Fossil Falls - Atlas Obscura

Fossil Falls

Smooth basaltic rocks tell a tale of ancient glacial waterfalls. 


There are no waterfalls at Fossil Falls, although this incredible geographical landmark is enhanced by imagining how the series of enormous waterfalls used to plummet down the breathtaking rock formations. 

Exploring Fossil Falls is a great way to explore ancient history that still exists in our day and age.  Volcanic flow nearly 20,000 years ago left fields of volcanic rock in what is now the Inyo desert. When glaciers from the Sierra Nevada Mountain range melted after the last ice age they formed rivers and lakes of runoff.  As this runoff eroded the basaltic volcanic rock, the rounded, unnatural forms were created. The rock formations are smooth, twisted and black and descend into steep cliffs remembering the power of the ancient rushing waters. 

Fossil Falls is an excellent and unique example of the earth’s geologic memory as basaltic rock formations are not common and these are staggeringly impressive. 

Know Before You Go

Driving on CA 395 North, you will see several signs to exit for Fossil Falls. It is a right turn off 395N. The turnoff becomes a dirt road and signs are posted for Fossil Falls. There is a parking lot with informational signs and a short trail to hike to get to the falls.

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