California Falls

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

About California Falls

Hiking Distance: 13 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 8-10 hours

Date first visited: 2004-05-30
Date last visited: 2004-06-05

Waterfall Latitude: 37.91603
Waterfall Longitude: -119.44061

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

California Falls is the third major waterfall on the Tuolumne River going from Tuolumne Meadows to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.

This particular waterfall seemed to pertain to a pair of cascades at the bottom of a much longer waterslide that tumbled in profile away from the trail before the river twisted and turned in a direction that became visible to us.

I suppose I could’ve also taken the interpretation that the ensemble of whitewater that began well downstream of Glen Aulin Falls and would continue until the next calm section of the river could also be California Falls. I somehow doubt most people could care less either way.

California_Falls_006_05302004 - California Falls
California Falls

From the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp (to read a trail description of the hike up to that point, see the Tuolumne Falls and White Cascade pages), the hike descended along the last of the cascades beneath the White Cascade.

Then, the trail leveled out and followed along a calm section of the Tuolumne River before the trail veered a little away from the river some more.

Somewhere along this stretch of trail, we noticed a couple of small or seasonal waterfalls on the cliff walls to our right.

However, there was one in particular that flooded the trail we were on. The flood was deep enough to go shin deep in parts so it would’ve most certainly ruined our backpacking boots is we just waded through the flood.

In any case, I called that waterfall “Mattie Falls” because it seemed to drain Lake Mattie (according to our Topo). We did a separate write-up for that waterfall, which is on its own page.

California_Falls_013_05302004 - Looking back at the bottom of California Falls backed by some granite mountains
Looking back at the bottom of California Falls backed by some granite mountains

Beyond the flooded section, the trail (as well as the river) then descended once again. Eventually at the bottom of this descending section, we found a spur trail (probably around 1.5 to 2 miles downstream of Glen Aulin Falls).

That spur trail headed straight for the river and terminated right where the Tuolumne River made a bend and presented to us the pair of cascades pictured at the top of this page.

Back on the Waterwheel Falls Trail, I recalled that the descent briefly calmed down (as did the river), but it wouldn’t last long as the next series of whitewater and cascades would soon be encountered.

See the LeConte Falls page for a more detailed trail description beyond what this page describes.


California Falls resides in Yosemite National Park near Mammoth Lakes in Mono County, California. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit the National Park Service website.

Glen_Aulin_dayhike_012_05302004 - Flooded part of the trail
California_Falls_002_05302004 - Looking at the profile of the top of California Falls as it slid before the granite peaks in the background
California_Falls_003_05302004 - California Falls looking broken at this angle
California_Falls_010_05302004 - Checking out another section of the cascades around California Falls
California_Falls_011_05302004 - Looking downstream towards the calmer part of the Tuolumne River after the California Falls ensemble
California_Falls_015_05302004 - Ed on the trail going downstream from the California Falls towards the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River
California_Falls_016_05302004 - The scenery along the Tuolumne River between California Falls and LeConte Falls
California_Falls_018_05302004 - Looking up some cascades along the Tuolumne River just downstream of California Falls and near LeConte Falls

This waterfall shares the same trail and trailhead as that of Tuolumne Falls, Glen Aulin Falls, LeConte Falls, and Waterwheel Falls. See the Tuolumne Falls or Waterwheel Falls pages for road directions.

To give you some context, this hike is accessible when the Tioga Road has been mostly snow free, which also means we would be able to access the trailhead from Mammoth Lakes (roughly an hours drive; Hwy 120 turnoff from Hwy 395 is just south of Lee Vining). Mammoth Lakes is roughly 5 hours drive from Los Angeles via the Hwy 14 and Hwy 395.

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Tagged with: tuolumne, mariposa county, high country, yosemite, tioga, sierra, california, waterfall, glen aulin, waterwheel, tuolumne meadows

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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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