Explore fall 2k18 - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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Not difficult. In view of reservoir and beautiful view much of the time.

11/27/18 This hike wrapped the 7th and final hike over our Thanksgiving vacation. It certainly was the highlight of our trip! There were so many different types of terrain on this trail from flat rock, to fallen leaves, stone stairs and my favorite was navigating over all the rock. We started at 8:45 am and ended up doing 13 miles in 5.25 hours with a small sandwich break. We primarily had the trail to ourselves until we started to venture back then ran into about a dozen people. The weather was perfect! Mid 50’s with a slight breeze and very clear. You’ll see breathtaking views of Hetch Hetchery Reservoire all along the trail. I believe there was 4 waterfalls in view as well. I would definitely do this trail again!

Hiked this in the rain, which was pretty miserable. But on a clear day, I imagine the views would be spectacular. Trail is moderately difficult and well maintained. Took me about 5.5 hours including lunch at the creek. Get there early if you want the trail to yourself -- I started at 9 and didn't see anyone until I was already halfway down.

We did this hike as a family and loved every minute of it! The falls was frozen over and it was amazingly beautiful!

hiking
18 days ago

My first hike ever! My girlfriend took me here in September and it was so easy and rewarding. It was our first hike together. So yesterday we decided to go back to take a better picture and we were pleasantly surprised when we saw the frozen falls! What a beautiful sight!

Great, long hike with majestic views

hiking
27 days ago

Did this trail on 7/21/18. Drive up to the parking lot, it is about 3 miles off of the road and makes the trek much more enjoyable as the road leading up to the trail is quite steep. The falls are beautiful but to get close to them there is some rock climbing necessary. There is a nice little spot to get into the water weather permitting. In late July it was about 85 degrees and would have been nice to get in.

Went with 2 friends on 11/11/18 and found the waterfall completely frozen over. We arrived early in the morning around 9am and it was empty and the road itself was a bit bumpy but I was driving slow like a turtle and avoiding the bumps and holes along the way. A bathroom is available at the trail entrance but there is no toilet paper provided so heads up. Trail itself is pretty easy, and we passed someone pushing a stroller on our way back. Trail itself ends at the waterfall, had a great time...worth the drive and the hike.

on Rancheria Falls Trail

1 month ago

Great trail for the whole family! My husband and I took our daughters (4 and 2 years old) 10/28/18 and they absolutely loved it! It wasn’t busy at all when we went (1:30pm) and we even ate lunch at the top of the trail! The girls needed hoodies since it was a little chilly by the waterfall. It was a gorgeous day!

nature trips
1 month ago

Beautiful hike. It was definitely warm and a very busy day. The trail was easy but we didn’t get to check out the falls close up, just from afar as several huge families were there sitting on the trail, quite annoying. We will try it out again. Went in late August 2018 before school started.

Just as reviewed. A nice short hike. Took small dog and he did well. The earlier you go the fewer people. Got busier closer to noon. Great views and decent birding.

Great hike for the family and with dogs. Short and sweet, only takes about 20 minutes to get to the waterfall. Beautiful views!

Solid hike. Can be done in 1 night. I left the site at 9am from the campsite and went counterclockwise (see Sweeney review below, very helpful) and went until 5pm, made it most of the way to Lake Vernon but was just too spent from the elevation gain so just found a spot for myself. The next day I took the detours to Lake Vernon and Laurel Lake, finding the latter MUCH more worth it, started at 9am and was back in my car by 6pm. It's doable but I was moving. Set aside some time to get around Laurel Lake, you won't regret it. You get some views of the Lake that are really spectacular and much better than some you get of Lake Vernon. I passed an gentleman on the trail who said he had also camped lakeside at Laurel, and I would recommend that much over camping near Lake Vernon based on what I saw. Per the review below, I agree that the trajectory of the trip gets a little odd if you go clockwise, but there's a way to make it work. Overall, good trail, lots of varied and interesting terrain. lovely views. Will likely do again with friends or family.

