Tokopah Falls

Sequoia National Park / Lodgepole, California, USA

About Tokopah Falls


Hiking Distance: 3.4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2002-04-27
Date last visited: 2005-05-27

Waterfall Latitude: 36.60905
Waterfall Longitude: -118.6898

Tokopah Falls (also known as Tokopah Valley Falls) probably has the tallest cumulative drop of the known and accessible waterfalls that we’re aware of in Sequoia National Park.

It’s said to drop some 1,200ft at the head of Tokopah Valley, but the cascade twists and turns as it tumbles its way down into the Marble Fork Kaweah River.

Tokopah_Falls_017_05272005 - Tokopah Falls surrounded by still lots of snow
Tokopah Falls surrounded by still lots of snow

So we never really got to see the whole height of the falls in one shot (if it is indeed as tall as stated).

Watching over the whole scene is the so-called Watchtower – a pointy rock formation across the river on Tokopah Valley.

It prominently showed itself starting at roughly the half-way point of the roughly 3.4-mile round trip out-and-back trail.

We’ve read that this waterfall can dry up in late Summer though each time we’ve come here, it was during Spring.

Tokopah_Falls_034_05272005 - Looking back across some seasonal companion waterfalls towards the Watchtower Formation from the base of Tokopah Falls
Looking back across some seasonal companion waterfalls towards the Watchtower Formation from the base of Tokopah Falls

And for some strange reason, each time we’ve been here, there was enough snow to make the waterfall appear to blend in with the rest of the scenery.

I also had read that it was possible to look down upon this cascade from a different, more strenuous trail to the Watchtower, which leaves from Wolverton.

However, that was something we haven’t tried so we can’t say more on that.

Hiking to Tokopah Falls

From the trailhead (see directions below), we had to cross a sturdy bridge over the Marble Fork Kaweah River.

Tokopah_Falls_001_05272005 - Mom and Dad crossing this bridge over the Marble Fork Kaweah River towards the Tokopah Valley Trail that began on the opposite side of the bridge
Mom and Dad crossing this bridge over the Marble Fork Kaweah River towards the Tokopah Valley Trail that began on the opposite side of the bridge

Then, we continued on the trail immediately to our right just after the bridge, where a sign indicating “Tokopah Valley Trail” helped us identify where to continue.

Next, the trail pretty much meandered in parallel with most of the river.

The hike felt like it was mostly flat as the elevation gained here wasn’t noticeable.

We were always within earshot of the rushing river (which rushes turbulently in the Spring).

Tokopah_Falls_005_05272005 - Looking over the Marble Fork Kaweah River snaking its way through Tokopah Valley as seen along the hike to Tokopah Falls
Looking over the Marble Fork Kaweah River snaking its way through Tokopah Valley as seen along the hike to Tokopah Falls

In some stretches, we were close enough to even see the river do its thing snaking through the valley while also letting intermediate waterfalls or cascades keeping the river turbulent.

About half-way into the hike, we started to notice the Watchtower across the river from various angles, which changed as we continued along the trail.

We also noticed some tall but temporary waterfalls as well, which helped to keep our interest in the scenery throughout the hike.

Also across the river, we noticed other imposing granite formations, which seemed to harbor additional ephemeral waterfalls hidden within their nooks.

Tokopah_Falls_062_05272005 - Spotting some deer grazing alongside the Tokopah Falls Trail
Spotting some deer grazing alongside the Tokopah Falls Trail

We also happened to see some deer during this mostly flat stretch, which further assured us that this part of the ecosystem was more or less healthy and minimally disturbed by man.

Eventually after about 1.5 miles into the hike (after crossing over a pair of creeks), the trail started to get rougher as we traversed a large boulder field and gained most of the overall 500ft elevation change.

It was also during this stretch that we started to get a clean view of Tokopah Falls and its twisting cascade coming down the head of the U-shaped Tokopah Valley.

As we got closer to the end of the trail, less of the uppermost tiers of the waterfall was seen.

Tokopah_Falls_010_05272005 - Approaching Tokopah Falls, which was still surrounded by lots of snow
Approaching Tokopah Falls, which was still surrounded by lots of snow

However, we then got to examine more closely the tumbling cascade’s main “bulbs” (since that was how some of the cascade appeared to us).

We opted not to do any more scrambling beyond trail’s end to go any higher or much lower as the scrambling became trickier and a bit more treacherous with the presence of the fast-moving water.

Also from the very end of the trail, we were able to look downstream where we could see the pointy peak of the Watchtower.

In addition, we spotted more surprise ephemeral waterfalls plunging right across from Tokopah Falls as well as beneath the base of the Watchtower.

Tokopah_Falls_007_scanned_04272002 - This was as much of the Tokopah Falls as we could see from the end of the trail during our first visit here back in April 2002
This was as much of the Tokopah Falls as we could see from the end of the trail during our first visit here back in April 2002

For the purposes of photography, it seemed like this was an ideal afternoon waterfall as the falls faced west.

Anyways, this was our turnaround point, and the rest of the hike back was pretty smooth sailing as it was pretty much all downhill.

Authorities

Tokopah Falls is in Sequoia National Park near Visalia in Fresno County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit the NPS website.

