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Chilnualna Falls

HomeChilnualna Falls

The Redwoods In Yosemite, in Wawona boasts the 2nd highest vertical drop waterfall in Yosemite!


Chilnualna Falls


Distance:  8.4 miles (13.5 km) round trip

Trailhead Elevation:  4,200 feet (1,280 meters)
Elevation Gain:  2,300 feet (700 meters)

Hiking Time:  4 – 6 hours


Why hike to Chilnualna Falls?  While Yosemite Valley’s Mist Trail is world famous for its two waterfalls, the Chilnualna Falls trail has three, plus some lively bonus cascades near the beginning of the trail. It’s also practically deserted compared to the Mist Trail. The tradeoffs: it’s difficult to get near the uppermost falls at high water or to get near the tallest one at all, and the Mist Trail’s falls are taller and, being fed by a larger river, more spectacular. The Chilnualna Falls hike during peak runoff is undoubtedly a memorable experience, though, and it might see fewer hikers over the entire summer than Vernal Fall does during any given June Saturday.


Difficulty:  Fairly strenuous. It’s not as steep as the most challenging stretches of the Mist Trail, but it climbs relentlessly and it’s a long hike.


Scenery Summary:  Chilnualna Falls consists of a 50-foot (15-meter) fall, followed by a series of pools and a 100-foot cascade, followed by a 240-foot (70-meter) capper of a cataract. Unfortunately, the trail doesn’t give you a particularly good view of the climactic fall. You see it from the side when you’re a quarter mile or so away, but then the trail disappears into the woods and you don’t see it again until the trail opens up near the granite shelf above the fall. You can’t get close enough from here to peer over and look down on the 240-foot fall (not the best point of view for a waterfall, anyway) without making it likely that the author of Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite will have to rush out a revised and enlarged edition. So until the park stewards build a viewing platform (which would be welcome at Illilouette Falls, as well), you’ll have to be content with hanging out by the cascades and lounging around the upper falls.

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