The Santa Rosa Range, in the far northern part of the state next to southeastern Oregon, is another of those little-known Nevada ranges with peaks near 10,000 feet. Like nearly all of Nevada’s ranges, it trends north-south, with most of the southern part of the range included in the Santa Rosa-Paradise Peak Wilderness. Although the range does host perennial streams, the Santa Rosas are relatively dry, so a waterfall is an unexpected sight.
Falls Creek drains to the west. The waterfall occurs where the creek had a sudden drop of about 45 feet over a cliff. When the water level is at the right level, you’ll be able to feel the spray as it drops into the pool below. The rock beneath the falls is dark phyllite, a hard metamorphic rock that also makes up the angular ridges. The resistance of this rock to erosion no doubt helps account for the falls.
Know Before You Go
Take US-95 north from Winnemucca, Nevada. The easy-to-find landmark will be the turnoff for Nevada SR 140, about 31 miles north of Winnemucca. Continue on US-95 another 8 miles beyond this junction to the Horse Canyon turnoff. If you get to the Orovada Rest Area on the right you’ve gone about a mile too far.
Once on the Horse Canyon road follow it about 2.5 miles to an intersection. Horse Canyon is the prominent drainage straight ahead; do not go there. Instead, turn right (south) at this intersection. Falls Canyon is the next large drainage on the south, and is distinctly rockier and more ragged-appearing. The road ends at an obvious turnaround point, where it continues as a path.
From the trailhead the falls are straightforward to reach; just follow the old path up the creek. There are several fords, so footgear that you don’t mind getting wet is a plus. The falls are not visible from the trailhead; they’re beyond a sharp bend to the left where the creek goes around a ridge. The falls become visible about a half-mile in. There is a branch path to their base, while the main trail goes around to the left and continues up the canyon.