The Rainbow Falls & Lower Falls

A Hike in Bear Country

Our hike began at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead in the Inyo National Forest. We had read that the area was home to black bears. Knowing they were attracted to food, I ate all my snacks before entering their territory and left only water in my backpack.

Into Ansel Adams' Wilderness

I was also pleased to learn we would enter the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Knowing I would walk the landscapes that inspired him to make his iconic black and white photographs added something special to this hike. Ansel Adams was an iconic American photographer who made impressive black-and-white images of America’s beautiful nature, helping to preserve it..

Constantly Changing Landscapes

The trail along the middle fork of the San Joaquin River took us through an open area marked by a destructive fire, the Rainbow Fire of 1992. Thirty-one years later, fire scars are still visible; however, the landscape is well underway to recovery, with new life thriving everywhere. 


Finally, there it was: the magnificent Rainbow Falls from the top. We descended to the foot of the fall, which was a fantastic sight even without the rainbow. Intriguingly, I learned that the fall constantly moves due to erosion, inching upstream over time.

The Lower Falls and a Rainbow Grand Finale

We continued to the Lower Falls and paused for a while before hiking back, soaking up the beauty of everything: the waterfalls, the small lake, and the mountains in the background. Upon returning to Rainbow Falls, the sun and the tiny water droplets finally met, and they performed their magical trick together, showing off the fall’s beautiful rainbow.


Sunday, September 17, 2023


4.02 miles

Moving Time

1:43:52 hours


61 °F, sunny, calm