hiking
1 month ago

Got a late start (as usual!) today so wasn't sure if I would get back before dark and my RV was parked in the day use area. It probably wouldn't have been an issue but I pushed hard and made it back at twilight without any problem. I went up on the left side of the lake and missed the turnoff to the peak at first but checked the app and saw my mistake so went back. I lost the trail shortly after that as well, it turned left and I missed it and ended up on a rocky ridge. After that I didn't have any problem except never did find out for sure where the actual high point on the summit was. I jogged back most of the way back down except for the real rocky places and returned on the same side of the lake. I saw a couple before the dam but no one else the rest of the hike. I was amazed that some mountain bikers have been riding down the upper part of the trail. They really seemed to like the rock jumps! A good hard workout with lots of elevation gain.

This was my first backpacking trip. We did three days and two nights. The last weekend of September all of the creeks were dry, the lakes were a little low but still beautiful. The days were perfect hiking weather in the 70s-80s. Nice chilly nights probably 40-30s. Day 1 started at the Crabtree trail head. The trail was fairly moderate elevation rise. We had lunch at Camp Lake. So beautiful with lovely fall foliage. We hiked further on and ended the day at Bear Lake. We set up camp on the North side of the lake. We found a great camp site with a stone fire ring, enough room for two tents and a view of watching the sunset behind the lake. Our second day was a beast! Quite a climb in altitude had my heart pounding! But the glorious high mountain vistas were absolutely worth it! We stopped to have lunch at an unnamed lake we called Lily Pond Lake. After lunch my son stood up quick and from the high altitude he got a massive bloody nose. Took us an extra 30min just to stop the bleeding. After half a toilet paper roll used, we continued on our journey. Past dried up Piute Creek we ended our day at Grouse Lake. This day was quite strenuous and took us longer than estimated. But this was my first big hiking trip, we had a couple groups fly past us with their happy dogs leading the way. At Grouse Lake we found a spacious camp site with a large stone fire ring on the North of the Lake and trail. On our third day we finished the loop back to Crabtree trail head. This was the shortest day, but the incline in elevation was intense for a little while. On our way we passed a couple groups on horses. And also saw some shy deer. As a whole the trail was very well maintained, perfect for a first timer.

nice trail .

hiking
2 months ago

Parked at bathrooms and hiked up slight incline but very manageable for my husband and I who are 48 & 50 years old. Views were pretty and path was clean. We stayed further back from falls and decided not to take on the larger boulders that were closer to the falls and still enjoyed the beautiful sight & sounds of the falls and creek. Amazed there was still as much water as there was in September. Our 4 pound Yorkie had no trouble at all either.

backpacking
2 months ago

Hiked this as an overnight backpacking trip with my family: two girls, ages 13 and 15, and mid 40s wife. We did so in June and it was exceptionally hot! Once we made it to the falls though we were able to hydrate and cool off in the river. Upside of the temperature may be that we had the place to ourselves. There was plenty of fuel for a campfire at the time and multiple campsites to chose from. Nice trip for beginner backpackers given the distance and elevation change. The trail itself was pretty overgrown in parts and, as others have mentioned, you have to watch out for poison oak.

Start to Tilltill Valley; Via Rancheria (10 Miles flat then uphill)
Tilltill Valley to Lake Vernon (7 Miles uphill)
Lake Vernon to Finish (10 Miles downhill)

I did this loop over Labor Day weekend. There were 4 of us (two guys and two girls, late 20's and various degrees of in-shape) Paces would vary but we all handled the distance and elevation gain well. As has been posted before, this trail is more than 23 miles. We were told by a very confident ranger that the trail is actually 27 miles, and if you include the extra distance of walking around Lake Vernon - or going over to Laurel Lake it can climb to 28-29 miles. We wanted to spend the most time at Lake Vernon so we went the Rancheria Falls route. This time of year Rancheria Falls was pretty much dry, which blew one of our comrade's minds who had seen it in full force a year earlier and who said they needed to cover their bags to keep everything inside from getting drenched from the waterfall.

