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Wapama Falls

Lake, River, or Waterfall
Wapama Falls from bridge below – User:Inklein

ADA Accessibility Notes

View Wapama Falls across Hetch Hetchy Reservoir from roadside at O'Shaughnessy Dam.

Wapama Falls is the larger of two waterfalls located on the northern wall of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Arguably the most powerful waterfall in Yosemite National Park, it flows almost year-round and during peak flow has been known to inundate the trail bridge crossing it, making the falls impossible to pass during peak flow. The falls consist of two primary drops angled roughly 60 degrees to each other and a broad cascade at its base. Wapama Falls is fed by Lake Vernon, a few miles to the north.

Wapama Falls descends about 1,400 feet. Like Yosemite Falls, it has three distinct parts. The upper most section is a free drop of perhaps 300 feet, followed by a steep cascading stream which descends 600 feet in a steep sided gorge, much like the stream between Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. These cascades cannot be seen in their entirety from the trail. Such a view is seen from across the valley high on Kolana Rock. Finally, the bottom drop, seen from the dam and intimately from the trail, is about 200 feet down an escarpment that is not vertical. When the water's high, it shoots outward to clear this descent. The remaining 300 feet is buried under the notorious reservoir.

The gate to the Hetch Hetchy entrance closes at 9 pm daily in the summer and earlier in the winter. If you haven't left by then, you could become an involuntary camper.

Parking: There are two lots, one just before the trailhead and one just after. The one after the trailhead has a shorter walk to the trailhead, but the one before the trailhead (which has roughly a quarter-mile hike to the trailhead) has restrooms. The road turns into a one-way loop as you approach the trail, so if you pass up the first lot and then decide you wanted to park there after all, you have about a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) drive to follow the loop back to the original lot. Nearest snacks can be found at the Evergreen Lodge in Camp Mather, 8 miles (12.8 km) back the way you came.

Pet Friendly Notes

No pets on National Park trails.

Recreational Opportunities

Hike Distance: 5.5 miles (8.8 km) round trip

Elevation at trailhead: 3,728 feet (1,120 meters) Total Elevation Gain: 200 feet (60 meters)

Hiking Time: 2.5 - 4 hours

Why Visit Wapama Falls? If you've never taken a shower with your clothes on, cross the bridges below the falls, and you'll never have to wonder about that particular experience again. If this doesn't appeal to you, take your clothes off first to keep them dry and add extra interest to the hike for everyone in your party.

Hazards: Spray can be heavy on the bridges that cross the falls. Several streams that cross the trail en route to the falls can be difficult to cross early in the season. There's also poison oak along the trail, and we've seen bears and rattlesnakes in the area.


Seasons Accessible

The best time to visit is in the spring when there's lots of water pouring over the falls. However, if you're too early, there can be so much water that the trail is impassable.


Yosemite National Park fees apply

Nearby Places