Fossil Falls: Dry Waterfall on Highway 395

Off Highway 395 about 40 miles south of Lone Pine, sits a desolate area know as Fossil Falls. There is one sign for it each way and if you blink you can miss it. However, if you take the trip, I guarantee what awaits you down the mile long washboard dirt road is something you have probably never seen before.

Turning off Highway 395 we took our time down the poorly maintained road and arrived at the small dirt parking lot. This lot has a bathroom, a small map and a picnic bench, in the heat of August the heat was almost unbearable.

Lucky the trek to Fossil Falls is only around .2 miles so it is an easy trail, even in the heat, just make sure to bring water.

As soon as you start the hike you will notice that the desert of Highway 395 has now become a field of volcanic rock for as far as the eye can see. The trail weaves in out and over this rock, all while inching you closer to the falls.

When you finally make it you will immediately notice how different the rock is here. I will caveat the pictures by saying it is really hard to take photos here, the depth and colors do not come through like they do in real life.

The weird rocks gives way to a drop of about 60-70 feet, through a patch of volcanic rock making up a canyon. The history of the area says that thousands of years ago this had a river flowing through it, making the falls actually falls, but now it is completely barren. Don’t let that fool you though, this place is still completely amazing, and what I would give to see it when it still had water.

When you have reached the falls you have gotten to the end of your journey, from here you can simply explore to your heart’s content. I walked to the edges of both ends of the falls and even explored some of the smaller falls further down. Be careful though, this rock is always moving and breaking, so you want to be cautious when going close to the edge as it is a long way down.

After you are done you can take the path back the way you came. If you have a lot of time though I’m sure there is a way to get to the base of the falls as well.

Fossil Falls really is an amazing attraction. I am honestly surprised that there is as little information as there is online about it. It is such a unique place and such an easy stop off Highway 395 it really needs to be seen more. There is also a campground that cost 6 dollars a night when I was there if you want to stay for a longer trip. Check out the rest of the pictures below and be sure to let me know in the comment your thoughts on this area.

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  • What a cool spot to go exploring! I suppose the upside of having so little information about this place available to the general public is that you probably had the place all to yourself. 🙂

    • Ya that is true, there was literally no one there at all. It was great!

  • John A.

    This is a great website. Fossil Falls is one of my favorite places. There is another “falls” about 300-400 yards east of the main falls. It’s much smaller, but worth the extra walk. I love the early morning at the main falls when it’s cool, especially after a rain when the potholes in the rock are full of water. When the sun shines on the obsidian fields to the southeast of the main falls, it is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for your pictures and your words. John

  • Sue B

    You talked me into it! I’m stopping on my way to Mammoth in June. Thanks for the info and pics!

    • Its a very trippy place, that is for sure!

  • Dave G.

    After many years of passing the sign on 395 for this place my daughter and I stopped to explore the area while on our annual trip to Mammoth Lakes in July of 2013. What we have been driving by all of these years. What a sight to see.The holes that are drilled in the rock by the water and rock action are impressive. The Swiss cheese look of the rocks is something I had not seen before. The morning is the best time to explore the area before the heat of the summer sun gets to you. On our next trip in August we will be looking for the “smaller falls” to the East. Great area for photo ops.

    • Thanks for the comment and I am glad you finally stopped to check it out! It really is a unique area with the crazy landscape.

  • Em

    This is a very interesting, one of a kind place! We’ll make plans to visit it! Thank you for sharing.

    • No problem, ya it is a crazy spot for sure.

  • Kristin Langlais

    I’m adding this one to my list, another awesome summary and gorgeous pics! Question for you, how often do you come across snakes, I don’t do snakes.

    • Thanks for the comment and I can honestly say I have only seen a snake on a trail once. It was during a hike I did in Riverside of all places. haha

  • Angie Clark Groves

    We were there last november and found some amazing things . A very old place that humans made their own.😊

  • Eddie

    I just went here recently after a record setting rainfall, and I was lucky enough to see the falls come back to life. The water wasn’t merely a trickle, but an actual waterfall. This might have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the falls flow again. Thanks for being an inspiration for travel.