Fossil Falls Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||0.5 miles (0.8 km)|
|Total Climbing||30 feet (9m)|
|Highest Elevation||3,310 feet (1009m)|
|Dog Friendly||Off Leash Okay|
|Park||Ridgecrest Field Office - Bureau of Land Management|
The short, easy, and fun Fossil Falls hike brings you through a volcanic landscape to a 20,000 year old smooth, water-polished waterfall. The actual water disappeared 10,000 years ago when the Owens River took another path, leaving a geological wonderland for you to checkout. The landscape is beautiful and unique, and is well worth a stop to stretch your legs.
Getting To the Fossil Falls Hike
Here is the trailhead address: Fossil Falls Scenic Area, Olancha, CA, 93549, USA. The trailhead is right off of Rt 395, which is a popular route between southern California and Mt Whitney. It’s a great place for a walk and a bathroom break. There are primitive bathrooms at the trailhead.
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.
What You Need For The Hike
This is a very short hike, and you don’t need any special gear to do it. It can get hot in the summer.
- Trail runners or sneakers
- A camera
If you want hiking gear recommendations, check out my full gear list. I only recommend and review gear that I actually use. No company pays me to push their product. Everything on my gear list is battle tested on the trails, and should work well for you too.
See The Gear I Use
What to Know On the Hike
- 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. You can visit the cinder cone if you drive down the dirt roads.
- 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.
Fossil Falls Hike Trail Maps
I highly recommend bringing some form of paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Fossil Falls Hike Directions
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Turn By Turn Hike Directions
You can help other hikers. If you do this hike and something has changed, snap a few photos and email me the details. I’ll update the guide so that others can do the hike safely.