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Hiking to Chilnualna Falls and a Smidge Beyond

We hadn’t received much rain or snow but I was still curious what the water flow was like over Chilnualna Falls and if ice would be creating artistic patterns along the creek. The only way to find out for sure was to head up there and check it out myself.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 9.44 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 4,172′ – 6,676′
Date: December 18, 2017
Maps: El Capitan Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? No

From Wawona, we drove down Chilnualna Road toward the end of the road, just shy of the bridge and to the signed Trail Parking Lot on the right hand side, about 100 yards shy of where the pavement ends and right next to the large home where they have been doing construction for many years. There are actually two parking areas at this location, one of them down the dirt road by the bear boxes and a small parking area up on the road. There is a restroom, which we checked out before hitting the trail.

We headed uphill and joined the trailhead across the street, which is signed. The trail splits at the beginning, one being for stock and the other for hikers and we took the hiker’s trail.








We had hiked a little over a mile when we reached the base of Chilnualna Falls and its beautiful pool. Chilnualna Falls is not a single waterfall, but actually a series of 5 tiers of waterfalls, dropping a total of about 700 feet. Wawona’s Yesterdays, by Shirley Sargent, says that according to one source Chilnualna was named by the Piute Indians and means “leaping waters” but that another Wawona native insisted that an Indian told him that Chilnualna means “many rocks” because the falls are in a very rocky canyon. If you are curious how to pronounce this name, it is an easy one once you get the hang of it. Give it a try: “Chil-noo-al-na.” How could we resist not stopping to admire this small, beautiful falls and take a few pictures?

Lower Chilnaulna Falls

We followed the signs toward Chilnualna Falls.


There were a couple of trees down and over the trail but nothing that we couldn’t easily walk around.





We reached the top of the largest of the falls.

We looked upstream to the next cascade of falls.

We had been making great time and headed farther up the trail, following the sign to Chilnaulna Lake.

We crossed a small creek with no problems but last year we were turned back at this point, just too much water and snow.

We hit a little snow above the little creek but it sure wasn’t much for this time of the year.

The trail crossed Chilnualna Creek and the creek looked beautiful, all decked out in ice and snow.

Photo by Gail Gilbert

Photo by Gail Gilbert

We didn’t take the trail across the creek but headed cross country, up and along the left side of the creek to a nice slab rock we have visited in the past for a break. It is a nice, peaceful spot with a view of a small waterfall.

After eating an early lunch, we headed back down the same way that we had come up, minus the side trip to Chilnualna Creek. We had a good workout and loved seeing the icy creek and falls.

Dog Hike? No

Dogs are not allowed on the Chilnualna Trail.

Where Pets Are Not Allowed

  • On trails, including the trail to Vernal Fall (however, pets are allowed on the Wawona Meadow Loop)
  • On unplowed roads covered in snow
  • In undeveloped and wilderness areas
  • In public buildings
  • On shuttle buses
  • In lodging areas
  • In all walk-in and group campgrounds/campsites, including Camp 4
  • In any other areas, as signed

These regulations protect both pets and wildlife from disease and each other. The National Park Service has prohibited pets on trails for many years. In particular, some pets chase wildlife, pollute water sources, and can become defensive and dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings. Pet owners have the burden to assure their pet does not damage the park values for others in those areas where pets are allowed.

Yosemite Hospitality operates a dog kennel in Yosemite Valley from approximately late May through early September. Written proof of immunizations (rabies, distemper, parvo, and Bordetella) must be provided. Dogs must be at least 20 pounds (smaller dogs may be considered if you provide a small kennel). You can get more information about the kennel by calling 209/372-8326.

Maps and Profile:

Chilnualna Falls Hike Doarama

Chilnualna Falls Hike Topographic Map

Chilnualna Falls Hike Profile


Wawona’s Yesterdays (1961) by Shirley Sargent

Chinualna Falls Wikipedia

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Chilnualna Falls Hike March 16, 2016

Chilnualna Falls Hike January 5, 2015

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