The hike to Rancheria Falls campsite was pretty easy and flat. We stopped and swam in crystal clear (relatively small) body of water that was there before continuing to Tilltill Valley, which I enjoyed much more as a campsite. At this time of year Rancheria's campsite seemed dry and the trees a little thin, but Tilltill Valley was a nice valley, very green with a great open view while also being encompassed by trees. The trail from Rancheria to Tilltill was much harder as the elevation gains start kicking in.

The next day, we left camp around 11:00 and made it to Lake vernon by 2:30, but went around the lake to find a campsite, and that took another 40 minutes. This was all uphill until the last mile, and bugs at the initial switchbacks were relentless. Regardless, the hike was beautiful, and swimming in and spending the day / night at Lake Vernon was magical.

The last day, there is an initial climb out of Lake Vernon for about 1-2 miles before you finish off the last 8 miles going downhill. About 2 miles into this hike we saw the mama bear with her cub from a distance (which people had seen at Lake Vernon the lake the day before). Bugs weren't nearly as bad on day 3 and finishing up going downhill was very welcome.

My personal tip - I recommend the counterclockwise loop, and I also recommend making it to Tilltill Valley for your first night. Going from Rancheria Falls to Lake Vernon seems like a rough journey, and if you go clockwise making it all the way to Lake Vernon (10 miles) with that elevation gain would be tough. And if you go clockwise and stop by Laurel Lake the first night, you will need to continue past Lake Vernon so you won't be able to spend a night there (Given you're doing a 3 day / 2 night trek).

10/10 would recommend.

Really enjoyed our trip. First, the description here says 23.3 miles, but the flyer at the entrance gate says 29 miles. I added the distance we actually hiked, including the detours around the lakes, and came to ~29 miles too vs. 23.

Completed over Labor Day Weekend. Half day, full day, Half day.
We are two experienced, fast, pretty in-shape hikers in our early 30s. Been in drought, so water was all low. Very good workout with sore legs after!

Day 1 was a late start, as after getting permits and all at Big Oak (weren't sure of our plans), we actually didn't get on the trail until 5:30pm. First stop was the dam itself, which is a site to see. Would have missed this otherwise, and worth the drive to Hetch Hetchy just to see the dam and valley.

Started the ascent towards Laurel Lake, which involves a series grueling-for-me switchbacks. I found this to be the most difficult part of the hike, with the steepest ascent. Cleared the switchback and tried to find water before dark. Frog Creek was dry, so we continued on in pitch blackness (w/ headlamps) to Laurel Lake and arrived ~9:30am. Very nice mountain lake, but not as impressive as some others at Yosemite (now that's a very high bar though).

Day 2, we slept in, lounged around camp, broke camp at 11am. It was warm! Hiked to Lake Vernon, which was beautiful. Surrounded by High Sierra bluffs. One of the prettiest I've seen. Jumped in the lake, ate lunch, really enjoyed the time. Heard there was a Mama bear w/ cub nearby, and later saw a video from another hiker to verify. Thus, if camping here, heed the bear warnings and all.

Ascended from Lake Vernon (another steep climb, saw a group that was stopped and struggling a bit) headed towards Tilltill Valley. Negative was the bugs, as starting ~4pm, these little face flies were everywhere. They didn't bite, but they could be constantly buzzing in your ear and landing on you. Arrived ~6pm keeping a fast pace. Incredibly beautiful spot, overlooking the mountains, with lots of clearly defined campsite too. Take me back! (Bugs died down after dark ~7:30pm)

Day 3 we got a much earlier start, breaking camp at 8:15am. Very few bugs! (Must have been an evening thing). We pushed a really aggressive, power walking pace, nearly jogging at times. The path along the reservoir was more rugged and up-and-down than expected. Even had some switchbacks. Rancheria Falls was basically a trickle, so not much to see there, and the other Falls were all dry. Oh, and it was hot too. Wear sunscreen if sensitive to sun. At this point, the post-backpacking meal was the driving motivation, and we powered through, passing only a hand full of day hikers. Beautiful view of the reservoir. So pretty. We made it back to the Dam at 11:15am, and our legs were definitely wobbly or gassed. Really great workout and exercise.

