Ribbon Fall is the longest single-drop waterfall in North America at 1,612 feet which is contained in a box amphitheater and reached by way of a challenging informal trail through the forest along Ribbon Creek. Difficulties encountered on the hike include continuous route finding to navigate the informal trail, having enough common sense to turn around if the falling water or mist is too heavy near the base, and watching out for potentially dangerous rockfall when inside of the box amphitheater. Route maps and GPS coordinates are not provided for safety reasons because the base of Ribbon Fall is only suited for exploration by advanced hikers who exercise caution.
Ribbon Fall is the fourth in a series of Yosemite Valley exclusives that I am covering for Death Valley hikers who follow my blog reports and are interested in seeing other places. The other three hikes that I have covered out of Yosemite Valley include Illilouette Gorge, Sierra Point, and Rainbow View. I hope to cover more in the future (especially since my first baby is on the way and I will be spending more time hiking closer to home in the Bay Area). The base of Ribbon Fall was not a hike that I had researched prior to coming to Yosemite Valley for our April 2012 trip. But upon driving into the valley, one of the first things we noticed was the spectacular view of Ribbon Fall cascading down the granite cliffs to the left of El Capitan. Being that Ribbon Fall happens to be the highest single-drop waterfall in North America at 1,612 feet and the flow was so large, I thought about trying to hike to the base. (Compare the height of Ribbon Fall with that of Upper Yosemite Fall, which is nearly 200 feet less at 1,430 feet.) The next day, I happened to be hiking the Rockslides Trail to Rainbow View. Near the start of the trail, I spotted some cairns marking the beginning of the informal Ribbon Fall trail. Thus, the next day I took two friends back and we hiked it. We found that the trail was relatively easy to follow the entire way, with rock cairns set up quite frequently. However, there are spots where you have to stop for a minute and look around, carefully figuring out where the trail goes next. If you're not paying attention or you don't have good cross-country navigational skills, it is likely that you will end up losing the trail and scrambling up the mountainside instead. The informal trail was not actually marked to lead hikers to the base of Ribbon Fall. It was set up by mountaineers who are heading to a nearby climbing location. But the trail goes almost all the way to Ribbon Fall, perhaps just 10 minutes or less from the base. The trail is kind of divided into three sections -- (1) the lower section which is relatively flat hiking through the woods, (2) the middle section which follows the left side of Ribbon Creek and gets steeper, and (3) the very steep final section which heads back into the forest switchbacking uphill. Once the trail is completed, you arrive at the base of a monolith rock wall. From there, you have to navigate on your own to the right towards Ribbon Fall. This is where things get quite a bit more complicated. From reading online reports, I have observed that a lot of hikers cannot find a good time of year to get close to Ribbon Fall. The problem is that it is usually very windy near the base of the fall, which means in the Spring, the rocks are wet and slippery to walk on and you will get drenched with heavy waterfall mist (more like torrential rain). Rockfall from above can also be a dangerous hazard. But in the Summer, the waterfall starts drying up and Ribbon Fall loses some of its magic. So when to go? That's the question that many hikers struggle with (or at least the few hikers who actually attempt this one). We did our hike at the end of April, which would probably be considered too early in the season for most expert Yosemite hikers. But it worked out perfect for us. Sure, we got soaked while hiking back into the box canyon amphitheater of Ribbon Fall. But once we hiked past the waterfall, the mist was blowing down toward the valley and we entered something of a safety zone (from water, not from rocks). Ribbon Fall is a very special place in Yosemite Valley and we all had an amazing day there. Our hike took place on April 30, 2012.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT