One of the few points in Yosemite that you don’t have to pay to get into, Carlon Falls offers gorgeous views, a pretty waterfall, and a trailhead that is actually outside the park, so you don’t have to pay the entrance fee to get in. Fortunately, the lack of price doesn’t reflect how beautiful these falls are, and you won’t be disappointed if you visit. In fact, if you’ve already paid to get in, we’d still recommend you visit it—after all; waterfalls are always fun to visit, and if you have none left inside the park, why not try outside? Some highlights include ferns and Indian Rhubarb along the river, the Lewis Creek Trail to Red Rock Falls nearby, and a variety of wildflowers all over the place.
The hike is only 3.8 miles round trip, so you aren’t looking at more than a 1-2 hour hike. It is also a pretty easy hike, outside of the short steep descent at the end, so no one should have too much trouble completing this hike. It’s also at a low elevation (just 4,316 feet), so you don’t have to worry about being short of breath either.
Not many locations offer decent swimming opportunities, but this is a very popular swimming hole once the water flow has subsided to safe levels. This means it might be good for you to bring your swimsuit, particularly if you love swimming near a personal sized—just 30 feet high—waterfall.
As long as you come early or late on a weekday, you will be able to avoid the big crowds. But, other than that, it is pretty busy because of the aforementioned swimming. Also, be on the lookout for bears, because they aren’t a completely uncommon part of the crowds hanging near this waterfall.