Yosemite NP – Chilnualna Falls Hike


What? :

Chilnualna Falls Hike is a strenuous 7.7 miles out and back hike to the top of the cliff above Chilnualna Falls.

The Falls are comprised of five large cascades sliding through and over large granite formations above the Wawona basin.



Additional Yosemite hikes Blogs:


Where? :

It’s about an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley toward the park’s South Entrance and Wawona valley.

From Wawona, drive north (into the park) across the South Fork of the Merced River and then turn right on Chilnualna Falls Road.

Drive for about 2 miles on the main road pass North Wawona until you will see the trailhead parking lot.

Google Map Link




When? :

The trail is open year-round but at winter after snowstorm all is covered with snow and slippery ice can cover some sections of the trail near the waterfalls.

The best time to visit here is in the spring, when there's plenty of water rushing over the falls and it is not so hot.

Summer days can be hot so take enough water with you.


Due note 1: The parking is on the side of the road and a larger lot turning right.


Due note 2: There's a restroom facility near the trailhead.


Due note 3: There is a general store in and one in Wawona General Store near the Pioneer History Center parking lot.


Due note 4: There is a gas station near Wawona General Store on the main park road.


Due note 5: As in any other trail in Yosemite, pets are not allowed on hiking trails.


Due note 6: This trail is much less crowded than other waterfalls trail in Yosemite Valley, but you will not be the only one there. When I visit here during weekend, I started my hike at 7 and I saw only few other hikers but when walking down the trail I saw many other hikers and the parking lot was full at mid-day.


Due note 7: The largest waterfall view is not so much rewording because you can’t see it from the trail (only from half a mile away) and you only can see the river fall of the cliff into the canyon below. But the view of the Wawona valley and of the cascades is nice.



My thoughts:

As someone that having fun out of trails the climb up I really like this hike, you will have the fun of the climb and the rewording view of the valley and the cascading waterfalls.

During June 2023 the water were raging down the cascades and the view of the river flowing off the cliff, disappearing into the canyon below is impressive.




The Hike:

It's not as steep trail but it climbs constantly, almost without any flat section all the way up to the waterfalls, 3.7 miles and 2,200 ft of elevation gain.


The trail start across the road from the parking lot (there is a clear sign).

You will start by walking along Chilnualna Creek for a 1/2 mile. Here you have a good view of the lower cascade section of the river. 

The trail is steep and made of stone steps along the cascade and large boulders. From here the trail turn left with a series of switchbacks lead away from the creek into the forest.

After very short walk you will get into a trail junction, keep heading up the main trail.


Because the low elevation at this point the forest here is diverse, made of many different tree types and even few open sections.


As you climb the trees change to be more alpine look, you can catch a glimpse of the Wawona Dome above you on the other side of the canyon.

You will keep climbing in the forest on the left side of the cliff, at some point you will pass few small waterfalls that may be dry during summer.

At some point when you gain a lot of elevation you can see from a far the 240-foot waterfall. The waterfall is mostly hidden from view, as it drop from the cliff into canyon in the rocks, you can see the mist rising up during high water flow.


Near the last section of the climb the trail cut trough an open granite rocky section with a series of stairs, when you pass this section, you will find yourself on the top of the largest waterfall.


Here the river drop and disappear into the waterfall.

Be carful not to walk to close to the edge, falling from here will be the last thing you will do…


Many made a stop here. Enjoy the view of the valley below and the noise of the waterfall.


Chilnualna Falls consists of several falls: it start with a 50-foot, followed by a series of pools and a 100-foot cascade, followed by a 240-foot falls into the canyon below.


From this point you can continue walking along the stone stairs as the trail loops around and climb to the next cascade section.


Most people stop here.


I kept walking up, cross a side stream over logs and went up the trail.

After a half a mile the trail cross the Chilnualna river. When I visit here (June 2023) the river was overflowing and it was dangerous to cross it, especially when I’m alone.


I ended my climb here and turn around going down.


It’s a long way back downhill but much easier than going up.






Additional Pictures: