Chilnualna Falls

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

About Chilnualna Falls


Hiking Distance: 8.5 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 5-6 hours

Date first visited: 2003-05-10
Date last visited: 2017-06-17

Waterfall Latitude: 37.56492
Waterfall Longitude: -119.61317

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Chilnualna Falls was one of those waterfall experiences that surpassed whatever expectations we may have had going into the hike.

Given how little attention the southern section of Yosemite National Park tended to receive, from what we’ve observed, I have to believe that this waterfall excursion would also surprise those who bother with lingering around here and not hastily passing through.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_256_06172017 - The uppermost of the Chilnualna Falls
The uppermost of the Chilnualna Falls

One of the surprising aspects about this falls was that we’re actually talking about at least five significant waterfalls (possibly six if you count one that wasn’t on Chilnualna Creek)!

It was really a whole system of cascades and waterfalls that could very well be the “longest” waterfall in Yosemite National Park.

That said, the many cascades on the Tuolumne River towards Waterwheel Falls could also make such a claim.

In any case, each waterfall exhibited its own shape, character, and “personality” (for lack of a better word).

Chilnualna_Falls_17_331_06172017 - The largest of the Chilnualna Falls
The largest of the Chilnualna Falls

The largest one of the lot (pictured above) was said to be on the order of 240ft tall, while the uppermost one (the top picture on this page) was said to be around 150-180ft in cumulative height.

Indeed, you could make the argument that each waterfall could have stood out on its own instead of this large ensemble in a singular excursion.

Personally, I think these falls are the primary attraction of Southern Yosemite (though I’m sure others beg to differ, especially regarding the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees).

Generally, I’ve found the chilnualna Falls to be a very worthwhile way to spend a half day or a relaxing full day to cool off, especially on a warm Summer day when Yosemite Valley would tend to be a bit on the crowded and not-so-relaxing side.

The Chilnualna Falls Hike

Chilnualna_Falls_17_377_06172017 - The first Chilnualna Creek waterfall
The first Chilnualna Creek waterfall

The overall hike taking in the Chilnualna Falls gains 2,400ft over at least 4.2 miles (said to be 8.5 miles round trip).

Fortunately, it passes by several waterfalls culminating in a dramatic six-tiered cascade.

Starting at 4,200ft, we were generally able to complete the well-developed, steadily climbing trail in around 5-7 hours.

So given the rather lengthy nature of this hike, I’d recommend bringing plenty of water and a picnic lunch as well as some snacks to hold yourself over for this hike.

Chilnualna Falls Trail Description – the first waterfall

Chilnualna_Falls_17_006_06172017 - Mom at a fork in the early part of the Chilnualna Falls Trail trying to figure out which one to take (you're supposed to go left then immediately to to the right on a foot trail that leaves the pavement)
Mom at a fork in the early part of the Chilnualna Falls Trail trying to figure out which one to take (you’re supposed to go left then immediately to to the right on a foot trail that leaves the pavement)

From the trailhead (see directions below), we had to walk back towards the Chilnualna Falls Road then head to our right and follow the road until it forked.

We had to follow the signs and take the left fork as the right fork continued descending towards a bridge over Chilnualna Creek.

Almost immediately after going up the fork on the left, another sign had us take a foot trail on the right.

The continuation of the paved road on the left was the stock trail (if you happened to go up to the falls on horseback).

Chilnualna_Falls_17_037_06172017 - Context of Mom hiking up alongside the first of the Chilnualna Falls
Context of Mom hiking up alongside the first of the Chilnualna Falls

After getting onto the foot trail, we walked for roughly 10 minutes (or about a quarter-mile) before the trail started climbing and the rush of Chilnualna Creek became louder.

Before the ascent really climbed in earnest, we were treated to our first surprise – a waterfall!

This was something we didn’t expect to see so early in the hike so it already put us in the waterfalling mood right off the bat.

