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Rainbow Falls - Inyo NF, CA

Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,696 feet
Elevation Gain 319 feet
Accumulated Gain 426 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.63
Interest Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
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16  2008-07-12 slegal
author avatar Guides 74
Routes 101
Photos 2,962
Trips 57 map ( 363 miles )
Age 60 Male Gender
Location Thousand Oaks, CA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar Map
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Preferred Jun, Sep, May, Oct → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:13am - 6:48pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 2020 Creek Fire834.24

You'll Fall for Rainbow Falls
by slegal

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There are lots of things to see and do in Devil's Postpile National Monument and the surround John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas. There are two places in particular that most people visit. The first one is the namesake of Devil's Postpile National Monument. The other is Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls gets its name from the rainbow that its mist generates when the sunlight hits it just right. It is a breathtaking sight. Located along the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, the falls drop 101 feet. After a heavy winter the late spring and early summer water flow over the falls is spectacular. As the summer wears on the falls continue to impress even as the volume of water drops.

From Devil's Postpile National Monument there are two main ways to access the falls. The first way is to take the shuttle bus to the Soda Springs ranger station and take the Pacific Crest/John Muir Trail past Devil's Postpile and continue on to Rainbow Falls. The other, is to take the shuttle to Red's Meadow and follow the sign to Rainbow Falls from there.

In 1993 the Rainbow Fire occurred in this area. The devastation it left behind is still quite evident today. The forest has been quite slow to recover. The skeletons of many burned out trees still stand or are laid out on the forest floor. At a distance the area looks dead. Up close the forest is clearly making a comeback, slowly but surely. Another nice side effect is that with all of the extra sunlight reaching the ground, the wildflowers are thriving. Regardless of the route you choose to take to Rainbow Falls, you will pass through the burn area.

When you approach the fall you approach them from upstream. You can see them from the top, which isn't very impressive. However, it's clear that there is quite a drop off. After you pass the falls you will reach a good view point that rests on the right side of the falls on the edge of the canyon wall. This is where you are most likely to see the rainbow. You can continue on down to another view point that is still above the canyon floor but further back, giving you a straighter on view of the falls. You can also take a long stairway down to the canyon floor and view the falls from the bottom.

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2011-03-29 slegal
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$
    Special Use

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Mammoth Lakes take Minaret Road (Highway 203) west to Mammoth Mountain's main lodge area. Park your car there and purchase a ticket to ride the Devils Postpile bus. Get off of the bus at the Red's Meadow stop, which is the last stop.
    page created by slegal on Mar 29 2011 9:40 pm
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
    prehydrate & stay hydrated

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