Waterwheel Falls from Glen Aulin is a hiker’s paradise in Yosemite National Park, and it features picturesque views of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River as well as numerous cascades and swimming holes. The trip is just over 7 miles round trip from Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. Although it can certainly be done in one day, hikers often choose to hike the 6 miles into Glen Aulin on the first day and spend the night either at the High Sierra Camp or in the backcountry before continuing on to Waterwheel.
From Glen Aulin the trail follows the Tuolumne River the entire way to Waterwheel Falls. For the first mile the trail gradually descends across forested hills and sloping granite domes with steep cliffs rising on either side of the river. There are several smaller, unnamed waterfalls along this stretch, and as the trail becomes steeper the waterfalls become taller and more impressive. California Falls is the first of these, followed by Le Conte Falls, and finally Waterwheel Falls. The last mile follows a series of switchbacks to Waterwheel Falls, which features an excellent vantage point of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. From here hikers have the option of heading back to Glen Aulin or continuing into the canyon. The canyon trail intersects at Pate Valley with a trail going to Rodgers Canyon, and several miles later it splits off at Harden Lake with trails leading to Hetch Hetchy, White Wolf, and Aspen Valley.