This waterfall fell in multiple tiers, but the most picturesque tier was a gushing 30 or 40-footer.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_373_06172017 - Looking back along the narrow trail ascending alongside the first of the Chilnualna Falls (as seen later in the day)
Looking back along the narrow trail ascending alongside the first of the Chilnualna Falls (as seen later in the day)

Due to the presence of trees and obstructing rocks, it was hard to get an all-encompassing view of all the tiers in this one spot (as we noticed more cascades further upstream).

The scramble to try to get a better view also didn’t seem like an attractive option so we were pretty content with the immediate trailside view.

I could totally see how later on a hot day, the spray from this falls would be very refreshing to offset the heat.

Next, we had to climb steeply up some granite steps and narrow ledges before this trail made a switchback then joined up with a wider stock trail (the one we chose not to take earlier).

Chilnualna_Falls_17_042_06172017 - Context of Mom continuing the steep climb beyond the first of the Chilnualna Falls and eventually rejoining the stock trail
Context of Mom continuing the steep climb beyond the first of the Chilnualna Falls and eventually rejoining the stock trail

We kept right at this signposted junction and continued up the persistent climb.

Fortunately, there was enough shade to keep us cool thanks to the forest cover as well as the morning shadows (we always tended to start this hike early).

Chilnualna Falls Trail Description – the hardest part of the hike

At about 0.4 miles from the signed junction with the stock trail, the path continued past our first fleeting glimpses of Wawona Dome and Chilnualna Creek in the distance.

The trail then followed alongside Chilnualna Creek itself.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_050_06172017 - Context of Mom on the Chilnualna Falls Trail with the Wawona Dome visible in the distance
Context of Mom on the Chilnualna Falls Trail with the Wawona Dome visible in the distance

During this section that went somewhat alongside Chilnualna Creek for about 3/4 of a mile, we spotted some cascades within Chilnualna Creek itself.

The most significant of these cascades appeared to have a small but gushing 5-10ft drop before continuing over a wider turtleback slide.

We used to ignore these cascades thinking they were nothing more than rapids.

However, on a visit in 2017, we simply couldn’t ignore the most significant of the cascades here, and thus we’ll designate this as the second Chilnualna Falls.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_071_06172017 - The second Chilnualna Falls on Chilnualna Creek
The second Chilnualna Falls on Chilnualna Creek

The significance of this falls was that it had a few spur trails leading closer to the banks of Chilnualna Creek around the falls itself.

Again, on a hot Summer day, this would be yet another spot to take a break and possibly cool off in the calmer parts of the creek.

We realized that taking a quick break at the “second Chilnualna Falls” might be one of the wisest things to do because the next stretch of the trail consisted of its long and nearly uninterrupted ascent.

In fact, there wouldn’t be the next waterfall in sight until about 1.7 miles beyond the second Chilnualna Falls (or 1.5 miles beyond where the trail started veering away from Chilnualna Creek and into a large patch of low-lying shrubs).

Chilnualna_Falls_17_355_06172017 - Looking back at part of the section where the Chilnualna Falls Trail went through a large patch of low-lying shrubs with lots of wildflowers growing on them
Looking back at part of the section where the Chilnualna Falls Trail went through a large patch of low-lying shrubs with lots of wildflowers growing on them

It would take us about 75-90 minutes to get from the second Chilnualna Falls to the third Chilnualna Falls along this most challenging stretch of the hike.

During this long climbing stretch, we spotted many wildflowers blooming in the low-lying shrubs flanking the trail.

Then, the trail climbed even more steeply as it ascended above the low-lying shrub patches.

During this climb we started to get our first glimpses of some intermediate cascades and waterfalls barely visible between the trees that were in our line of sight.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_339_06172017 - Mom ascending a long series of switchbacks with teasing glimpses of waterfalls on Chilnualna Creek seen between the trees during this ascent
Mom ascending a long series of switchbacks with teasing glimpses of waterfalls on Chilnualna Creek seen between the trees during this ascent

However, we also started to look towards the top of the cliffs up ahead, where we also started to get our first glimpses of a very big waterfall throwing up lots of mist while also giving us the sense that the end of this brutal stretch was not much further.

