Ah Memories! The Chilnualna Falls Hike

After spending a day last week hiking shoulder-to-shoulder with a swarm of tourists in Yosemite Valley we were hungry for a beautiful hike “far from the madding crowds”. 

The Yosemite Sardine Can

Of course, all of the falls were incredible as a result of huge snow fall in the area (see the Waterworks blog) but some solitude was what we were craving. 

Huge High Country Snowpack in Yosemite

Luckily, I remembered a hike I had done many times as a child and we wouldn’t have to drive the extra 30 miles to the Valley. Wawona is located just four miles from the South entrance on the way to Yosemite. This is where my family went every year for our 5 day vacation. It had to be in September because the only time dad could close the bakery was during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It meant taking a few days off of school but that wasn’t a problem back then. We stayed in a small two room cabin; all seven of us managed to share the one bathroom.

The 5 Day Vacation Cabin at Wawona

Elaine, Robert, Julie and I could go off and explore without a worry. There were swings, the river, lots of pine cones and it was always a thrill to see the first deer show up at our door…usually as dad was tending the barbeque. Before shuttles came to be, we actually drove to Yosemite and all around the valley making many stops to see the waterfalls and check out the water levels. In September the water levels were so low we could wade in the river.  Oops, I seem to have gotten myself back to another time – where was I going with this?  Oh yeah, the hike. I don’t know how he did it but dad managed to talk all of us into going on this very long hike to see a waterfall. Fifty some years ago I just remember being hot, tired and going back and forth on this very steep trail to get to some small pools of water at the very top. When I mentioned the hike to Warren, my thought was that I wanted to see if the hike was every bit as difficult as I remembered. Our spirit was good as we started the steep assent on this beautiful spring day but the ol’ bods took a mighty beating from this very strenuous trail. I didn’t remember the hike as it was but that’s because the beginning was very different with the amount of water we heard, saw and felt as cooling mist… and the granite staircases – so many steps! My sister, Elaine, confirmed that there were no granite stairs when we hiked years ago. We started the 8.2 mile hike at 11:15. 

The start of the Chilnualna Falls Trail
The lowest cascade at the trail start

The hike was labeled as strenuous and steep and lived up to all of that. We took our time, catching our breath while taking many photos of numerous falls along the trail. We had to cross over water about 5 or 6 times where side falls were flowing, but it was manageable. 

One of many small and seasonal side waterfalls

There was a lot of evidence of some of the big winter storms. Wendy stands in the gap cut through a big redwood that fell over the trail. The fresh cut redwood smelled great! 

A freshly fallen redwood

She also found a miniature cedar forest growing inside the hollowed out trunk of a much larger cedar felled many years ago.  

A Cedar Forest Diorama

And here’s one of a gnarly old oak that will someday get a gap cut into it after it falls over the trail. 

A very old and gnarly Oak

And a massive Sugar Pine that will probably stand for a few more  hundred years. 

Massive (but not old yet!) Sugar Pine

After a long 2 ½ hours we reached the staircase that leads to the top of the falls, and the climb proved worth it. 

The climb to the top of the falls

Chilnualna Falls

I think the photos say it all! We returned to the truck at 3:20 and almost forgot how much our knees and feet hurt as we ate our lunch reclining on the white Adirondack chairs outside of the historic Wawona Hotel. A perfect ending to our beautiful day. You can see a video highlight reel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyBMXOgBOkI. And don’t forget to scroll down a little more for Tippy, and then below the “About the Authors” to “Like” our blog!

Wawona Adirondacks

And, of course, even though he doesn’t do TOO much hiking, Tippy has some hiking tips!

About W&W Mudd

Re-retired again, Wendy and Warren publish as they adventure into the far reaches of their New World.
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4 Responses to Ah Memories! The Chilnualna Falls Hike

  1. Jim & Linda Schrankel says:

    Wow! What a great experience. Thanks so much for sharing your memories and pictures.

  2. Eileen Ogle says:

    What a wonderful description of a fabulous hike. I can almost smell the redwoods & hear the waterfalls & streams. The little Wawona cabin appears to have been maintained well throughout the years. This year has got to be an all time great opportunity to enjoy the Yosemite Valley & surrounding communities … it’s not surprising you encountered extreme crowds near the famous falls.


  3. Elaine Lasnik-Broida says:

    This may be the best blog ever written – loved the trip up and down memory lane!

  4. Granny says:

    What a gorgeous description! I envy envy envy you. There was a bit of a struggle at the first before I realized that Wendy wrote the first half of the blog and Warren wrote the second half, because our family did not take an annual five day trip to Yosemite, and hardly if ever celebrated Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanna. What a fabulous trip you are having. Many hugs, Mom

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