Alder Creek Falls Hike


A little early for wildflowers and lots of fallen trees on this historic trail, but my hike was rewarded with a beautiful waterfall, pretty views along the way, and a good workout.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 12.12 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Altitude range: 4,037′ – 5,841′
Elevation Gain: 2,252′
Date: April 20, 2022
CALTOPO: Alder Creek Falls Hike
Canine hike? Nope

I headed into Wawona through the south entrance to Yosemite National Park, turning right onto Chilnualna Falls Road, then drove about ½ mile to the Trailhead parking lot, a small turnout on the right side with a box to bear but that parking was ‘t available on this hike. They’re using it for tree removal and other activities right now. I continued down the road for a bit until I came to a wide turnoff along the side of the road across the road from the sewage treatment facility. There are a few other small setbacks in this area with fire hydrants and if you park there make sure you don’t block the fire hydrants.

I took the trail a little before 8, crossed the street where a use trail parallels the road, turned left until it met the trail that starts opposite from the trailhead, leading towards Deer Camp and Bridalveil.

There were a few trees across the trail, about 50, but nothing that couldn’t be stepped over, dodged, or crawled. There are several reasons why these trees fell. The drought weakened many of them, insects caught some, and the winds were able to knock them and others down.

Most of the trail though was clear of debris and a nice uphill walk.

And then there were more downed trees.

Vegetation has grown on the trail in a few places.

And some wonderful sights were seen along the way.

It was a little early for the wildflowers but a few were up for the challenge.

And then there were more downed trees.

There are different types of lupins that grow in this region. Although they weren’t in bloom yet, I was able to see many Harlequin Lupins, which are one of my favorite wildflowers in this area. They look like a happy flower and make me smile. They are bright yellow and pink and each flower is different. Some have more yellow, some have more purple, and some are a mixed combination of pinks, purples, and yellows. But even though they didn’t bloom, they still look happy and different from the purple lupine (Brewer’s lupine or Gray’s lupine) that we often see. Harlequin lupine leaves look like clown hands to me. You know what I mean? Its scientific name is Lupinus stiversii and it was named for Army physician Dr. Charles Austin Stivers, who first collected it in 1862 near Yosemite. Harlequin Lupine is endemic to California, found naturally only in the Sierra Nevada and its foothills and above Los Angeles and the Santa Lucia Mountains of Monterey County.

purple lupine

harlequin lupine

I feel like I should apologize for showing so many photos of the trees down there, but if you’re going to hike this trail, I want you to see what awaits you. It’s not for everyone.

Halfway through the hike the trail split. This is the junction of the trail that descends to Wawona Road at Mosquito Creek, another option for you to hike to Alder Creek Falls. It’s 0.6 miles from this Trailhead to this split, compared to about 2.9 miles from where I started. Not sure what the tree situation is on this part of the trail, but one of the great things about hiking from where I did is the views.

One of the reasons I like to walk back the way I came instead of Wawona Road is that it follows a historic trail that appears on old topographic maps dating from around 1885-1915. My GPS track is the purple line but you can see the old track parallel to my track. The old trail led to Peregoy Meadow, Ostrander Rocks and came out near the Sentinel Dome Trailhead area. Today’s trail network in this area can take you on a longer hike or backpack to Bridalveil Campground, Ostrander Lake or Glacier Point and beyond.

Historical CALTOPO map (1885-1915) with GPS tracking overlay

Still a few trees to cross.

And some more beautiful views.

I only saw a small snow plant coming out of the ground, but more will come out. It is a parasitic plant that derives its sustenance and nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to the roots of trees. They have no chlorophyll and are unable to photosynthesize. Ectomycorrhizal (EM) symbioses involve mutualism between a plant root and a fungus; the plant provides fixed carbon to the fungus and in return the fungus provides mineral nutrients, water and protection against pathogens to the plant. The snow plant takes advantage of this mutualism by tapping into the network and stealing sugars from the photosynthetic partner through the fungus. This form of parasitism is known as mycoheterotrophy.

A few more trees on the trail to jump over.

And a few small creeks to cross.

The trail met and ascended the old rail line that the Yosemite Lumber Company, renamed the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company in 1934, used. It was almost like stepping back in time walking down this gentle incline. I could see remnants of the old railway bed which included railway sleepers and rails.

Only a few more trees to go down.

I drove to a spot where I could view Alder Creek Falls, which the World of Waterfalls says drops 100 to 150 feet. With all the water rushing over the edge, I could see there were at least two sets of falls. It was very pretty.

I haven’t ventured much further down the trail, just past a wetland, but on past hikes we’ve gotten farther. If you decide to go further and take a closer look, you spot the remains of footprints left by people during the logging and railroad days. We also found a nice sunny spot to watch Alder Creek roar and eat a snack. But it was early in the day and I headed back, finding a spot along the trail with a view of the Chowchilla Mountains to grab my lunch.

My hike was free of mosquitoes and gnats due to the cooler weather and a little breeze, but as it gets warmer that’s not always the case. I think spring is the best time to do this hike because the wildflowers can be so beautiful. Another reason to do this hike in the spring and preferably not on a hot day is that there is a section of trail down that is out in the open and can get pretty damn hot.

Canine hike? No, dogs are not allowed on this trail in Yosemite National Park.


What is a Doarama? This is a video playback of the GPS track superimposed on an interactive 3-dimensional map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt or rotate it and look at it from different angles. With the bunny and turtle buttons you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Alder Creek Falls Doarama

Map and profile:

CALTOPO has a few free options for mapping and here is a link to my hike this week: CALTOPO: Alder Creek Falls Hike

Alder Creek Falls Topographic Map

Alder Creek Falls Profile


Snow Plant Wikipedia

Alder Creek Falls The World of Waterfalls

PPrevious blogs in this area:

Hike to Alder Creek Falls May 19, 2017

Hike to Alder Creek Falls May 17, 2016

Alder Creek Falls Hike 2015 May 22, 2015

Hike to Alder Creek Falls May 25, 2014

Hike to Alder Creek Falls (and beyond) May 9, 2013


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