After a handful of more switchbacks (roughly 8 of them according to what I’m seeing in our GPS logs), that was when we finally arrived at the base of what I’m calling the third Chilnualna Falls.

This particular falls was a delicate 15ft cascade that was not on Chilnualna Creek and it appeared to flow only during the snowmelt period.

Even though we decided to call this waterfall #3, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you think this one was legitimate or not.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_324_06172017 - The refreshing third waterfall though this was not on Chilnualna Creek
The refreshing third waterfall though this was not on Chilnualna Creek

Nevertheless, the area around this falls was noticeably cooler and it gave us an opportunity to gather ourselves to continue the uphill hiking towards the next Chilnualna Falls.

Further conspiring to make us linger here for a bit longer, there was also perhaps our cleanest (albeit distant) view of the next Chilnualna Falls from this spot.

Any time from mid-day to early afternoon would be the times when the scenery here would benefit most of good backlighting (as opposed to looking against the sun earlier in the morning).

Chilnualna Falls Trail Description – ascending to the remaining waterfalls

Continuing beyond the third Chilnualna Falls, the trail ascended up another five or so unevenly-spaced switchbacks.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_330_06172017 - Zoomed in distant view of the largest of the Chilnualna Falls
Zoomed in distant view of the largest of the Chilnualna Falls

Ultimately, the trail surface became more granite and less dirt with forest cover.

Towards the apex of this climb, we were able to look downslope towards the community of Wawona way down below.

And by about 0.6 miles from the third Chilnualna Falls, we then found ourselves at the very brink of the fourth Chilnualna Falls.

It turned out that this drop of Chilnualna Creek was the most impressive of the lot as it slid nearly around 210-240ft.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_178_06172017 - Mom continuing the long ascent towards the brink of the largest of the Chilnualna Falls
Mom continuing the long ascent towards the brink of the largest of the Chilnualna Falls

There were also more cascades and waterfalls further downstream though they were always hard to spot or photograph given the thick vegetation that stood in the line of sight of those sections of the creek.

Unfortunately, there was no way to better experience this waterfall since we could only look down into part of the falls without getting too dangerously close to the granite edges.

The only frontal views that could be safely attainable was further back at the third Chilnualna Falls.

I really wished that a metal bridge was built above the Chilnualna Creek further upstream from the falls.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_209_06172017 - Looking over the brink of the fourth Chilnualna Falls with a rainbow appearing in its mist
Looking over the brink of the fourth Chilnualna Falls with a rainbow appearing in its mist

It would have been like what they did with Nevada Falls) so it would be possible to get to the other side.

Then, that would have made it possible to reach the more open areas and both look down into the powerful profile of this waterfall as well as possibly get a more frontal look from the cliffs opposite the falls.

This was the primary reason why we gave this falls a scenic rating a 3.5 instead of a 4.

Anyways, just a short distance upstream from the fourth waterfall was the fifth waterfall.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_221_06172017 - Sideways view of the fifth Chilnualna Falls as seen from the trail just as it was about to switchback away from Chilnualna Creek
Sideways view of the fifth Chilnualna Falls as seen from the trail just as it was about to switchback away from Chilnualna Creek

This waterfall appeared to drop roughly 40-50ft or so (there were also some cascades just upstream of its main drop).

This one was a little more accessible in that we could get a partial frontal view of it.

However, in order to get a clean look, it would require some scrambling where extreme care was necessary.

A slip and fall into Chilnualna Creek here would most certainly mean sure death when being swept over that fourth Chilnualna Falls just downstream.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_224_06172017 - Mom climbing more switchbacks above the fifth of the Chilnualna Falls
Mom climbing more switchbacks above the fifth of the Chilnualna Falls

Given the close proximity of the 4th and 5th falls, we noticed quite a few hikers stopped here to take a short snack break or lunch before continuing further.

We actually did just that on one of the times we partook in this hike back in the 2003-2004 time frame.

The trail would continue climbing in the direction of the fifth Chilnualna Falls before going up a switchback and moving away from Chilnualna Creek.