Cleaned up and had a cheeseburger back in civilization. Awesome, incredible weekend! Recommend this loop for sure. Would be nice to complete with more water earlier in the season just to see the Falls. Love Yosemite!

I got an early start on Labor Day weekend. Since this is a less visited part of the park, I had no trouble at the gate or with parking and I had the trail mostly to myself til halfway through my way back in the afternoon. Very peaceful.

The views of the lake and cliffs are amazing. There are several waterfalls but this late in the year I didn’t expect much of a flow, so I wasn’t disappointed.

The trail itself is moderately strenuous. It is well groomed and free of loose stones for the most part. The steeper grades have steps and the areas that would get wet from the waterfalls earlier in the year are cobbled for better footing. A lot of the trail is exposed and hot, the wooded areas are a great relief but in the morning the mosquitoes were thick! I highly recommend sun block and bug spray.

Though the trail is moderately strenuous, the return trip was difficult. I was tired from the hike out, the sun got hotter, and it seemed like there were just as many inclines as there were descents. Meaning, there was a lot of uphill climbing on the way back.

The trail is dusty from all the crushed granite and I went through more water than I thought I would. Halfway through my return I nearly ran out of water and had to ration. Bring more water than you think you’ll need.

Overall, an excellent experience! Check out my pics.

This trail has it all. Some ups, some downs, some sun, some shade. A few nice swimming holes. Natures raw beauty and sweet serenity. Even a little cowbell! (see pics in my profile) Good elevation gain for a nice workout. Trail length much longer than posted, I completed 15 miles and didn't even do the offshoot because I started late and was running out of daylight. Even on Labor Day the trail wasn't too populated. Trail goes from super sandy in spots, to you having to traverse over rocks, big and small. A varied terrain for sure. Lots of super rad places to camp, would be perfect for packing in and staying overnight. Recommended hike!

hiking
3 months ago

great hike but lots of poison oak. The trail goes right through knee to chest high poison oak especially on the first 1/3 of the trail. But other than that it was an awesome day hike!!!!

walking
3 months ago

Nice, well marked trail to a beautiful waterfall that was even flowing at the end of summer. Lots of families with young kids handling it with ease. Just be careful when you get to the falls with little ones- it's a big drop down.
Also, dont start at the trail turn off. Drive up the dirt road from the trail turn off for 2 miles to reach the trail head. There's a bathroom ("biffy" style) & parking area there. From this point its a 2 mile round trip hike to the falls & back.

Very easy hike and a fun dirt road to drive down that starts the trail. Gorgeous views and lots of rocks to sit on and enjoy the scenery

So, the description is misleading. This hike isn’t actually long at all. You can drive your car up most of the way to a parking area (would suggest a SUV, our corolla had a hard time). With that said, the short hike to the falls was beautiful, being high in the mountains meant it wasn’t too hot, and the falls itself was a little crowded. Overall worth a stop when exploring the area!

Lovely trail with beautiful spots to swim!
Remember to bring lots of water.

Beautiful easy trail. If you have kids, it’s best to drive up the dirt road and start where the parking lot is. Dirt road is a little rough if you don’t have a SUV or truck. But beautiful waterfall at the end. My kids enjoyed it even my 4 year old.

I think it some type of steps and / or handrails could be constructed to facilitate a safer decent to the waterfalls pools. Other than that, it is an easy surface to negotiate on the trail and a scenic hike also!

California Conservation Corps help rebuild this trail and rock steps !! ⚒

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