Staircase Falls

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

About Staircase Falls

Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2003-05-10
Date last visited: 2011-06-03

Waterfall Latitude: 37.73393
Waterfall Longitude: -119.57399

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Staircase Falls is another one of the officially named ephemeral waterfalls in Yosemite National Park (with Horsetail Falls and its firefall effect being the most famous of the ephemerals).

I believe it got its name from the way its watercourse steps down a series of granite ledges.

Given its short-lived nature, it was quite easy to overlook this waterfall, and we happened to do just that when we first began our concerted efforts at waterfall hunting in Yosemite back in 2002.

Yosemite_Valley_081_06032011 - Staircase Falls
Staircase Falls

In fact, we didn’t start to notice this waterfall until the next year on a pair of subsequent visits to the park.

I found it rather ironic that given its rather conspicuous position right behind Curry Village that this waterfall was so easy to miss. But then again, it maybe difficult to spot this falls due to the precise timing that’s required.

Staircase Falls Timing

So what exactly is this timing?

Well in my experience, I managed to see it flow fairly well as early as March and as late as late early June.

Staircase_Falls_003_03212004 - Staircase Falls barely flowing behind Curry Village during our March 2004 visit to Yosemite
Staircase Falls barely flowing behind Curry Village during our March 2004 visit to Yosemite

It really all depends on the snow pack and the extent of the snowmelt (which depends on how quickly the weather warms up to melt the snow in its small drainage).

Even though May is a fairly safe month to be near the peak snowmelt season, we’ve been to Yosemite on numerous years where the falls had already ended its show by then.

I’d say the longevity of the falls on an average snowpack year is probably 2 or 3 weeks tops, but if the snowpack is big, then it might last longer than that.


Staircase Falls resides in Yosemite National Park near Yosemite Village in Mariposa County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Yosemite_Valley_076_06032011 - Context of Staircase Falls as seen from Stoneman Meadow during our June 2011 visit to Yosemite
Staircase_Falls_006_03212004 - Staircase Falls seen between trees from within Curry Village in April 2004
Staircase_Falls_002_03212004 - Context of Staircase Falls as seen from Stoneman Meadow during our March 2004 visit to Yosemite
Staircase_Falls_002_05102003 - Staircase Falls in the late afternoon of May 2003
Staircase_Falls_003_05102003 - Less again-the-sun look at Staircase Falls from Stoneman Meadow in the late afternoon of our visit to Yosemite in May 2003

Since Staircase Falls steps its way down the granite cliffs behind Curry Village, you might be able to spot it through the trees from there.

However, to improve your view (i.e. without the trees getting in the way), walk out to Stoneman Meadow, which is that meadow you see right before the road turns right to go into the car park for Curry Village.

There’s a boardwalk traversing the meadow, and it’s from that boardwalk that you can look back towards Curry Village and see the full extent of this waterfall.

Curry Village sat on the eastern end of Yosemite Valley.

To get there from Los Angeles, our preferred route would be to drive on the I-5 north.

After descending into the Grapevine (some 2 hours from home), we then take the Hwy 99 through Central Valley towards Fresno.

Then, we hop onto the Hwy 41 at Fresno which leads us to the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park via Oakhurst.

Continuing on Hwy 41 (now Wawona Road), we then take this for the next 60-90 minutes (passing through Wawona) all the way into Yosemite Valley and eventually to Curry Village.

Overall, this drive would take roughly 6 hours or more depending on traffic.

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Bottom up sweep and context of the falls from Stoneman Meadow

Left to right semi-circular sweep of the panorama from the boardwalk crossing Stoneman Meadow

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Tagged with: curry, yosemite, mariposa, oakhurst, fresno, wawona, yosemite valley, sierra, california, waterfall, stoneman

Visitor Comments:

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Short Hike, Amazing Results! March 4, 2009 10:53 pm by Marquis - I had some time to kill while staying at Camp Curry & this fall's stream ran right by my cabin. Following the river with the late winter moss covered rocks & orange leaves was treat enough as the hike became a bit of an ascent to the base of the falls. The slippery non-trail (more… ...Read More

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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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