After climbing up to another switchback, the trail then meandered towards the top of the fifth falls though it wouldn’t be safely visible from up here (at least along the trail and the immediate granite outcrops).

Chilnualna_Falls_17_278_06172017 - Direct view of the sixth and final Chilnualna Falls at the height of a hot Summer's day
Direct view of the sixth and final Chilnualna Falls at the height of a hot Summer’s day

At this point, looking further upstream on Chilnualna Creek was the sixth and final Chilnualna Falls.

Even though the main trail continued towards other destinations (like Deer Camp, Buena Vista Lake, and others), this waterfall was the turnaround point for our pretty long day hike.

Chilnualna Falls Trail Description – getting close to the waterfall

While the distant view of this last waterfall was frontal and impressive, we felt compelled to get off the trail and scramble on the granite to get closer to its base.

Each time we’ve done this hike, Chilnualna Creek had an overflow section that forced us to potentially get our feet wet.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_231_06172017 - Dealing with overflowing sections of Chilnualna Creek en route to the base of the last of the Chilnualna Falls
Dealing with overflowing sections of Chilnualna Creek en route to the base of the last of the Chilnualna Falls

Gore-tex boots are good for this section both to keep the socks dry and for better grip on parts of the slippery-when-wet-granite.

But even with proper equipment, we had to choose our route carefully to avoid injury or a soggy and uncomfortably long 4.2-mile return hike back to the trailhead.

As we scrambled closer to the waterfall, that was when we could see that it consisted of a series of five or six sloping and stair-stepping waterfalls in succession.

I’m sure in lower flow conditions, each of the drops would have its own pothole or plunge pool, but since we’re usually here during high flow, each waterfall tended to blend in with each other.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_243_06172017 - Closer look at the succession of waterfalls making up the last of the Chilnualna Falls
Closer look at the succession of waterfalls making up the last of the Chilnualna Falls

We could best gain this perspective from a granite outcrop peering over the plunge pool of the lowest tier.

However, we were able to scramble even further down towards the plunge pool itself, where we were able to access a calm part of Chilnualna Creek.

That was where we could let our shoes and socks dry off for a bit in the sun while letting our feet cool off in the icy cold water.

There was also sufficient late morning shade from the vegetation here to enjoy a picnic lunch without getting sunburned.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_250_06172017 - Mom scoping out a spot to have a seat, an ice cold soak, and a picnic by Chilnualna Falls
Mom scoping out a spot to have a seat, an ice cold soak, and a picnic by Chilnualna Falls

With such a reward for the hard work it took to get up here (it typically would take us at least three to four hours or so to get this far), we had no problems spending nearly an hour here to relax.

Once we had our fill of one of Yosemite’s unheralded gems, we then went back the way we came.

The nice thing about the return hike was that it was pretty much all downhill, and we got to experience each of the Chilnualna Falls once again though under different lighting conditions.

While we advocate an early start (especially to make the uphill hiking more bearable as it would take place under cooler morning temperatures), there were still plenty of people getting late morning to early afternoon starts.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_286_06172017 - Context of Mom returning from the last of the Chilnualna Falls and making the long descent back to the trailhead
Context of Mom returning from the last of the Chilnualna Falls and making the long descent back to the trailhead

To further extend this excursion and include another big waterfall, we could’ve hiked trails that would join up with the Alder Creek Trail and make a much longer loop hike out of it.

That would make the round trip hiking distance more on the order of 13 or more miles, but we were content with the Chilnualna Falls experience.

Besides, we knew that there was a separate trailhead and trail to take us to the Alder Creek Falls itself so it wasn’t necessary to extend an already long hike to begin with.

