• Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    0.5 Miles

Bathrooms
Scenic

Expect neither fossils nor a waterfall, but instead a geologic remnant of the last ice age. Fossil Falls is a basalt chasm carved into the otherwise flat desert landscape. 

Fossil Falls is located east of Highway 395, a few miles south of Coso Junction, 45 min north of Ridgecrest. There is Bureau of Land Management sign pointing the way, but it is small, faded, and easy to miss, so be on the lookout.

After about a mile drive on a marked dirt road, you'll reach the small parking lot, bathrooms, and the trailhead. 

The Falls are about a half-mile (round-trip) hike from the parking lot. The trail is well worn and marked with orange blazes. It is flat, but rugged. 

Fossil Falls is what is left behind from when a long-ago waterfall met a long-ago lava flow. The polished basalt and obsidian formations and chasm stand in stark contrast to the surrounding desert landscape.

The Falls are fun to explore, but be sure to wear shoes with good traction. The polished rocks are smooth and slippery. 

A few basic camp sites are available near the parking lot.  

Pack List

  • Sunhat and/or sunscreen
  • Water
  • Sturdy shoes with good traction
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Reviews

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The trail itself was rather short and we had the pleasure of spotting a desert tortoise along the way! As a group of geology students, this was the perfect afternoon spot to do a little non-traditional hiking. I personally enjoyed it tremendously because it reminded me of caving, and there were times that teamwork was helpful in getting through the crevasses and over the ledges. We all had a great time talking about the Geologic aspects and exploring!

12 months ago
12 months ago

Easy walk out to the falls from the parking lot that is a short hop off 395. Can poke around at your leisure but don't get too close to the edge! The rock formations are pretty impressive and it definitely makes you feel tiny. Definitely worth the stop.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Sara Kurth

Minnesota-raised, Oakland-based running coach, writer, explorer and observer. Seeker of the unusual and the unexpected.

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