Fossil Falls Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||0.5 miles (0.8 km)|
|Hike Time||30-60 Minutes (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||30 feet (9m)|
|Highest Elevation||3,310 feet (1009m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Park Website||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.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here
Great for all hikes – short ones to 10+ miles Feels like a sneaker but protects like a hiking boot.
This is a super-light and comfortable backpack that can hold everything you need on a hike, including a hydration bladder. It also works great as a general backpack or carry-on.
Joby tripods attach to anything. The legs are adjustable and grippy, so you can put them on trees, packs, rocks, whatever. And they work like regular tripods too. Works with everything from smartphones to DSLRs.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Gear For Off the Trail
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What to Know For 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
Fossil Falls Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Fossil Falls Hike Directions
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Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
If you see trash on the trail, please pick it up and carry it out. Be a good egg and practice no trace principles.