Authorities

Chilnualna Falls resides in Yosemite National Park near Oakhurst in Mariposa County and Fresno County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_004_06172017 - The Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking, where even in the early morning of this visit in June 2017, there were already quite a few cars. This photo and the next several shots were taken on this day
Chilnualna_Falls_17_009_06172017 - Mom approaching the first of the Chilnualna Falls, where you can kind of see how high up it went through the trees in this shot
Chilnualna_Falls_17_012_06172017 - This was the bridge over Chilnualna Creek at the bottom of the road. We had to backtrack at this point though there was an informal trail that probably led up to the first Chilnualna Falls from here as well
Chilnualna_Falls_17_013_06172017 - After backtracking to the road fork, we then followed the signs to leave the road (and the stock trail) to head right on the foot traffic only trail en route to the Chilnualna Falls
Chilnualna_Falls_17_014_06172017 - Now Mom was on the correct trail for the Chilnualna Falls as she approached the first waterfall during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_016_06172017 - The foot traffic only trail ascended narrow ledges like this. So no wonder why they prohibited stock (i.e. horses and mules) from using this part of the Chilnualna Falls Trail
Chilnualna_Falls_17_018_06172017 - Barely 10-15 minutes into our hike, we started to see attractive and gushing cascades on Chilnualna Creek
Chilnualna_Falls_17_031_06172017 - Looking across the first of the Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_032_06172017 - Context of another hiker continuing to climb past the first of the Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_035_06172017 - Looking down at the first Chilnualna Falls from the trail on our June 2017 visit
Chilnualna_Falls_17_040_06172017 - There were still more waterfalls further upstream from the first Chilnualna Falls, but getting closer to those would require risky and unsanctioned scrambling
Chilnualna_Falls_17_045_06172017 - Mom on the steep trail climbing well beyond the first of the Chilnualna Falls and heading towards the reunion with the stock trail during the early morning of our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_046_06172017 - This was the signposted reunion with the stock trail. According to the signs, it was still 4.1 miles to get from here to Chilnualna Falls
Chilnualna_Falls_17_048_06172017 - Even on the wider trail, the hike to Chilnualna Falls was still uphill during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_058_06172017 - Further up the Chilnualna Falls Trail, we started to get our first glimpses of the Wawona Dome during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_060_06172017 - On quiet trails like this one (especially early in the morning), there's no telling what you might find.  This was a 'baby' rattlesnake slithering away from the Chilnualna Falls Trail during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_062_06172017 - Mom now entering a somewhat flatter part of the Chilnualna Falls Trail in a forested setting during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_065_06172017 - Mom passing by some lower shrubs during the Chilnualna Falls hike during the morning of our June 2017 visit
Chilnualna_Falls_17_066_06172017 - Some hints of purple wildflowers blooming alongside the Chilnualna Falls Trail during the morning of our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_067_06172017 - The trail eventually got close to Chilnualna Creek again after about 0.4 miles beyond the stock trail reunion during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_076_06172017 - This was the attractive upper drop of the second Chilnualna Falls that we saw on Chilnualna Creek during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_078_06172017 - Mom taking a brief break to check out the second Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_089_06172017 - After the trail veered away from Chilnualna Creek again, we had to pass through a large patch of low-lying shrubs with wildflowers growing on them. This was the start of a pretty long stretch without seeing a waterfall during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_092_06172017 - Given that this stretch of the Chilnualna Falls Trail was more of an uphill forest walk, it was good that our early start in June 2017 allowed us to not have to bake in the sun in this less featured part of the hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_093_06172017 - Here's a closer look at some of the wildflowers found in the low-lying shrub patches alongside the Chilnualna Falls Trail. However, the mosquitos were pretty bad here when this photo was taken in June 2017
Chilnualna_Falls_17_096_06172017 - Looking back at the Chilnualna Falls Trail as the morning sun was starting to breach the Wawona Dome on our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_101_06172017 - Looking towards Wawona Dome just as the sun had risen above the cliffs and the temperatures were also starting to climb during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_104_06172017 - Looking towards a very miniscule ephemeral waterfall on our June 2017 hike to Chilnualna Falls, but I don't think this one counts
Chilnualna_Falls_17_107_06172017 - The ascending Chilnualna Falls Trail switched between granite sections like this and conventional forested sections on dirt
