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USA Roaring River Falls

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California State Highway 180 links the Grant Grove and Cedar Grove sections of Kings Canyon National Park via the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Along the way, you will have passed recently created spots for Garlic Falls Viewpoint, Kings River Canyon (a.k.a. Junction View Overlook), South Fork of the Kings River, Boyden Cavern, and Grizzly Falls.

This spot is my favorite place to hang out and photograph in all of Cedar Grove. Roaring River Falls is a small but powerful waterfall, especially in late spring and early summer. The main waterfall that you can see stands about 40 ft (12 m) tall, but there is at least one smaller cascade upstream that you can see inside the shadowed canyon. The elevation here is about 4,900 ft (1,490 m).

There is a pool at the waterfall’s base where some people cool off on a hot summer day. However, the water is cold and the pool is dangerous during medium and high flows. If you really want to cool off at the base of a waterfall, nearby Grizzly Falls is a much safer choice.

Cedar Grove is a cousin to Yosemite Valley in nearby Yosemite National Park. However, there are some significant differences. Cedar Grove sits about 1,000 ft (300 m) higher than Yosemite Valley. Cedar Grove has a much more rugged look, with far fewer polished granite surfaces than Yosemite Valley. Cedar Grove does not have any tall, world-class waterfalls like Yosemite Valley. In fact, Roaring River Falls is the only “name brand” waterfall in Cedar Grove and the next nearest (Mist Falls) is a moderate 8-mile round trip hike from the end of the road east of Roaring River Falls. Most of Yosemite Valley’s treasures are visible from the car or by just stepping outside the car. Cedar Grove, on the other hand, hides many of its treasures from the road, like it does Roaring River Falls and nearby Zumwalt Meadows. Cedar Grove also has a fraction of the crowds that we endure in Yosemite Valley, so it’s the better of the two if you want to find some solitude.

Photography Tips

Roaring River Falls sits in a north-facing alcove at the bottom of a deep and wide V-shaped canyon, with the waterfall turned slightly toward the northwest. The waterfall gets both shadow and sun during the day but is most often in shade. It’s all about the sun angle relative to the surrounding terrain and it depends greatly on the time of year and time of day. Because the waterfall is turned slightly toward the northwest, it gets a bit more sun in the afternoon than in the morning. For example, my first three photos were taken July 14, 2011, at 3:00 p.m., June 19, 2020, at 6:30 p.m., and August 7, 2021, at 5:00 p.m.

There are two popular approaches to photographing rivers and waterfalls: short exposures to show power and turbulence (and even capture individual water drops) and long exposures to smooth out the water and create a more dreamy look. I use both techniques for rivers and waterfalls, often in back-to-back exposures. I suggest you try a variety of shutter speeds for Roaring River Falls. 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. My Olympus E-M1 Mk III has a feature called LiveND that automatically combines a quick series of exposures to mimic a single long exposure. Now the only ND filters I carry are graduated NDs. A polarizing filter is almost always useful outdoors to improve the image and to provide a modest neutral density effect.

Sierra Nevada waterfalls flow strongest from late winter through early summer, with the peak usually coming around mid-May. Roaring River Falls diminishes by late summer, but because it has a large watershed it doesn’t suffer as badly as do nearby Grizzly Falls or Garlic Falls. I posted three images of Roaring River Falls to show high flow, medium flow, and something between the medium and low flow.

Travel Information

From the Visitor Center in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, drive 31.8 miles (51.2 km) north/northeast/east to the small 18-stall parking lot for Roaring River Falls, which will be on your right (or drive 3.1 miles (5.0 km) east from the Cedar Grove Visitor Center). Next to the parking lot you will find one (IIRC) picnic table.

The path to the waterfall starts adjacent to the handicapped parking stall. From here to the viewpoint just above the falls’ pool it is only about 800 ft (240 m) and the elevation gain is about 25 ft (7.5 m). The path is paved and wheelchair accessible, although at one point the grade is getting close to the limit in the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA).

In summer, Roaring River Falls always seems to have a few visitors no matter what time of day, and sometimes it gets as crowded as 18 vehicles worth of people can make it.

Roaring River Falls cannot be visited in the winter because the road to Cedar Grove is closed in the winter.

For more information about Roaring River Falls:

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For more information about Roaring River:
Spot Type Outdoor
Crowd Factor Just a few people
Best Timing Daytime during spring
Sunrise & Sunset 05:52 - 20:09 | current local time: 20:14
Photo Themes Waterfall

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Thank you Fred Lusk for creating this photo spot in USA.
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