Big Creek Falls Hike

On Christmas Day, we went for a hike to Big Creek Falls in Yosemite. It’s an old trail, not maintained anymore, but supposedly a great destination. We confirmed its existence with Tom Bopp who new exactly where it was. He said with all of the other falls around, this one has fallen out of favor. That was enough to persuade us to see it before Christmas Dinner. Of course, we took photos and a GoPro. A full photo album is available too.

Big Creek Falls are alongside the old Yosemite stagecoach trail to the Wawona. The road is now called the Chowchilla Mountain Road. The dirt road is closed in the winter, so it’s a pretty nice hike without traffic. There’s a point in the road where it crosses Big Creek, near the edge of the park.

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As you cross the bridge, there’s a semblance of an overgrown trail on the right of the creek. We walked back up the road to see where we could cross. Finding an old bridge base, collapsed long ago, we figured that was the crossing point. Further up the creek there was a nice big felled tree connecting both banks of the waterway. We figured crossing a snowy and icy smooth tree probably wasn’t the best idea. We again crossed the bridge and head up the other side to find the falls.

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If you squint really hard, you can see the old trail meander through the trees. After some rough hiking, we come upon some falls. The kettles are well worn, the falls ripping along even in the winter, and plenty of beauty to see. We’re about 90 minutes into hike at this point.

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While enjoying the falls here, after listening a bit, it sure sounds like there are falls somewhere else. Something louder and with reverberating very low bass lies further upstream. It’s not so much that you can hear the deep tones from the water falling, but moreso feel them ever so slightly. We head back up the steep banks and into the woods to find the next falls. The trail is even less defined at this point and we’re pretty much just gently cutting a path through the woods and underbrush.

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The picture above flattens this hill far more than in reality. It’s a pretty steep climb, and everything is pretty slick. While it’s not the right time of year, we’re mindful we’re in bear territory. I mount the bear spray to my hip belt out of an abundance of caution. We press on. We finally come to the source of the sounds and clearly hear falling water. Unfortunately, it’s a slippery trek down the slope on moss covered rocks to get to see the falls.

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However, after crawling on all fours to get down, the view is worth it. This is winter time. Imagine the torrents of water in spring during the melt. We’re planning to return just for that experience. The giant kettle holes act like echo chambers and reflect the sounds of the falling water. We didn’t see or hear any humans the entire time. It’s so nice to get time alone in the woods.

We head back up to a rocky clearing and have some snacks and water. Fifteen minutes later, we’re back picking a path through the woods to the bridge and road. I made a time-lapse movie of the experience as seen by the GoPro strapped to the backpack. I set the GoPro to take a picture every five minutes. The movie is the compilation of those pictures throughout the hike.

I also stalked us with a GPS recorded track. All in, the hike is just under 10km in just under 4 hours. It’s a great hike and beautiful sets of falls. It’s a shame the trail isn’t at least minimally maintained to let people see them.

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