fossil falls hike

Fossil Falls Hike

The short Fossil Falls hike brings you through a volcanic landscape to a dry, water-polished waterfall. The landscape is beautiful and unique, and is well worth a stop. 

Rating:
4 / 5
Distance:
0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Time:
30-60 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy
Climbing:
30 ft (9 m)
Trail Condition:
Unmarked trail
Challenges:
Loose Rock
People:
Minimal
Known For:
Incredible geology
Best Time:
Any Time
Dogs:
Yes
Bathrooms:
Yes
Parking:
Free
Hike Weather:

Fossil Falls Hike Trail Maps

Google Maps trailhead:
Fossil Falls Scenic Area, Olancha, CA, 93549, USA

Fossil Falls Hike location
Fossil Falls is about 1 hour south of the Mt Whitney gateway town of Lone Pine, CA, off of I-395. It's a good place to stop when driving to Mt Whitney if you want to stretch your legs.
Fossil Falls Hike 3d map
This 3D map of Fossil Falls really gives you a good idea of how massive they are. The trail takes you to the mouth of the falls. You can climb down a bit or walk along the rim.
fossil-falls-hike elevation
The hike is basically flat. When you get to Fossil Falls, you can climb down and around, but be careful, the drop is pretty far.

Interactive Map

Fossil Falls Hike Map Downloads

hiking map on garmin fenix 3

If you have GPS device (I use this one by Garmin and I love it) for your hike, load the GPX file below into your device to navigate the hike. For help on loading the GPX file, read this article on converting and transferring to a Garmin GPS.

Also, don't rely on electronics as your sole means of navigation. There's a basic printable PDF map below, and I strongly picking up a good topo map too.

View a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

Fossil Falls Hike Directions

fossil falls hike

What to Expect

Turn By Turn Hike Directions

Fossil Falls Hike
You’ll see the sign for Fossil Falls Scenic Area from I-395, along with a red volcanic cinder cone, the product of an eruption 10,000 years ago.
Fossil Falls Hike
It’s about a mile drive down a dirt road to the Fossil Falls campground and trailhead.
Fossil Falls Hike
The trailhead parking lot is pretty big, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot.
Fossil Falls Hike
There are bathrooms and picnic tables if you want to take care of business.
Fossil Falls Hike
Check out the interpretive signs by the trailhead before you start the hike.
Fossil Falls Hike
The small trailhead sign is right behind the interpretive signs.
Fossil Falls Hike
Shortly after starting there’s a trailhead register. You don’t normally see these on a short trail, so I’ve morbidly guessed that it’s in case someone falls off the falls.
Fossil Falls Hike
Sign in and move on.
Fossil Falls Hike
The trail is pretty defined for most of the way.
Fossil Falls Hike
There are occasional orange blazes on the rocks that let you know that you’re on the trail, but they’re sporadic. There aren’t any signs either. And to add to the confusion, there are lots of false trails where people took a wrong turn. Look for the orange blazes and paths with the most footprints. And use the GPX file with a GPS if you can. It’s a short hike, so you should be okay in general.
Fossil Falls Hike
There’s a big rock in the distance (left) that looks like it has a paint blaze on it, but I think it’s just lichen. Follow the bigger, more defined path as you continue.
Fossil Falls Hike
The path is well marked with footprints, but take care, in some places people cut the trail, split off, etc., so make sure you’re on the path that seems most travelled.
Fossil Falls Hike
Another big rock with an orange type blaze on it. Keep following the established trail.
Fossil Falls Hike
Keep bearing right on the larger trail.
Fossil Falls Hike
And all of the sudden the falls will appear! You can climb around the rocks but be safe.
Fossil Falls Hike
If you look closely at the rocks, you can see fossilized algae on them.
Fossil Falls Hike
Explore the falls and take care as you climb around.
Fossil Falls Hike
Be careful toward the end of the upper falls, where there’s a huge drop to the canyon below. You can walk up along the rim and explore if you’d like. Once your finished, just head back the way you came and that’s the hike!

Fossil Falls Hike Video

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A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.