Chilnualna_Falls_17_116_06172017 - Mom ascending one of the switchbacks so this section of the Chilnualna Falls Trail actually got good backlighting from the morning sun
Chilnualna_Falls_17_122_06172017 - Lots of trees providing shade along the Chilnualna Falls Trail, but it also meant it was hard to get a clean look at some other waterfalls on Chilnualna Creek that never really presented themselves cleanly from the trail
Chilnualna_Falls_17_125_06172017 - Starting to get our first distant glimpses of the third major waterfall of Chilnualna Creek in the early morning of our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_132_06172017 - After nearly 90 minutes of uphill hiking without Chilnualna Creek anywhere nearby, we finally made it to the third Chilnualna Falls in our June 2017 visit
Chilnualna_Falls_17_130_06172017 - This was the third of the Chilnualna Falls that we encountered, but this one wasn't on Chilnualna Creek. This was what it looked like in June 2017
Chilnualna_Falls_17_142_06172017 - Angled look back at the third of the Chilnualna Falls as the morning sun started to breach this waterfall during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_145_06172017 - Mom continuing with the June 2017 hike as the trail continued climbing towards the fourth Chilnualna Falls
Chilnualna_Falls_17_150_06172017 - Mom resuming with the Chilnualna Falls Trail as it continued climbing through a brief forested stretch where we got back some shade in our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_153_06172017 - The Chilnualna Falls hike continued to climb relentlessly in this most difficult part of our June 2017 experience
Chilnualna_Falls_17_159_06172017 - Climbing high enough on the Chilnualna Falls Trail that we started to go up granite steps
Chilnualna_Falls_17_167_06172017 - Mom continuing to ascend the granite part of the Chilnualna Falls Trail as we approached the brink of the fourth Chilnualna Falls (third one on Chilnualna Creek) during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_184_06172017 - Early morning rainbow in the mist of the fourth Chilnualna Falls (third one we saw on Chilnualna Creek) as we looked down in the direction of Wawona during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_198_06172017 - Looking towards a double rainbow wafting up in the mist of the largest of the Chilnualna Falls on our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_216_06172017 - Context of Mom continuing with the Chilnualna Falls hike as we quickly encountered the next of the waterfalls (the fifth one or the fourth on Chilnualna Creek that we saw on our June 2017 hike)
Chilnualna_Falls_17_223_06172017 - Mom now climbing another small set of switchbacks to get above the fifth Chilnualna Falls (or fourth one on Chilnualna Creek) during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_225_06172017 - Mom continuing on the uphill Chilnualna Falls Trail as we were going past the top of the fifth waterfall and getting closer to the last one on our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_229_06172017 - Looking towards the brink of the fourth Chilnualna Falls from around the top of the fifth Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_228_06172017 - Our first glimpse of the last of the Chilnualna Falls from the trail during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_233_06172017 - Scrambling to get a closer look at that last of the Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 visit
Chilnualna_Falls_17_239_06172017 - Contecxt of Mom scrambling around in search of a decent path to get up to the last of the Chilnualna Falls in June 2017
Chilnualna_Falls_17_266_06172017 - Looking back at the overflow that had wet the slippery granite on the way to get closer to the last of the Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_246_06172017 - Mom checking out the last of the Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_252_06172017 - This was as close as Mom would get to the last of the Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_259_06172017 - Mom starting the hike back down to the Chilnualna Falls trailhead after getting her fill of the last of the waterfalls during our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_263_06172017 - Last look back at the last of the Chilnualna Falls before we headed down for good on our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_293_06172017 - As we were headed back down towards the trailhead, we got to experience each of the Chilnualna Falls once again on our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_17_298_06172017 - Looking over the brink of the highest of the Chilnualna Falls, which was now yielding a double rainbow on our return hike in June 2017
Chilnualna_Falls_17_316_06172017 - Context of Mom descending the granite ledges as we were going past the fourth Chilnualna Falls in June 2017
Chilnualna_Falls_17_327_06172017 - Back at the third Chilnualna Falls' lower cascades with a distant look back up at the fourth and largest of the Chilnualna Falls during our descent back to the trailhead in June 2017
Chilnualna_Falls_17_341_06172017 - During the hike back to the Chilnualna Falls Trailhead, we started to notice other tiers of Chilnualna Creek that we hadn't noticed on the way up during our June 2017 visit
Chilnualna_Falls_17_348_06172017 - Looking up at some hidden tiers of waterfalls on Chilnualna Creek way up the canyon wall. This photo was taken on the return hike in June 2017 when we weren't looking against the morning sun
Chilnualna_Falls_17_350_06172017 - Mom making it back towards the Wawona Dome part of the Chilnualna Falls hike in June 2017
