Waterwheel Falls and Glen Aulin Trail is a 17.3 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite Valley, California that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October.
Waterwheel Falls is the culmination of a string of cascades that electrify the Tuolumne River's frenzied descent from Tuolumne Meadows into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne via Glen Aulin. When running at full speed, these spectacular waterworks stand out as remarkable. June-July is the best to see the "waterwheels." Overnighters require a wilderness permit. Yosemite charges an entrance fee. Please Note: These cascades are extremely treacherous.
This was always on my list of places to see, and finally did it in July of 2011. That was the winter of the epic snows in the Sierra. The runoff when we were there in mid July, was more typical of late May and early June in a normal winter. Unreal. We hiked in to Glen Aulin via the Murphy creek trail which starts at Tenaya Lake, as we could not get permitted for Tuolumne Meadows, and then back out this trail. The Murphy creek trail was still snowbound for the most part, but we found our way thru the woods. A wet crossing at Cathedral creek was in store for us too. As were lots of the creek crossings we did. The White Cascade at Glen Aulin was roaring. Great rainbow photos. The hike from GA down to Waterwheel is all downhill, and on this trip, we waded thru about a 1/4 mile of water on the trail right off the bat. Le Conte Falls was really something to see with its several waterwheels in it. Then finally down to Waterwheel Falls which was almost deafening to stand next to. We hiked right down next to it and got drenched in the mist that kept blowing up canyon. Quite an experience for sure. If you don't believe in the power of water, stand next to this thing some time in early June. It's not your ordinary waterfall. The hike back to Tuolumne from GA was a real nice hike. All uphill, but so mellow as it follows the river. The views of the high country as you get closer to the meadow are incredible. This a must do hike for someone who is into cascading/rushing water. You won't be disappointed, unless you go in the fall when water flow is almost over. You can do this as a day hike too, as many have, but that makes for a long day. We camped at GA for 2 nights. Put it on your list!!!