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Alder Creek Falls (And Beyond) Hike

How about a hike to one of Yosemite’s “secret” waterfalls? If you go in the spring, you can also see a nice variety of wildflowers.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 13 Miles (depending on how far you hike beyond the falls)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 4,023′ – 5,862′
Date: May 3, 2013

Highlights: Experiencing a little visited waterfall in Yosemite where you pretty much have the place to yourself is well worth the hike and in the springtime, you can see a wide variety of wildflowers. “The best waterfall that no one ever sees” is how one hiker described this hike.

The trailhead is located at a hairpin turn on the Wawona Road off of Hwy 41 in Yosemite National Park at Mosquito Creek. There is a small turnout and one bear box on the inside part of the curve. The unmarked trail begins on the other side of the road.

We had seen a large, vivid display of Lupine at the intersection of Wawona Rd. and Hwy 41 and thought it was worth a chance to do this hike a few weeks earlier than we normally do. Since it had been such a dry year, we had hoped for an early display of flowers, expecially one of our favorites, the Harlequin Lupine that usually blankets the trail along the beginning of it. Well, we were early, but did spot a few.

Harlequin Lupine

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As we headed up the trail, we noticed how dry the trail was. Areas along the trail that previously had small streams crossing it and boggy areas were totally dry. We had some treats along the way with several types of wildflowers. I think this is Slender Larkspur.

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Pretty Face

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Applegate’s Paintbrush

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Yosemite National Park’s website suggests that Snow Plant is” named for its color, which is said to resemble snow over which a bear has just vivisected an unwary tourist.” But they add that some people claim instead that Snow Plant got its name because it’s one of the first spring flowers to appear, just after snowmelt.” Now, that first one was a new one to me, but I guess you never really know. . .

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The Dogwoods were just starting to bloom in this area.

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When we reached about the 5,800 foot elevation, the trail followed the long aboandoned Yosemite Lumber Company’s railroad bed. The Yosemite Lumber Company was renamed to the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company in 1934. A fun way to learn more about the railroad history of Yosemite is to visit the Sugar Pine Railroad near Fish Camp. They have working trains, tracks, rides and a ton of history on this era. Check out their website for more information: http://www.ymsprr.com

As we walked along the old railroad bed, we saw old railroad ties, chokers and rails. We could imagine the hard work it took to blast through rock and lay all of this track back in the day.

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As we walked up the old railroad grade, there were gazillions of these little tiny fungus all along the trail.

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Before we reached the falls, we could hear them. But when we arrived, it was sad to see how little water was coming out of them as compared to prior years. The approximate 120 foot drop of this waterfall is still impressive though. This was a very pretty spot to stop for our lunch where we could view the falls from above. It looks like a tough scramble through the rocks to get down to the water near the falls but I have heard that a few adventurous folks have done this. It looks dangerous to me.

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Brand spanking new leaves of Black Oak.

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Buds just getting ready to burst open.

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We followed Alder Creek upstream a ways til we came to a small stream that crossed it. It looked like a good place to turn around.

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On the way down the trail, we spotted types of flowers that we missed on the way up. Maybe their blooms were closed up in the morning or maybe we just plain missed them.

I am sorry that I couldn’t identify what this yellow flower is. One guess from a seasoned hiker is Lemon’s Draba, in the mustard family.

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Mountain Violet

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Bear Clover, also known as Mountain Misery, lines the trail a good chunk of the way. It was in bloom, with small white flowers. . .and pollinators.

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Lesser Star Tulip

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Fiesta Flower

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California Indian Pink

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We walked back down through the old burn and remains of Manzanita skeletons.

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A couple of more Harlequin Lupine had opened up while we were hiking. I just love these flowers!

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Alder Creek 38Although we were sad to see the dry conditions and the wildflower show wasn’t as prolific as in prior years, we had some good exercise and saw some pretty country. And, can’t forget seeing those falls! I think the best time to do this hike is in the spring when the waterfall is at its peak and it is cooler. As it gets warmer, it can get darn hot on some of the aspects of this hike.






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