Chilnualna_Falls_17_353_06172017 - Mom continuing the long downhill hike to the Chilnualna Falls Trailhead. Good thing we had gotten an early start because now there was hardly any shade and it was hot in June 2017.  It would have been brutal to be going uphill here at this time
Chilnualna_Falls_17_363_06172017 - Looking down towards Wawona and the surrounding forest on our return hike in June 2017. I couldn't help but notice how many brown trees (dead from bark beetles), which are likely to become tinder for the next big forest fire and likely an unintended effect from man-made Climate Change
Chilnualna_Falls_17_365_06172017 - Making it back towards the rejoining of the stock trail and the foot trail that was well above the first of the Chilnualna Falls during our June 2017 visit
Chilnualna_Falls_17_370_06172017 - Mom carefully descending the narrow trail as we returned to the first Chilnualna Falls to cool off in June 2017
Chilnualna_Falls_17_387_06172017 - Mom finally making it back to the Chilnualna Falls Trailhead parking lot thereby ending our June 2017 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_002_05202004 - Partial look across the first of the Chilnualna Falls during our second visit here in May 2004. This photo and the next several ones were taken from this hike
Chilnualna_Falls_006_05202004 - More familiar look at the first of the Chilnualna Falls during our May 2004 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_011_05202004 - Distant morning shot towards the Wawona Dome on our May 2004 hike to Chilnualna Falls
Chilnualna_Falls_015_05202004 - Looking way in the distance towards the biggest of the Chilnualna Falls on our May 2004 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_017_05202004 - This was the 'second' Chilnualna Falls that we encountered, which wasn't on Chilnualna Creek in May 2004. As you can see, it didn't do so well on this day, and we also didn't stop for the 'second' Chilnualna Falls on Chilnualna Creek back then, which was why we called this one the 'second' one instead
Chilnualna_Falls_019_05202004 - The parents on the trail beyond the '2nd Chilnualna Waterfall' during our May 2004 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_029_05202004 - This was probably the most satisfying look at the largest of the Chilnualna Falls that we were going to get on our May 2004 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_031_05202004 - Looking over the lip of the fourth Chilnualna Falls in May 2004. Too bad we couldn't get a cleaner view of this waterfall from the other side of Chilnualna Creek
Chilnualna_Falls_036_05202004 - Looking upstream towards the 'fourth Chilnualna Falls' in May 2004
Chilnualna_Falls_049_05202004 - Side view of the 'fourth Chilnualna Falls' in May 2004
Chilnualna_Falls_050_05202004 - Context view towards the last of the Chilnualna Falls in May 2004
Chilnualna_Falls_052_05202004 - Approaching the last Chilnualna waterfall in May 2004
Chilnualna_Falls_059_05202004 - Climbing towards the last of the Chilnualna Falls in May 2004
Chilnualna_Falls_074_05202004 - Finally at the last of the Chilnualna Falls in moderate flow. This photo was taken back in May 2004
Chilnualna_Falls_075_05202004 - Last look back at the last of the Chilnualna Falls before heading back to the trailhead during our May 2004 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_078_05202004 - Looking through the trees towards some waterfall on Chilnualna Creek way up the canyon wall that we hadn't noticed on the way up during our May 2004 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_088_05202004 - Back at the first of the Chilnualna Falls near the end of our May 2004 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_002_05102003 - The first of the Chilnualna Falls as seen during our May 2003 hike, which was our very first time doing this excursion. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery came from that hike
Chilnualna_Falls_011_05102003 - Looking through the trees towards some other Chilnualna Creek waterfall during our visit in May 2003
Chilnualna_Falls_023_05102003 - Distant view of the big waterfall on Chilnualna Creek that I'm calling waterfall #3 during our May 2003 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_024_05102003 - Zoomed in look at the largest of the Chilnualna Falls as seen during our May 2003 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_035_05102003 - The 'second Chilnualna Falls' seen during our May 2003 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_038_05102003 - Looking towards a snow-crusted Wawona Dome on our May 2003 hike. This was seen from the mouth of the 'second Chilnualna Falls'
Chilnualna_Falls_041_05102003 - Closer look at the 'third Chilnualna Falls' during our May 2003 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_044_05102003 - My Dad on the stretch of trail leading up to the top of the third Chilnualna Falls but having to contend with snow on that May 2003 visit
Chilnualna_Falls_052_05102003 - Looking towards the top of the 'third Chilnualna Falls' during our May 2003 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_053_05102003 - Approaching the 'fourth Chilnualna Falls' on our May 2003 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_077_05102003 - Looking towards the last of the Chilnualna Falls on our May 2003 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_083_05102003 - Back at the 'second Chilnualna Falls' on our May 2003 hike
Chilnualna_Falls_086_05102003 - Another look at the Wawona Dome on our return hike from the Chilnualna Falls in May 2003

