National Park Service officials at Yosemite National Park reported on April 7 that a rockfall has closed the trail to Rancheria Falls near Hetch Hetchy. Approximately 400 feet of the popular trail was destroyed by the impact of falling rock.
Officials estimate that approximately 16,000 tons of rock (equivalent to 5,500 cubic meters) fell from a cliff east of Wapama Falls in the area of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the early afternoon of March 31. The rocks fell from roughly 500 feet above the base of the cliff, shattering into large boulders that crushed trees and covered the trail when they hit the slope below the cliff. Many of the fresh boulders fell into the reservoir.
Talus from the rockfall remains on this portion of the trail, blocking access and presenting a safety hazard. Access to Wapama Falls via O'Shaughnessy Dam remains open and is safe for hiking.
Rancheria Falls popular with day hikers and backpackers alike. With an elevation of just 3,728 feet at the trailhead and an elevation gain of just 800 feet, the hike is among the easier treks in the park. Its 13-mile roundtrip might deter some hikers, but the falls are popular for camping (wilderness permit required) and are often a stop for backpackers continuing north to Tiltill Valley and other destinations in northwestern Yosemite.
Mother nature has been active in this section of Yosemite National Park in recent months. Last August's Rim Fire closed trailheads at O'Shaughnessy Dam, and extensive portions of the Beehive Meadow Trail to Lake Vernon remained closed for months afterward.
No injuries were reported in the Rancheria Falls rockfall. Officials expect to clear the trail later in the season but provided no estimated date for its reopening. Rancheria Falls will remains inaccessible via this trail until further notice.
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