Lower Falls (of the San Joaquin River)

Devils Postpile National Monument / Ansel Adams Wilderness, California, USA

About Lower Falls (of the San Joaquin River)

Hiking Distance: 3.6 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2001-09-01
Date last visited: 2015-08-02

Waterfall Latitude: 37.59509
Waterfall Longitude: -119.08947

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Lower Falls is the overlooked neighbor to Rainbow Falls near the southern boundary of Devil’s Postpile National Monument.

Both times I’ve been to this waterfall, it was peaceful and quiet as visitors often don’t even bother taking the effort to continue on to this falls or even know it’s there.

Therefore, it definitely contrasted with the constant traffic from the hordes of visitors found at Rainbow Falls.

In fact, Lower Falls is technicaly not even within the Devils Postpile National Monument boundary. It’s as if it was treated like a castoff into the the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Lower Falls of the San Joaquin River

Nonetheless, I found this waterfall to be a very relaxing experience even though it may not have the eye-candy factor that Rainbow Falls has.

However, like Rainbow Falls, it flowed on the San Joaquin River so its flow was just as reliable as that of its more famous neighbor.

Each time I’ve been to this waterfall, I was either the only person here or there was no more than two or three other people tops.

Thus, I was able to experiment more with photo compositions while also contemplating the scenery as the San Joaquin River continued to meander further downstream.

The Trail to Lower Falls from Rainbow Falls

In order to reach the falls, I merely had to walk an additional 0.5 miles from Rainbow Falls (thus making the round-trip hiking distance a total of 3.6 miles).

That said, most of the walk was a continuation of the sun-exposed burn area and it was mostly downhill on the way there.

As a result, I found it to be surprisingly tiring on the way back due to its upside-down nature coupled with the high altitude and the prevalence of fine dust particles from the sandy trail (which can easily get into the lungs and make it even harder to breathe over time).

The steep and narrow path leading to the base of Lower Falls

In addition to views of the 30ft falls from its top, I was able to take a fairly straightforward but steep scrambling path to the bank of the Lower Falls’ plunge pool.

On one visit in late August 2010, there were still mosquitoes, which probably illustrated how unusually high the flow was that late into the Summer.

Contrasting that with my first visit back in September 2001 as well as August 2015, I found there were no mosquitoes and that allowed for a few people to be chillin’ at both the top and bottom of the falls as well as allow for an angler or two to try his luck at the base of the falls.


While Lower Falls resides in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, the common trailhead starts in the Devils Postpile National Monument. For information or inquiries about the national monument as well as current conditions, visit the website or Facebook page.



You can get here by taking the same trail as that of Rainbow Falls. So see the Rainbow Falls page for directions regarding the drive from Mammoth Lakes as well as some context of our drive from Los Angeles.

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Checking out the plunge pool and waterfall from an outcrop before scrambling down to the plunge pool itself to examine the waterfall from the bottom

Top down sweep of the falls then sweeps to left ending with a look downstream in high flow in August 2010

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Tagged with: devils postpile, mammoth, mono, fresno county, inyo, sierra, california, eastern sierra, waterfall, san joaquin, john muir, reds meadow

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