Tokopah_Falls_002_05272005 - My parents going past the trail sign at the very start of the Tokopah Falls Trail during our late May 2005 visit as the path meandered along the Marble Fork Kaweah River
Tokopah_Falls_003_05272005 - Mom and Dad following along the Tokopah Valley Trail en route to the Tokopah Falls, where the Marble Fork Kaweah River rushed alongside this trail during our May 2005 visit
Tokopah_Falls_006_05272005 - An ephemeral waterfall seen across the Tokopah Valley while hiking along the Tokopah Valley Trail to Tokopah Falls in late May 2005
Tokopah_Falls_007_05272005 - Looking up across the Tokopah Valley at another ephemeral waterfall showing itself between an opening in the trees during our Tokopah Falls hike in late May 2005
Tokopah_Falls_009_05272005 - Context of some of the granite formations accompanying the ephemeral waterfalls seen at around the half-way point of the Tokopah Falls hike in late May 2005
Tokopah_Falls_012_05272005 - Context of Tokopah Falls as seen during the approach to it on our hike in late May 2005
Tokopah_Falls_013_05272005 - Mom ducking under overhanging rock as the Tokopah Falls Trail got to the rougher last 1/4-mile on our late May 2005 hike
Tokopah_Falls_019_05272005 - My parents approaching the impressive Tokopah Falls on our hike in late May 2005
Tokopah_Falls_022_05272005 - The parents getting closer to the end of the trail at the base of Tokopah Falls in late May 2005
Tokopah_Falls_024_05272005 - Mom and Dad getting right up to the end of the trail at the base of Tokopah Falls in late May 2005. As we got closer to the falls, the upper tiers started to become more blocked from view
Tokopah_Falls_026_05272005 - More zoomed out contextual look at the Tokopah Falls in late May 2005 with my parents looking small as they looked on from the end of the trail
Tokopah_Falls_036_05272005 - Looking towards another ephemeral waterfall tumbling against the sun below the Watchtower as seen from the base of Tokopah Falls during our late May 2005 visit
Tokopah_Falls_042_05272005 - Mom looking at part of Tokopah Falls from the end of the trail. Note the faint rainbow from the late afternoon sun during our late May 2005 visit.
Tokopah_Falls_054_05272005 - Another look at the twisting cascade of Tokopah Falls from the end of the trail during our late May 2005 visit
Tokopah_Falls_061_05272005 - On the way back to the trailhead from Tokopah Falls, we saw this deer crossing the trail in late May 2005
Tokopah_Falls_065_05272005 - Another ook at the deer grazing nearby the Tokopah Falls Trail as seen during our May 2005 visit
Tokopah_Falls_Kaweah_River_001_04272002 - Bend in the Marble Fork Kaweah River (this was taken on our first trip in April 2002 when the weather was less than ideal and snow was everywhere)
Tokopah_Falls_002_scanned_04272002 - Looking towards one of the intermediate cascades on the Marble Fork Kaweah River as seen on the Tokopah Falls Trail in April 2002
Tokopah_Falls_003_scanned_04272002 - Looking up at the Watchtower through the clouds in April 2002 during our hike to Tokopah Falls
Tokopah_Falls_004_scanned_04272002 - Looking towards what I think was the Watchtower Formation from the Tokopah Valley Trail as seen in April 2002
Tokopah_Falls_Some_Rocks_001_04272002 - Looking across Tokopah Valley towards other interesting granite formations or peaks looming over the Tokopah Falls hike as seen in late April 2002
Tokopah_Falls_005_scanned_04272002 - Distant view of Tokopah Falls in the snow in April 2002. Note how the snow tended to obscure how big this waterfall was since it blended in too much
Tokopah_Falls_006_scanned_04272002 - Looking towards the main bulb of Tokopah Falls as seen during our April 2002 visit
Tokopah_Falls_010_scanned_04272002 - Looking towards the Watchtower shrouded in clouds while standing before Tokopah Falls in April 2002
Tokopah_Falls_011_scanned_04272002 - Last look at Tokopah Falls before heading back (taken in April 2002)

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To get to the Tokopah Falls Trailhead, we first had to get to the Lodgepole Campground turnoff.

This sat right at the heart of the vehicle-accessible part of Sequoia National Park (about 75-90 minutes north of Three Rivers at the south entrance of the park).

Turning into the campground and its large parking lot, we drove about 3/4-mile to the Log Bridge part of Lodgepole Camp.

There was a bridge traversing the Marble Fork Kaweah River here, and the trail started immediately to the right just after crossing the bridge.

For context, Three Rivers is a little over a half-hour drive east of Visalia. Visalia is 3 hours drive north of Los Angeles. Lodgepole is also about 2 hours drive east of Fresno (which itself is 3.5 hours drive north of Los Angeles).

Left to right sweep of the falls under some threatening skies, also showing the Watchtower

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Tagged with: sequoia, lodgepole, fresno county, visalia, tulare, generals, three rivers, sierra, california, waterfall, kaweah river, national park



Visitor Comments:

Correction on Tokopah Falls September 16, 2009 11:34 pm by William H. Haas - The article about Tokopah Falls is incorrect. Tokopah is not on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River as stated in the article. Instead, Tokopah Falls is on the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. The article needs to be corrected. ...Read More

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