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Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is Waxing Crescent (23% of Full)


Re: Ribbon Falls Hike: Another Perspective

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avatar Ribbon Falls Hike: Another Perspective
May 02, 2012 01:35PM
On May 1st a friend and I hiked to Ribbon Falls. I read everything I could find here and other places on the hike and decided we should be able to take the climber's trail. The beginning of the trail is about 50' to the east of a large rock that is partially blocked by a manzanita plant. There is a cairn marking the entrance. There are also Cairns behind the rock marking an alternate entrance. The rock is perhaps a couple hundred yards east the pavement remnants of Old Big Oak Flat Road. We started up the trail but soon lost it. We ended up going through the forest and up on the west side of the long rock slide. It was very steep and took us 2.5 hours to reach a level we felt was about equal to the base of the falls but were obviously too far west. We had to cross the rock slide and were lucky to find a place we could do it. Shortly after crossing we found what appeared to be a trail which I believe was the upper part of the climbers trail. We followed that until we knew we had to go up to the get out of the forest to see the falls.

From the valley Ribbon Falls looks like little more than a trickle of water but up there it was very impressive. If I had first seen the falls from that perspective I would named it Fantail Falls, so narrow at the top and so wide at the bottom. The amount of wind and mist/rain coming from the falls made all the rock wet and slippery. There was no way to get to the amphitheater under these conditions without rain gear and even then the slippery rocks would have been dangerous. All I can say is that the falls are impressive and loud.

We did take a few panoramic images but no image is able to do it justice. I have one image that gives you an idea of what it's like.


In one of the descriptions of the trail it is mentioned that the climbers trail makes a sharp left around 5000' and a less defined (and no cairn trail) continues up to the right. This is true but I want to emphasize that final trail to the falls is nearly at the end of the climb before the forest ends. I'd call this nothing more than a short spur trail. We didn't even see the spur trail until we stumbled upon it right at the end of the climb. We took that back down to the climbers trail. We followed the climbers trail down which is well marked with cairns. Basically we were never out sight of the next cairn. The trail is very steep. We were anxious to see how we lost the trail at the beginning. Turns out the trail is not well marked at all with cairns for the first few hundred feet. There are some but not nearly as many as on the majority of the trail. My advice to anyone taking this trail the first time is that it stays close to the creek at the beginning, often within sight of the creek. If you stray very far from the creek then you're in the wrong spot. There's also a large red bark fallen tree that crosses the trail at least several hundred feet up the trail and you have to duck under the log. After the log the cairns become more numerous. Even if you lose the trail for awhile, just stay fairly close to the creek and you're likely to stumble across it again. At some places I was able to see several cairns ahead.

I don't know if there is an ideal time to visit Ribbon Falls. When there's a lot of water you can't go into the amphitheater without getting soaked even though the view of the falls is spectacular. It's very hard to photograph under this situation. You'd be able to get closer in June with less water but this would be a very hot hike even though you're in the forest the whole time. If you want to get into the amphitheater without getting soaked the water has got to be down to a trickle. Maybe October after an early rain would be a good time but by that time the low sun angle would make photographing to the south unrewarding since everything is in shade. High sun is best but you either have too much water or it's too hot. The perfect day may be very rare.

I'd say this is another hidden treasure in the park, but for a coupe guys around 60, this was no easy hike, although staying on the use trail up and down would have made it easier. I would not consider taking kids on this hike until they had a lot of experience.
avatar Re: Ribbon Falls Hike: Another Perspective
May 02, 2012 04:52PM
The lighting of Ribbon Fall is very tricky. Since the waterfall resides inside of amphitheater, the fall is only lit up by direct sunlight around midday when the sun is at its harshest.

Probably the best day to photograph it would be an overcast day with diffused lighting. Otherwise the sun would be too harsh or too strong of shadows could mar a photograph of the waterfall.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/04/2012 08:47AM by plawrence.
avatar Re: Ribbon Falls Hike: Another Perspective
May 04, 2012 07:35AM
When we went up there on March 18th I ended up doing the same thing.
Went too far west and had to work across some boulders to get back over
to the Amp. What I kept telling the wife was simply... we going up... that is good...
when we hit the wall up there we will just work over and be there... no problem.
She wasn't entirely happy working across the boulder field although she
is smiling here:

(yes, the boulders are covered in fluffy white stuff which added to her irritation)

And then there is some nice crawl-thrus and whatnot to get "into" the Ampitheatre... (it wasn't trivial)

Once at the top though... ahh...

I hope you don't mind me putting those pix and stuff here.
** let me know and I remedy


Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Ribbon Falls Hike: Another Perspective
May 04, 2012 08:59PM
I hope you don't mind me putting those pix and stuff here.
** let me know and I remedy


At first I had no idea what you were talking about and then I realized you were referring to adding pix to a thread I started. Maybe that's thread etiquette I never heard. smiling smiley It doesn't matter to me. Post whatever you like.

I'll leave the snow hiking to you guys who like it. Not my cup of tea. Missing the use trail made it bad enough when it was dry. Crossing boulders in the snow sounds scary. What an amazing difference in the scene in 6 weeks!
Re: Ribbon Falls Hike: Another Perspective
May 29, 2012 10:26PM
Amazing photos. Where exactly is the start of the trail?
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