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Chilnualna Falls Trail

MODERATE 68 reviews
#1 of 5 trails in

Chilnualna Falls Trail is a 7.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Yosemite National Park, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, birding, horses, and backpacking and is best used from March until October. Horses are also able to use this trail.

7.2 miles
2303 feet
Out & Back





horseback riding






no dogs

Hike this lesser-known trail to discover Chilnualna Falls with a wading pool and cascades waiting at the top. Chilnuala Falls is a well-kept secret in Yosemite, simply because the majority of visitors to Yosemite National Park don't venture out of the Valley. If you are staying in Wawona, or have entered Yosemite through the South Entrance, then Chilnualna Falls is on your way down to the valley. Like most waterfall hikes in Yosemite (Lower Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Fall excluded) you start below the waterfall and must hike up it, which means significant elevation gain. The trail starts around 4,000ft and you will hike up 2,200 feet to 6,200ft by the time you reach the top of the falls. The Falls are separated into 2 distinct sections: the shorter section is on top, and consists of several smaller waterfalls, leading into a pool before falling another 240ft final drop, a total of about 690ft. Unfortunately, you never get a clear view of the entire falls, and it is hard to even see the longer fall in its entirety except from the top (and you won't want to get too close to the edge). Luckily the pool and falls at the top are more than worth the steep 4-mile climb up.

4 hours ago

Nice escape from Valley crowds with cascading falls. Continuous moderate climb with some fairly level areas make this a nice 1st day for backpacking or dayhike/trail run. There is an initial waterfall payoff very close to the start. After that, the trail moves away from the fall. The trail returns to the water a couple times, most notably by the top. Continue on up to the trail junction for more views. The junction is a good turn around point for day hikers...or cross the creek via a couple "interesting" fallen log options for backpackers. Both options have their pros/cons. If the water isn't strong, perhaps ford between the two log options.

7 days ago

9 days ago

Beautiful hike up to some great falls. Wonderful scenery on the way, including several small creek falls/pools at least when we went, late spring after a wet winter so falls are roaring this spring! Several great viewed of the falls/river on the way up. NPS rated the hike as strenuous and says its 4.1 miles one way, so I think it's a bit longer than what is listed here. Steepest in the beginning and the end, the bulk of it was not very steep. We headed out about 8:30am, only one other car on the trailhead. Saw a pair of does on the way up, and had the trail mostly to ourselves until the top. Passed a lot more people on the way back but still not as heavily trafficked as many main Yosemite hikes. If you start at the trailhead parking you're probably doing about 9mi total, as you hike the lower falls first and then access the main trail after you pass that. We love to hike, are not as fit as some, so it was strenuous for us (overall) but totally with it!

10 days ago

11 days ago

Such a great hike! More awesome/beautiful than we had even anticipated!

18 days ago

awesome hike!

19 days ago

Hiked today and was amazing!!!!! Falls are raging (5/7/17). Chilly towards the top so bring some layers and also you get a slight mist! The hike up is definitely taxing (a solid moderate)

The view is great. Trail is FAR less crowded than Any of the trail heads from the valley floor. You can also reach other trail heads at the summit and keep going.

It's a 2,500ft elevation gain. Bring plenty of water and snacks.

Would recommend!! The drive in from the Oakhurst side is about an hour less than reaching half dome village so if you live in the area or are looking to not travel all the way in to the park this is perfect. Turn right on chiliunala falls drive and go about 2 miles and it takes you straight to the trail head. :)

23 days ago

Amazing views great trail love it.

23 days ago

Hiked on 4/23, the cascades were raging. This is one of Yosemite's best trails outside the Valley. Offers up close views of the cascades for amazing photo opportunities, and you don't have to hike far to enjoy them.

24 days ago

Waterfalls are really full. Tough first quarter mile but the views at the top are great.

1 month ago

1 month ago

Awesome views throughout but a bit scary in windy or rainy conditions

1 month ago

As good as it gets! Plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the beautiful views that you won't mind the uphill hike. The views from the top are amazing!!!

1 month ago

1 month ago

1 month ago

1 month ago

Beautiful views!!

2 months ago

Starting from the trailhead, you get a decent opportunity to warm up your legs with about a half mile of gradual incline before hitting granite cut stairs and switchbacks. There's ample opportunity to ease the burn in your legs after a few short steep uphill, which is nice when you're taking older kids who would otherwise want to stop every half mile or so to rest.

We hiked in late February, the snow was spotty until we reached about 5500 feet altitude. Starting the hike at 0500 in 20 degree weather wasn't bad but once you get up the exposed region .75 miles from the summit, it gets a lot cooler with downslope winds. The ambient temp was 18 at that point and because noticeably colder with the wind. We made fresh prints in the snow from where the trail again meets Chilnualna Falls and at the summit it is BRISK. The views are amazing and worth braving the wind and cold. Parts of the trail where it got icy would have been really nice to have crampons, especially the last .5 mikes to the summit (and a few smaller areas shortly before that). You have to weigh the inconvenience of carrying them with how determined you are to reach the summit, because there are parts that are pretty perilous in just good lugged boots. I did the hike in trail runners (my foot gear of choice for almost all hikes) and was fine since I had a good pair of socks, but for an unseasoned hiker, you may want to stick with something that takes a bit more bite in snow and ice f you plan on doing this in the winter or early spring.

4 months ago

My girlfriend and I backpacked this trail in September 2015. we did two day to Johnson lake. got a late start so we didn't make it to Royal Arch. it is possible to make it to Johnson I. on day. it's about 14 mils. Good fishing and there was still water in most of the streams.