Ribbon Falls (or Ribbon Fall as some people call it) is that slender waterfall opposite Yosemite Valley from Bridalveil Fall. I get the feeling that it’s for this reason that it’s often overlooked or unnoticed by most visitors, which is a testament to the incredible beauty of this area. I even made the mistake of thinking it was Yosemite Falls on my first trip here with Julie on Memorial Day in 1999. Hey, you gotta learn from your mistakes in order to grow, right? 🙂
At 1612ft, this towering, free-falling waterfall is said to be amongst the highest free-leaping waterfalls in the United States. Not only that, but it’s so easily seen from the road alongside El Capitan from the Southside Drive. So you don’t even have to do much physical work to experience it.
You’d think that with such a gaudy height and accessibility, this waterfall would get a little more attention and love than it currently gets, but in Yosemite National Park, it’s hard for a waterfall to stand out. This is especially the case in Yosemite Valley as there are so many beautiful ones all packed in close proximity to each other!
Further inhibiting its notoriety is that it is a seasonal waterfall. Generally, its snow-fed watershed depletes by mid Summer. However, we’ve seen high snow pack years where it remained flowing pretty deep into late June and even July as well as low snow pack years where it was almost a trickle by June.
We were able to view this waterfall from a distance along the Southside Drive. However, to my knowledge, there is no formal trail leading to its base. Now with that said, I did see a very interesting photo from its base in a once out of print Yosemite book, but I suspect the photographer did some off-trail scrambling and hiking to attain that view.
Finally, we’ve found that this waterfall was best seen between the late morning and early afternoon when the entire drop of the falls would get the benefit of direct sunlight. Shadows tend to split the falls if you come too early and especially later in the Summer afternoons when the sun is even further north on the horizon.
Ribbon Falls sits opposite the mouth of Yosemite Valley from Bridalveil Fall. To get to Yosemite Valley from Los Angeles, we tend to drive north on the I-5, then take the Hwy 99 through Central Valley to Fresno. Then, we follow the Hwy 41 through towns like Coarsegold, Oakhurst, Fish Camp, etc. through the Yosemite South Entrance before continuing along the Hwy 41 all the way to Yosemite Valley. This drive would typically take us in the neighborhood of 6 hours depending on traffic and where in LA we were driving from.
Once in the valley, in our minds, the best spot to view the falls is from the Southside Drive near signpost V14. There are real long pullouts on both sides of the one-way road here so there’s ample space to pull over and walk around to get the most unobstructed view possible. We were also able to photograph both El Capitan and the waterfall together from this spot.
In addition, it’s also possible to see this waterfall from the base of Bridalveil Fall (at the end of the walk leaving the car park at signpost W1 or a slightly longer walk from signpost V14). All you have to do is turn around with your back facing Bridalveil Fall and look across the valley.
Finally, we were also able to see part of the falls from the Valley View Lookout (signpost V11 on the Northside Drive). However, we needed a wide angle lens in order to capture both Bridalveil Fall and Ribbon Falls together in one photograph.
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