Fossil Falls Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||0.5 miles (0.8 km)|
|Time||30-60 Minutes (Total Time)|
|Total Climbing||30 feet (9m)|
|Highest Elevation||3,310 feet (1009m)|
|Dog Friendly||Off Leash Okay|
|Park Name||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
My Top Gear Picks
Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:
- Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
- Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
- Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.
I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.
See My Full Gear List
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 a good 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 Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.
Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Fossil Falls Hike Directions
Subscribe to HikingGuy on YouTube
Turn By Turn Hike Directions
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