Widow's Tears

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

About Widow’s Tears

Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2004-04-25
Date last visited: 2011-06-03

Waterfall Latitude: 37.70511
Waterfall Longitude: -119.66531

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Widows Tears (or Widow’s Tears) appears to suffer from a case of mistaken identity with the neighboring Silver Strand Falls (at least according to a lot of what’s out in the literature).

Many observers (including myself) knew that Silver Strand Falls couldn’t be the often-quoted 1,170ft unless they counted the watercourse that you couldn’t see below Hwy 41.

Yosemite_Valley_113_06032011 - Widow's Tears
Widow’s Tears

In older Yosemite literature, Silver Strand Falls was also called Widow’s Tears (probably by the same guy who once named Ribbon Falls “Virgin’s Tears”).

After sifting through the fog of misinformation and trying to match them up with field observations, I tend to think it’s Widow’s Tears that’s 1,170ft.

Even with all that said about its gaudy height numbers, this is really an ephemeral waterfall with a real short season.

To see it, we had to time our visit and know where to look. And given its paltry flow, it was even harder to photograph.

Yosemite_Valley_117_06032011 - Widow's Tears (left) and Silver Strand Falls (right)
Widow’s Tears (left) and Silver Strand Falls (right)

Then again, I have seen trip reports of people ice climbing in the Winter when the falls is frozen, and we must say that the ice that accumulates probably would make this falls look wider than it really is.

In another interesting bit of trivia, I once overheard a tour operator tell a story about a widow who couldn’t stop crying after losing her husband.

It wasn’t until after she saw this waterfall that she stopped crying – hence the waterfall’s name.

I’m not sure if this is true, but it is quite a story.


Widows Tears 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.

Valley_View_004_04292005 - Widow's Tears seen from the Valley View Lookout
Widows_Tears_001_04292005 - Widow's Tears from a different pullout seen between trees in April 2005
Widows_Tears_005_04292005 - Widow's Tears from a pullout as seen in April 2005
Widows_Tears_009_04292005 - Widow's Tears seen along with Silver Strand Falls
Widows_Tears_013_04252004 - Widow's Tears not doing so well in April 2004
Widows_Tears_022_04252004 - A bear in Yosemite near Fern Spring in April 2004

To get a view of this elusive ephemeral waterfall, look for an unsigned pullout on the Route 140 just west of the Pohono Bridge. These pullouts are generally on the north side of the road (though I suppose there might be others on the south side of the road). It’s east of the Route 120/140 junction so you went too far if you made it there.

I also noticed that it was possible to get a suboptimal view of this waterfall from the Valley View Lookout (signpost V11).

For a bit of context, Yosemite Valley was roughly a 6 hour drive from Los Angeles via our preferred route of the I-5 then Hwy 99 to Fresno, then Hwy 41 through Coarsegold, Oakhurst, Fish Camp, Wawona, etc. all the way to Yosemite Valley.

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Bottom up sweep of both falls from the Merced River Canyon

Bottom up sweep of just Widow's Tears while it was raining

Tagged with: yosemite valley, yosemite, merced, silver strand falls, tunnel, wawona, el portal, mariposa, sierra, california, waterfall, oakhurst, fresno

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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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.