fossil falls hike

Fossil Falls Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • Maps For the Hike
  • What You Need For the Hike
  • How to Get to Fossil Falls
Distance0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Hike Time30-60 Minutes (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)30 feet (9m)
Highest Elevation3,310 feet (1009m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park WebsiteRidgecrest Field Office - Bureau of Land Management
Park Phone760-384-5400
Stay In Touch - - -

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.

Fossil Falls Hike
It’s about a mile drive down a dirt road to the Fossil Falls campground and trailhead.

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.

La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos 24

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

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 a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

What to Know For the Hike

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 Trail Maps

Click To View Map

Fossil Falls Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

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 Directions

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Turn By Turn Hike Directions

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!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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