Rancheria Falls

Yosemite, California 95389

Rancheria Falls

Rancheria Falls Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Lots of flowers, birds, bears, and reptiles are likely company on this popular springtime backpack. The route runs along the north shore of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, past Tueeulala and Wapama Falls, where you can expect to be thoroughly drenched by spray, to campsites beside the spot where Rancheria Creek tumbles down a series of cascades into the lake. You can do it as a strenuous day hike, but there are lots of moderate ups and downs that make it more demanding than it looks. Rancheria Falls has always been a notorious hangout for “problem” bears, so keep your canister locked."

More Rancheria Falls Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

100 Hikes in California's Central Sierra & Coast Range (The Mountaineers Books)
Vicky Spring & Tom Kirkendall
View more trails from this guide book
"Located partway up the sparkling Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a long, rambunctious waterfall on Rancheria Creek. This is one of nature’s finest waterslides, where you can enjoy spirited water play in the sloping granite chutes and crystal clear pools or relaxing siestas along the granite banks."
Sierra North: Backcountry Trips in California's Sierra Nevada (Wilderness Press)
Kathy Morey & Mike White with Stacy Corless & Thomas Winnett
View more trails from this guide book
"Eager opening-day anglers will find good fishing along Rancheria Creek. Beautiful 25-foot Rancheria Falls tumbles into large, inviting pools—a great end to a fine trip."

Rancheria Falls Trip Reports

4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
icon3 Total
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
This is a beautiful hike, with the reward of one spectacular waterfall along the way and another one at the end. It is harder than it looks on paper. Our GPS showed that it was 8.25 miles from the Rancheria Falls campsite to the trailhead parking, and it is another half mile or so to the bridge at the top of the falls. There are some long, steep, sunny patches after you pass Wapama Falls. In summer plan to start early and get off the trail during the heat of the day. There is water for pumping at Wapama Falls, Tiltill Creek, and Rancheria Falls. We filtered the water at Rancheria and it is the sweetest, coolest water that I have ever tasted anywhere. Our group included some 11-year old boys who are experienced backpackers, and they suffered a bit but completed the hike with full packs. I would not recommend trying to day-hike this unless you are quite fit.

The trailhead backpackers campground is nice ($5 per person self-registration). The campground at the falls is nice and shady (unlike most of the trail in), and we slept well with the background music of the falls. There are fire rings, and the ranger said that they have not had bear reports there in a couple of years, but they are serious about making sure that people do not tempt the bears to come back. On Saturday afternoon the rangers stopped by to reinforce that message, so make sure that you have a bear canister. Do bring insect repellent as the mosquitoes are hungry. There were three other groups there, but it is a large area with lots of big trees and we didn’t feel crowded.

Swimming is not allowed within 1 miles of the reservoir, so you are supposed to go above the bridge at the top of the falls. At the end of June the water was still too swift to swim, but wading was fun.

4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
Good hike, LOTS of waterfalls and water everywhere. Pack light on the h20 and bring a filter. One thing...I counted 24 downed trees, some of the completely uprooted and covering the trail...so be prepared to scramble over and through them! Hikin' Daddy!
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
What a hike! It starts out so innocently, an easy saunter through the woods. But soon, you start to climb, and climb, and climb up the switchbacks to a ridge on the north side of the dome. During the climb, you catch glimpses of the mountain peaks to the west through the trees. The trail levels out, then winds through the woods and past a nice pond that reflects the dome (great scene in the morning light). The climb up the dome starts soon thereafter, and gets a bit harrowing for those afraid of heights. But the sense of accomplishment is awesome. This hike is highly recommended!

Rancheria Falls Photos

Show off your photography skills ... post your pics of this trail!

Trail Information

Nearby City
Trail Type
Skill Level
6 hours to 2 days
Mid-Apr through June
Yosemite National Park
Local Contacts
USGS Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and Lake Eleanor quads
Local Maps

Trail Log