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Hiking to Alder Creek Falls

I was curious about how much water was coming out of Alder Creek Falls and was really hoping to see some wildflowers, especially those beautiful harlequin lupine. Sure enough, there was lots of water gushing over the edge of Alder Creek Falls and I think those harlequin lupine were happy to see me.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 11.88 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 4,030′ – 5,859′
Date: May 19, 2017
Maps: El Capitan Topog
Dog Hike? No

I headed to Wawona through Yosemite National Park’s south entrance, turning right on Chilnualna Falls Road, then drove about a ½ mile to the parking lot for the trailhead, a small turnout on the right hand side with a bear box. I had heard that that parking area wasn’t available and I can now see why. It is now a large log deck storing the many bark beetle killed trees that have been removed. I located a wide spot away from the activity where I could get my vehicle off the road and parked. The trail began on the opposite side of the road from that log deck.

I hadn’t made it too far up the trail when I started seeing harlequin lupine, which is one of my favorite wildflowers in this area. They just look like a happy flower and bring a smile to my face. They are bright yellow and pink and each flower is different. Some have more yellow, some have more purple and some are a mixed up combination of pinks, purples and yellow. Its scientific name is Lupinus stiversii and it was named for Army physician Dr. Charles Austin Stivers, who first collected it in 1862 near Yosemite. Harlequin lupine are endemic to California, only found naturally in the Sierra Nevada and its foothills and above Los Angeles and the Santa Lucia Mountains of Monterey County.

There were many other beautiful wildflowers along the trail.

Evening Snow

Indian Pink

Pretty Face

The trail led through bear clover that was blooming.




And that trail was sure muddy in places. Seasonal creeks meandered their way down the trail, especially in some of the lower and shadier areas.




At about the 3 mile mark, I reached the fork in the trail that comes up from Hwy 41. You can also reach Alder Creek Falls from Hwy 41 and it is much shorter and steeper but you miss that stretch with the harlequin lupines and wildflowers. I continued up toward Alder Creek.

There were still a few dogwood blooms hanging on.

Snowplants were along the trail in a very few places. They are a parasitic plant that obtains its sustenance and nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to roots of trees. They don’t have chlorophyll and unable to photosynthesize. Ectomycorrhizal (EM) symbioses involve a mutualism between a plant root and a fungus; the plant provides fixed carbon to the fungus and in return, the fungus provides mineral nutrients, water and protection from pathogens to the plant. The snow plant takes advantage of this mutualism by tapping into the network and stealing sugars from the photosynthetic partner by way of the fungus. This form of parasitism is known as mycoheterotrophy.


Snowplant Closeup

I had a few creek crossings but they were small.

The trail met and continued up the old railroad bed that the Yosemite Lumber Company, renamed the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company in 1934, utilized. It was almost like I was walking back in time while I walked along this gentle grade. I could see remnants of the old railroad bed that included railroad ties and rails.

And another creek crossing.

I made it to a spot where I could look down at Alder Creek Falls, which the World of Waterfalls says drops 100 to 150 feet. With all of the water rushing over the edge, I could see that it had at least two sets of falls. It was very pretty.

My pictures just don’t do justice to Alder Creek Falls but maybe this short video will give you a better feel.  Alder Creek Falls Video

I continued up the trail, up the wet trail. I usually head up past where a creek crosses the trail but had heard that you had to wade across the creek, so didn’t venture much farther than a nice sunny spot to watch Alder Creek roar by and eat a snack.

I turned around and headed back down the same trail that I had come up. The warm afternoon brought out a few gnats and some immature mosquitos were out near the wet areas. Even though I set a good pace, there was always time to stop and admire a flower, especially when it had bugs on it.

I think spring is the best time to do this hike because the wildflowers can be so beautiful. Another reason to do this hike in spring and preferably not a hot day is because there is a stretch of trail toward the bottom that is out in the open and can be darn hot.

Dog Hike? No, dogs are not allowed on this trail in Yosemite National Park.

Map and Profile:

Alder Creek Falls Doarama

Alder Creek Falls Hike Topographic Map

Alder Creek Falls Hike Profile


Snowplants Wikipedia
Alder Creek Falls World of Waterfalls

Prior Blogs on This Area:

Hiking up to Alder Creek Falls May 17, 2016

Alder Creek Falls Hike 2015 May 22, 2015

Alder Creek Falls Hike May 25, 2014

Alder Creek Falls (And Beyond) Hike May 9, 2013

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