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Yosemite National Park, California, United States

Chilnualna Falls

Hike this lesser-known trail to discover Chilnualna Falls with a wading pool and cascades waiting at the top.

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 (3 votes, 1 review)
Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 8.4 miles / 13.5 km
Duration: Full day
Overview: 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.

Tips: The initial climb is steep--make sure to bring plenty of water and start early in the day.

Points of Interest



The trail starts with an almost-immediate climb which seems to last forever. It is best to attempt this hike earlier in the day so that the Yosemite heat doesn’t take a toll. A fair amount of the climb is under tree cover, but make sure to bring plenty of water, no matter what time of day you are hiking.

View of Wawona Valley

Eventually the trail will flatten out and you will be presented with a beautiful view of the Wawona valley below, and you will know that your efforts have not been in vain.

Chilnualna Falls

You will not catch a glimpse of the Falls until around 4 miles in, and then you immediately hike the other direction back through the trees until you reach the top.

At the top

At the top you will have a great view of the valley below (not the lower falls unfortunately), but the pool at the top is a great place to soak your feet while you listen to the rushing water of the upper cascades and eat your lunch, which always seems to taste better after a strenuous climb.

After you have fully relaxed, head back down the way you came. It may be a harsh if you have knee problems, but the hike down is almost guaranteed to be much quicker than the hike up.
Pictures in this guide taken by: Vaudesir, chris, ariel122
From what I remember, this hike was a lot of climbing, and there weren't many great views of the waterfall once you got to the top. The views of Wawona are nice, as are the cascades, but it would not be my first pick if I were to do a waterfall hike in Yosemite.
Visited on Jul 28, 2010

by chris on Jul 08, 2011

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