Why do we enjoy traveling into the mountains? Is it for the scenery? Adventure? Solitude? There are so many reasons to visit, but we feel a major one overlaps all of them: Freedom. The ability to let go and enjoy the moment. With waterfall season upon us, it’s the perfect time to step away from the daily doldrums and truly let go of stresses by experiencing the power of water in all its glory. Here are just a few of the infinite number of High Sierra waterfall options that cascade down the rocky summits of the Sierra Nevada.
Granite Amphitheater Roar
Like Yosemite Valley, Tokopah Valley was shaped by a glacier. Here you’ll find a quintessential Sierra canyon trail. Featuring immense granite walls, alpine meadows, and a thundering river, the trail culminates at the famous Tokopah Falls. The nearly 1,200 foot tall waterfall fills a granite amphitheater with a hearty roar that will leave you speechless with its beauty and sound.
Emerald Bay Backdrop
This gorgeous waterfall is set against the backdrop of iconic Emerald Bay. There are the lower and upper falls – both equally beautiful. Lower Eagle Falls is about a mile walk downhill with drops in two large cascades of 60 and 90 feet. It’s an easy to moderate hike and takes about 20-30 minutes. Pack your water bottles and lunch for a quick bite at the picnic area. From there, continue a quarter of a mile up to see the Upper Eagle Falls.
Truckee’s Hidden Gem
If you’re staying in the historic town of Truckee-Tahoe and want to chase waterfalls, we suggest a visit to Webber Falls. This little-known gem is located approximately half an hour off the main drag of Truckee. When the snow begins to recede, this sleeping giant awakens creating a loud roar within the Little Truckee River Canyon. The waterfall has two drops. The upper is roughly 12 and 25 feet in height and the lower one approximately 50 feet, creating a 75 foot cascade in total.
Historic Trail & America’s Tallest Waterfall
While the big rocks of Half Dome, El Capitan, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock get center stage in Yosemite, there is no denying the power and beauty of Yosemite Falls. Seeing them in full force or feeling their cooling mist is truly inspiring.
Yosemite Falls, which drops a total of 2,425 feet, is actually made up of three segments: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet) and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 feet). Those looking for an easy relaxing hike but still want to see them in their full splendor, we suggest checking out the Lower Yosemite Fall. And if you’re up to a challenge, the trail to the upper falls, built between 1873 and 1877, is the oldest historic trail in the park. It packs a little bit of danger, a lot of elevation climb, and America’s tallest waterfall into one spectacular hike. And don’t miss out seeing the other large assortments of falls within the park. With the “liquid rush” of spring happening now, there’s so many falls to see in person.
Corlieu & Red Rock Falls
A Moment Of Zen Near Yosemite
Yosemite Valley in the late spring / summer months can be a bit popular and rightly so. The steep granite walls and beautiful falls are amazing. But, if you’re looking for a chance to take in a waterfall in a more tranquil setting, we suggest making a pit stop on your way out of the Southern Gate. The effort to get to the Corlieu & Red Rock Falls on the Lewis Creek Trail is minimal too. At a short four mile round trip journey, it’s a great opportunity to stretch your legs and perfect for even kids to enjoy.
Lundy Canyon Waterfalls
Highest Concentration of Falls on a Hike
Looking to see not just one waterfall but many? Then Lundy Canyon is where it’s at. The high concentration of waterfalls and overall quality of the hike is unlike anywhere else you’ll experience. Besides a lot of waterfall “action”, you’ll be exposed to reflective ponds and an array of blooming wildflowers of all different colors. Overall, this might be the most compelling waterfalling experience you can have anywhere and well worth the travel.
Shirley Canyon Falls
For those that look at this list and think, “I need a challenge!”, look no further than Shirley Canyon Falls. Starting along the beautiful Squaw Creek at the bottom of Squaw Valley in North Lake Tahoe, you’ll find one of the most beautiful hikes in the region. Although the trail is only four miles long, it climbs over 2,000 vertical FEET. Less about one magnificent fall, instead you’re gifted with an assortment of playful falls that ride their way down to the valley floor. The reward for this arduous summit is the beautiful Shirley Lake at the top. And if you’re feeling too tuckered from the climb, you can continue your way to High Camp and take the Aerial Tram down during the summer.
“Fall” Into A Road Trip
On the other side of the spectrum, if you feel like taking in a bunch of waterfalls on a road trip, consider an adventure via Sonora Pass. At a whopping 9,264’, it’s the 2nd highest pass in the High Sierra. Fully opened typically around late May, you’ll find a host of waterfalls to see. Starting from the West ,they include Crystal Falls, Niagara Creek Falls, Brannock Falls, Deadman Creek Falls, and Blue Canyon ALL before you even reach the summit. On the eastern segment, there are even more to see such as Sardine Creek Falls.
From historic to iconic, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range can arguably be considered the best place for viewing waterfalls in the world. This is just a drop in the bucket of the vast assortment of High Sierra waterfall beauty you can check out. What is your favorite on the list?
Author: Alex Silgalis
Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at https://localfreshies.com
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