"Shadow Falls"

Inyo National Forest, California, USA

About “Shadow Falls”

Hiking Distance: 6 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2010-08-20
Date last visited: 2010-08-20

Waterfall Latitude: 37.69611
Waterfall Longitude: -119.12591

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

“Shadow Falls” is a name I’ve made up for this surprise cascade that I happened to see during a hike out to the scenic Shadow Lake. As a matter of fact, this waterfall drains Shadow Lake as it ultimately tumbles mostly unseen down a mini-granite gorge eventually joining the San Joaquin River. I think of this waterfall as more of a side attraction to Shadow Lake, which is a very attractive lake backed by Mt Ritter and a few other mountains whose names I don’t remember. The water in the lake seemed to change color from a deep emerald blue towards some slight shades of green around its banks as the sun went higher on the horizon the morning we showed up in late August 2010.

The hike itself was not trivial as we had to go about 3 miles from the Agnew Meadow trailhead (I believe Thousand Island Lake backpackers start from here as well, which explained why there were so many cars at the trailhead) with a slight decline towards a basin or valley before making the steep climb up to the lake on the other side of that basin.

The most visible part of the cascade was about 2/3rd of the way up a series of switchbacks as the trail made a steep climb towards the mouth of Shadow Lake. So if you’ve made it far enough to see the interesting cascade, you mind as well get all the way to the top to see Shadow Lake. Beyond Shadow Lake, I was told that this was the trail one would take to get all the way up to the very scenic Thousand Island Lakes. I had seen photos and heard many stories about that place, but I have yet to make it all the way up there.

We’ve seen lots of backpackers or very fit hikers continue beyond Shadow Lake, but this provided good enough exercise for a lake excursion done as a day hike (there aren’t many you can do comfortably without backcountry backpacking). In any case, it did seem like this was either a detour or part of the overall route to the very beautiful Thousand Island Lakes. So hopefully one of these days, a visit there could be made so I can finally see what the commotion is about.


From the intersection of Main St, Minaret Rd, and Lake Mary Rd (there’s a traffic light) in Mammoth Lakes Village, turn right to remain on Minaret Road (Hwy 203) and drive for about 15-20 minutes to the Mammoth Summit Ski Area. Here’s where you pick up the mandatory shuttle ($7 per person; National Parks Pass not accepted).

If you happen to show up before 7am or after 7:30pm, continue driving 2.6 miles beyond the entrance booth along Minaret Rd until you see the turnoff for Agnew Meadows (about 0.6 miles on unsealed road from the paved Minaret Road).

For context, Mammoth Lakes was about 309 miles (5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

Find A Place To Stay

Top down sweep of the falls ending downstream towards San Joaquin Basin

Semi-circular sweep from right to left of the uppermost portion of the cascade and ending towards some knobs and peaks in the background

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Trip Planning Resources

Nearby Accommodations

Tagged with: inyo, national forest, mammoth, 395, owens valley, eastern sierra, reds meadow, thousand island lakes, minarets, devils postpile, shadow lake, california, sierra, waterfall, agnew meadow

Visitor Comments:

Got something you'd like to share or say to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave a comment below...

No users have replied to the content on this page

Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

If you have a waterfall story or write-up that you'd like to share, feel free to click the button below and fill out the form...

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall

Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls

How To Build A Profitable Travel Blog In 4 Steps