- Home - Hiking Trails - Hikes Around Mt Whitney 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.
0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Fossil Falls Hike Trail Maps
Google Maps trailhead:
Fossil Falls Scenic Area, Olancha, CA, 93549, USA 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. 3D Hike 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. Hike Elevation Profile 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 Hike Map Fossil Falls Hike Map Downloads View a Printable PDF Hike Map Download the Hike GPX File Fossil Falls Hike Directions What to Expect This is a good roadside stop if you’re doing a long drive on I-395. Great place for a hike and a bathroom break. There’s also a small campground here if you want to spend the night. There’s a fee and it’s first come, first serve. You can also camp for free on any BLM land outside of the Fossil Falls area. The area around the falls, including the big cinder cone you see on the drive in, is the result of volcanic activity from about 440,000 years ago. The entire area that you see around you was slow moving basalt flows. All of the volcanic activity changed the course of the nearby Owens River a few times, and at one point it flowed over what you see now as Fossil Falls, smoothing the rock into the ornate and polished formations that you see today. The Timbisha peoples lived along the Owens River and falls from about 4000 BCE, and there is evidence of human activity going back to 20,000 BCE. If you’re lucky, you might find some obsidian flakes from their toolmaking, or you might even spot a petroglyph. The Fossil Falls archeological district is on the National Register of Historic Places, so please respect the area and leave any artifacts or petroglyphs where you found them. Turn By Turn Hike Directions 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. It’s about a mile drive down a dirt road to the Fossil Falls campground and trailhead. The trailhead parking lot is pretty big, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot. There are bathrooms and picnic tables if you want to take care of business. Check out the interpretive signs by the trailhead before you start the hike. The small trailhead sign is right behind the interpretive signs. 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. Sign in and move on. The trail is pretty defined for most of the way. 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. 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. 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. Another big rock with an orange type blaze on it. Keep following the established trail. Keep bearing right on the larger trail. And all of the sudden the falls will appear! You can climb around the rocks but be safe. If you look closely at the rocks, you can see fossilized algae on them. Explore the falls and take care as you climb around. 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 Please subscribe to my YouTube channel here! Show your support for my free hiking guides by checking out the deals below.↓↓↓ You can also make a small donation if you'd like, but please don't feel obligated to do so. HikingGuy.com is a labor of love because I want people to get outdoors and enjoy the trails safely. I want people to buy gear that actually works and not waste money on crap. I love helping people enjoy the outdoors, but it takes hundreds of hours of my time and hundreds of dollars of my money to add new content, maintain, and update. A small amount of money from REI affiliate sales and banners help offset my hard costs like website hosting. The content on this site will always be free for everyone to enjoy.
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Read More 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.
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