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Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower

Devils Postpile National Monument

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

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Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower

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  • The trailhead for Rainbow Falls is stop #9 on the shuttle.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • The trail crosses the John Muir and Pacific Crest trails.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Rainbow Falls Trail.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Educational exhibit about the 1992 fire.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Entering John Muir Wilderness.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Signs of the 1992 fire are all around.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Looking up the San Joaquin River above the falls.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Upper Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Upper Rainbow falls.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Lower Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River from above the falls.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Lower Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • The trail leaves and re-enters Devil's Postpile National Monument.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • The back side of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is visible from the trail.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
  • Rainbow Falls Trail.- Rainbow Falls Upper and Lower
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Impressive waterfall. Swimming hole. Easy grade.
Cons: 
Busy trail. Access only by shuttle in summer.
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Region:
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
450.00 ft (137.16 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
3.60 mi (5.79 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,170.00 ft (2,185.42 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

Rainbow Falls is a very popular hike in Devils Postpile National Monument, and with good reason. It is a moderate downhill grade to the falls, the upper falls are surprisingly impressive, and the lower falls are small but beautiful with a great swimming hole beneath the falls.

From the parking area just before the Red’s Meadow Lodge (stop #9 on the shuttle), the trail heads mostly downhill through some nice pine/fir forest and some areas that were badly burned in a fire in 1992. The trail crosses the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail shortly after the trailhead. It is just over a mile to the overlook at the top of the upper falls. The falls are on the middle fork of the San Joaquin River. The falls cascade about 100 feet, and when they are at full flow in summer they display a nice rainbow at midday.

The trail that once wound down to the base of the falls has been closed for a few years, but the main trail continues down for another half mile to the much smaller lower falls. This little cascade flows through granite boulders and falls into a large pool with a beach that is very popular for swimming in hot weather.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(10 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(78 within a 30 mile radius)

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