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Upper and Lower Rainbow Falls

Intermediate

Trail

3.5 mile 5.7 kilometer out and back
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 408' 124 m
Descent: -408' -124 m
High: 7,620' 2,323 m
Low: 7,212' 2,198 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 4% (3°)
Max Grade: 16% (9°)

Dogs

Leashed
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Trail shared by Hiking Project Staff

Wildlife and wildflowers are abundant on this terrific trail to Devils Postpile and 2 amazing waterfalls.

Hiking Project Staff

Features River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly An easy-to-moderate hike involving 2 amazing waterfalls, abundant wildlife, incredible geological formations, and a nice swimming hole at the lower falls.

Description

The hike starts in Devils Postpile National Monument. You can take a shuttle from Mammoth to get there. I would recommend to stop at the meadow along the way if wildflowers are blooming, as it is spectacular.

From the trailhead, you follow the San Joaquin river in a beautiful pine forest. The Devils Postpile is the first landmark you'll see, where columnar basalt formations jut up about 75 feet from the ground where you're standing. If you want to make a side trip, there is a short loop to the top of the postpile, where glaciers have smoothed it out.

The trail goes into a old burn zone, that has recovered magnificently, with wildflowers and grasses dominating, with new, young trees growing back in. Soon you arrive at Rainbow falls, a 101 foot waterfall on the San Joaquin, over a very slow eroding basalt. Unlike other river falls in the Sierra (minus Yosemite), it is a free fall. There are plenty of namesake rainbows here.

As you continue along the trail, the grasses and wildflowers are dominant on one side, while the other is wooded. When you arrive at the Lower falls, there is a great swimming hole. The lower falls is more of a river fall, wide and diagonal, but the amount of water makes is a special place to swim. Retrace your steps to return.

Flora & Fauna

This trail has an astounding amount of wildlife along it. We saw bears, lots of deer, and woodcutter ants (while they were building their sawdust pile from in a log). The flora consists of a pine forest environment, and a riparian riverside vegetation along the first portion of the trail. As you get farther along, there is a burn zone, with lots of wildflowers in spring, and fall when we were there.

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Check-Ins

Aug 9, 2019
James Cox
Jul 27, 2019
Rob Luskey
Jul 24, 2019
Edmund Tesoro
Jul 13, 2019
Quan Ha
Oct 6, 2018
Diego Britos
8.2mi
Oct 4, 2018
Adam L
Sep 15, 2018
Charlotte Crawford
Aug 31, 2018
Annisa Dea

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 8 votes

#1991

Overall
  4.5 from 8 votes
5 Star
63%
4 Star
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3 Star
13%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Hike Rankings

#268

in California

#1,991

Overall
137 Views Last Month
2,880 Since Aug 20, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

Upper Rainbow Falls
Aug 9, 2019 near Mammoth…, CA
Rainbow Falls
Dec 1, 2017 near Mammoth…, CA
Walking from the top of Lower Rainbow Falls to the top of pond. Water changes every year in volume. Waterfall height about 25 feet. Jumping from top is generally safe ... pond about 11+ feet in depth. Trout fishing is about average.
Jul 16, 2019 near Mammoth…, CA
Lower Rainbow Falls
Aug 9, 2019 near Mammoth…, CA