Trip Type: Out and Back, Overnighter
Total Trip Mileage Caltopo says 6 miles my Garmin clocked in at 7 miles. Call it 15 miles round trip
Altitude Gain: 1746' gross
Trail Difficulty: Moderate, well marked and maintained trail but VERY rocky.
Season: Early Season
Trail Traffic: This is a high traffic area given day hikers to Wapama Falls
WSH Trip Rating: 3 out of 5 stars: It's always great being in the Sierra and in particular Yosemite but Hetch Hetchy isn't the most beautiful place in the park. Still Wapama Falls, when flowing is amazing. Low elevation means less of the alpine feel I look forward to when hitting the Sierra Trail..
Day 1: Hetch Hetchy (O'Shaughnessy Dam to Rancheria Falls): 7 miles
The first couple of miles of this hike is quite nice with a wide well marked, easy trail. You will encounter a large contingent of day hikers heading in to see Wapama Falls. Once you reach the trail junction to Laurel Lake the terrain changes dramatically and becomes quite rocky. I'd actually call this trail an "ankle breaker" given the relentless nature of the terrain. Honestly, I prefer talus hopping over this but given the area it's unavoidable. The trail moves along the North side of the lake avoiding sheer walls by losing and gaining altitude to take advantage of ledges along the northern wall of Hetch Hetchy. Once you hit Tiltill Creek you have a solid climb the last mile to Rancheria Creek. Note there are no camping locations until you get to Rancheria so plan on making the entire hike to the Falls.
Day 2 - Reverse Day 1
- If you have weak ankles you'll probably want to wear boots with strong ankle support or perhaps avoid this trail altogether. It's not bad to start but over time you may find your ankles get tired and that's when you could have issues.
- Plenty of great camping at Rancheria Falls