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Guide to Tuolumne Meadows Trails (1960) by Allan Shields


IX. WATERWHEEL FALLS AND GLEN AULIN

- Glen Aulin (3-Glen Aulin, moderate all-day, descend 800 ft., 12 miles. 5-Waterwheel Falls, very strenuous all-day, descend 2000 ft., 17 miles).

(Note: Mileage estimated from the parking lot of the Sierra Club property.)

The main difficulty with this hike lies in the fact that the trip involves a considerable descent in the morning and a steep climb out in the afternoon. By allowing plenty of time for return, and picking a day that is not hot, the trip will be pleasant. All other hikes except Vogelsang Pass illustrate the useful rule: climb in the morning, descend in the afternoon, whenever possible.

The trip down to Glen Aulin is rewarding during any season when Tuolumne is open, but the Waterwheel Falls are best visited during high water times. Consult with a

Waterwheel Falls
    Anderson, NPS
[click to enlarge]
Waterwheel Falls. Anderson, NPS
ranger regarding water conditions for the time of year.

The hike to Glen Aulin-Waterwheel Falls is along a well-traveled and well-marked trail that parallels the Tuolumne River during the entire extent of the route, crossing and re-crossing the river on two occasions. Do not mistake the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp for Glen Aulin, which is a lovely, long, narrow forest-meadow lying approximately one-half mile below the High Sierra Camp.

During the trip to Glen Aulin, as you travel down the gorge, you cannot fail to notice Tuolumne Falls and the White Cascade. Following Glen Aulin, in this order, you will pass California Falls and Le Conte Falls before reaching the Waterwheel Falls themselves. A metal sign marks Waterwheel Falls.

Directions: Drive to the start of the Glen Aulin trail behind the Soda Spring roofless cabin, and up the slope, parking at the Sierra Club lot. Follow this well-marked trail down to either Glen Aulin (the Glen is not marked by signs) or to Waterwheel Falls, or both. Return by the same route.

Special Features: Since the trip begins in the Hudsonian life zone and descends to the Canadian and Upper Transition, you will want especially to notice the changes in the flora and fauna (2, 12, 17, 19, 24, 27, 36).

All along the route is ample evidence both of water erosion by the river and its tributaries, and of past glacial activity. The geological story will practically tell itself, but some

Unicorn and Cathedral Peaks are prominent landmarks in the Tuolumne Meadows area.
    Anderson, NPS
[click to enlarge]
Unicorn and Cathedral Peaks are prominent landmarks in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Anderson, NPS
reading in either 6 or 20 will enhance your trip considerably.

Other special features have already been noted above. Seeing and especially hearing the tremendous power of the giant drop and tumble of the Tuolumne River at Waterwheel Falls can serve as adequate recommendation for the hike.



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