks as the trail made a steep climb towards the mouth of Shadow Lake. So if you’ve made it far enough to see the interesting cascade, you mind as well get all the way to the top to see Shadow Lake. Beyond Shadow Lake, I was told that this was the trail one would take to get all the way up to the very scenic Thousand Island Lakes. I had seen photos and heard many stories about that place, but I have yet to make it all the way up there.

We’ve seen lots of backpackers or very fit hikers continue beyond Shadow Lake, but this provided good enough exercise for a lake excursion done as a day hike (there aren’t many you can do comfortably without backcountry backpacking). In any case, it did seem like this was either a detour or part of the overall route to the very beautiful Thousand Island Lakes. So hopefully one of these days, a visit there could be made so I can finally see what the commotion is about.

Shadow_Lake_004_08202010 - Early birds tend to get bonus wildlife sightings like this one
Shadow_Lake_007_08202010 - Approaching the basin within the cool shadow of early morning
Shadow_Lake_014_08202010 - Olaine Lake
Shadow_Lake_018_08202010 - Crossing the valley
Shadow_Lake_026_08202010 - Fighting through the shadows for this brighter look at the Shadow Falls at the expense of washing out the rest of the photo
Shadow_Lake_035_08202010 - The trail ultimately reaches the top of Shadow Falls up ahead
Shadow_Lake_042_08202010 - Looking down towards the bottom of the hidden cascade and the valley below
Shadow_Lake_049_08202010 - Continuing beyond the top of the falls towards the mouth of Shadow Lake
Shadow_Lake_072_08202010 - Some shades of green starting to show up as the sun continued to rise
Shadow_Lake_078_08202010 - Starting the hike back to the trailhead
Shadow_Lake_079_08202010 - Descending from Shadow Lake still


From the intersection of Main St, Minaret Rd, and Lake Mary Rd (there’s a traffic light) in Mammoth Lakes Village, turn right to remain on Minaret Road (Hwy 203) and drive for about 15-20 minutes to the Mammoth Summit Ski Area. Here’s where you pick up the mandatory shuttle ($7 per person; National Parks Pass not accepted).

If you happen to show up before 7am or after 7:30pm, continue driving 2.6 miles beyond the entrance booth along Minaret Rd until you see the turnoff for Agnew Meadows (about 0.6 miles on unsealed road from the paved Minaret Road).

For context, Mammoth Lakes was about 309 miles (5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

Top down sweep of the falls ending downstream towards San Joaquin Basin

Semi-circular sweep from right to left of the uppermost portion of the cascade and ending towards some knobs and peaks in the background

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Tagged with: inyo, national forest, mammoth, 395, owens valley, eastern sierra, reds meadow, thousand island lakes, minarets, devils postpile, shadow lake, california, sierra, waterfall, agnew meadow

Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page

Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall

Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls