Yosemite Creek - Tioga Pass Road to Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Creek, California, US


Tioga Pass Road to Yosemite Falls

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 106 fpm

River Description

Yosemite is a fun creek with the unusual factor of a long downhill hike into Yosemite Valley at the end. The hike out is two miles on a good trail, but from the top of Yosemite Falls to the valley floor is about 2,500 feet of elevation drop. Save some energy and have a good system to carry your boat.

Put-in: From Yosemite Valley drive out highway 120 to the Tioga Pass road and then up to the Yosemite Creek. There is a pretty big parking area 100 yards past the bridge.   Elevation is 7440 feet.

It is best to have your gear all ready and do a fast put-in, so as not to attract unwanted attention. There is also road access to a campground two miles downstream of the Tioga Pass rd.

Take-out: There is a trail bridge (elevation 6580 feet) 250 yards above the actual Yosemite Falls, so there is no problem about knowing when to exit the creek. Also, there are plenty of pools and eddies above and below the bridge so that a swim here would not be catastrophic. After you take out at the bridge, you will need to chat with the many hikers and answer their questions. Then you can walk over to the falls overlook and be a tourist yourself for a little while. After relaxing and enjoying the scenery it is time to hike down the well maintained trail.

Yosemite Creek goes through a variety of terrain and character. It starts at around 7,500 feet elevation and drops to about 6,600 feet elevation at the top of the falls. Immediately below Tioga Pass road, this creek is just plain tiny! It is tight and not much wider than a boat till side streams start feeding it. It is silly to boat it there, but I liked it anyway. By the time you get to the old Tioga Pass Road bridge two miles downstream, the flow has increased to more respectable dimensions. Much of the creek is technical and rocky but not overly steep. There are a number of gorges that are class 5 and depending on flow or other factors may or may not be runnable. There is one beautiful section of steep bedrock slides and pools. There are also some long sections of meandering class 1.

Logs can be a problem at any point along this creek and the number of logs probably varies considereably from year to year. Expect to do numerous portages around logs. Portages are mostly pretty easy along this creek and are usually at river level. The creek is not down in a deep canyon but rather flowing through a moderate valleys, with only occasional small gorges of impressive or congested drops.  Seems like the logs were most frequent in the class 1 sections. 

When you do boat this creek, please leave a comment on the bottom of this page with the date, flow at Pohono, approximate number of logs, and that sort of info.

Other Information Sources:
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Water Activities

Merced & SF Merced Planning Process:
The Merced River Plan process is still accepting public comments. Boaters should write comments about which sections of the river and tributaries that they like to boat on and want to boat on. Describe what the experience is like and how it fits into your appreciation and understanding of Yosemite.
Merced River Plan- Public scoping open! till Feb 4, 2010
Merced & South Fork Merced River Draft Outstandingly Remarkable Values Report (1.3 MB, PDF file)

Comment forms [772 kb PDF]
Submit comments electronically to the Yosemite National Park Service planning team at
yose_planning@nps.gov or

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2012-04-22 06:54:54


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
2.0Bridge at Yosemite Creek CampgroundN/AAccess
5.0Bedrock SlidesIV

Rapid Descriptions

Bridge at Yosemite Creek Campground (Class N/A, Mile 2.0)

I was told that this is an older Tioga Pass road.  The creek should have a respectable flow from side streams by this point.

Bedrock Slides (Class IV, Mile 5.0)

These slides seemed very impressive back in the 1980's but are pretty tame by today's standards.  Nonetheless, they are very nice.  You can scout and photograph from either side, maybe easier on river left.

Gorge (Class V, Mile 7.0)

This short gorge near the end was usually portaged on the right, because of a few problematic drops.  Modern creekers might not have any problems. 

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Associated Projects

  • Yosemite Whitewater (CA)
    AW advocates for opportunities to enjoy the unique and spectacular rivers of Yosemite National Park.