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Chilnualna Falls is near the community of Wawona in just 4.4 miles from Yosemite National Park’s south entrance along Hwy 41 (21 miles north of Oakhurst).

If you’re coming from Yosemite Valley, head south on Hwy 41 towards Wawona for 21.7 miles (about 45-60 minutes).

Chilnualna_Falls_17_388_06172017 - The parking lot for the Chilnualna Falls Trailhead
The parking lot for the Chilnualna Falls Trailhead

Once you’re at Wawona, look for the Chilnualna Falls Road turnoff just north of the bridge over Chilnualna Creek and south of the entrance to the Wawona Campground.

I recalled that there were Chilnualna Falls signs leading us onto the correct turnoff and road.

Then, we drove east through the quiet hamlet of Wawona until we eventually reached the parking area at the end of the village after 1.7 miles.

After parking our car, we had to walk back towards the Chilnualna Falls Road then head east for a few steps until we found the actual trailhead.

Chilnualna_Falls_17_002_06172017 - Another look at the parking lot for the Chilnualna Falls Trailhead, but facing towards the Chilnualna Falls Road
Another look at the parking lot for the Chilnualna Falls Trailhead, but facing towards the Chilnualna Falls Road

As far getting to Wawona from Los Angeles, we’d drive north on a combination of the I-5 and Hwy 99 to Fresno.

Then, we’d hop on the Hwy 41 and take it for about 66 miles (90 minutes drive) to the small hamlet of Wawona within the park.

Checking out all the various aspects of the 1st Chilnualna Falls at the height of a hot day


Right to left sweep of the 2nd falls before repositioning myself for another sweep showing the same pair of tiers on Chilnualna Creek


Checking out the 4th falls from the front of the 3rd falls then checking out all the different angles of that 3rd falls before walking to an even cleaner view of the 4th falls


Back and forth right to left then left to right sweep from the top of the 4th falls while also revealing distant look at the 5th falls as well as bright rainbow in mist of the 4th falls


Very long movie starting with the 5th falls then walking over to the top of the 4th falls before seeing the 5th falls from a distance


Right to left sweep of Chilnualna Creek leading up to the final Chilnualna Falls from near the final spot we had hiked to


Looking around from the 2nd or 3rd waterfall (depends on how you look at it); it's the one that doesn't flow on Chilnualna Creek. It encompasses Wawona Dome and even a slight glimpse of the largest of the Chilnualna Waterfalls

Tagged with: wawona, chilnualna, oakhurst, fish camp, coarsegold, fresno, yosemite, south entrance, sierra, california, waterfall, 41



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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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