Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,150.00 ft (350.52 m)
Trail type
7.30 mi (11.75 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round


Open from

May 01 to November 01




Waterfalls. Beautiful views. Wildlife.



Trailhead Elevation

7,800.00 ft (2,377.44 m)

Highest point

7,875.00 ft (2,400.30 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site



Nearby Lodging + Camping


In 1964, I hiked from White Wolf CG to Tuolumne Meadows, following the river...It was the first backpacking experience for my two companions...we encountered no other humans until we neared the High Sierra camp. No lottery, no permit. We had home-made frames and instead of packs we wrapped everything in our sleeping bags and tied them on to the frames with a Diamond Hitch. Times have sure changed. Be advised, the descent on the first day is rather brutal! Thank you for this wonderful trip report, which brought back great memories.
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