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USA Foresta Falls

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Yosemite National Park is known for its towering waterfalls, led by world-famous Yosemite Falls (2,425 ft/740 m). But Yosemite also has dozens of small waterfalls that are worth visiting and many of these are little known outside of Central California, including 60-ft/18-m-tall Foresta Falls. I did not find a mention of Foresta Falls on the park website, which might be an attempt to limit traffic through the private enclave community of Foresta.

Foresta Falls is an easy drive-to waterfall that is only a few yards/meters from the road, but its only drive-to when the road south of the community of Foresta is open to traffic (the road appears to be closed to traffic as of July 4, 2021, but I don’t know if this is a temporary or permanent closure). Otherwise, it’s a 1.7-mi/2.7-km out-and-back hike from Foresta. There are also some small cascades strung out along Crane Creek above and below the waterfall that are worth visiting and photographing. I have seen only the cascades above Foresta Falls and I have read descriptions of cascades below Foresta Falls. I have visited Foresta Falls about a half dozen times over the years and have always had this waterfall to myself.

Photography Tips

Foresta Falls faces south-southwest, so it’s in sunlight most of the day. This image from May 2012 was made just before 3:00 p.m.

I shot an Olympus E-5 at the time (Four Thirds) and framed this image using a 12-mm focal length (24-mm “full frame” equivalent) and a shutter speed of 1/30s. A slower shutter speed would have made the water even more silky. To use slow shutter speeds and get silky water, I suggest some combination of low ISO, and/or small aperture, and/or a neutral density filter. I used a polarizing filter to improve the image and to provide a small neutral density effect.

Yosemite's waterfalls flow strongest from late winter through early summer, with the peak usually coming around mid-May. Some of Yosemite's waterfalls dry up in late summer. I have only visited Foresta Falls in the spring, so I don’t know how it fares in the summer. Its watershed appears to cover several square miles (1 mi^2=2.6 km^2) and includes the good-sized Big Meadow on the north side of Foresta, so I suspect Foresta Falls diminishes in late summer but doesn’t dry up.

Travel Information

The community of Foresta is on Old Coulterville Road, which branches south off Big Oak Flat Road between Crane Flat (which is also the western end of Tioga Road) and Yosemite Valley, but closer to Yosemite Valley than to Crane Flat. Outside the park to the west, Big Oak Flat Road is also State Route 120. The trailhead for Foresta Falls (if you must hike) is on the south end of Foresta. The websites below include directions and trail descriptions. If and when the road is open, the drive is the same route as the hike.

Please note that the road to Foresta Falls (Foresta Road, which branches of Old Coulterville Road) passes through the small private enclave community of Foresta, most of which burned in a fire in 1991 and little of which has been rebuilt. The road is sometimes closed to traffic past Foresta and possibly even to hikers depending on its condition. My last visit was 2012 and the road at that time was well-graded and the bridge at Foresta Falls was in good shape. My research in July 2021 indicates that the road is currently closed to traffic. Check with the park to find out the status of the road.

Foresta Falls, the community of Foresta, and the entire road/trail from the south end of Foresta are shown on the El Portal 7.5-minute Quadrangle. A PDF version of this topographic map can be downloaded from here: I suggest downloading either or both the 2004 version of the map (an older style mapping that I find easier to read) or the 2018 version (which is the most current). I suggest also downloading the adjoining El Capitan quad ( for the same years as the El Portal quad. The El Capitan quad shows the intersection of Big Oak Flat Road and Old Coulterville Road.

In the past, I have used the USGS store ( ) to download quads, but the portion of the site where you download maps was off-line for maintenance when I wrote this. I don’t know if USGS site above will supersede the USGS store or if it will operate alongside it. However, for sheer convenience, I use the Topo Maps app on my iPhone. I have downloaded all 2,700 or so 7.5-minute quads that cover California, plus a few hundred other quads for selected locations in other states.
Spot Type Outdoor
Crowd Factor Nearly no other people
Best Timing Daytime during spring
Sunrise & Sunset 05:39 - 20:12 | current local time: 15:19
Photo Themes Waterfall

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