Hike Name: Carlon Falls (Forest Service Trail Number 1531Y)
Name of area/general location: Stanislaus National Forest, Groveland, CA
Land Acknowledgement: This trail is located on the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of the Me-Wuk (Central Sierra Miwok). To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit native-land.ca.
Trail rating: Moderate; Short distance but may increase in difficultly due to navigating around occasional overgrown or downed trees.
Trail mileage: 1.45 mile one-way; 2.9 miles round-trip.
Permissible trail uses (dogs, horses, mountain bikes, others): Since the trail leads into an adjacent National Park Service Wilderness, dogs and bike use are not allowed on the trail.
Description of the area, sights, wildlife, and any key markers on the trail:
Megan Nicoles | via All Trails
Located just outside of Groveland, the Carlon Falls Trail follows along the South Fork of the Tuolumne River and leads into the Yosemite Wilderness before reaching the namesake of the trail, Carlon Falls. The trail starts near the Carlon Falls Day Use Area, where you will find bathroom facilities but no potable water sources, so please plan accordingly. As of this writing, there is a $10 fee if you plan to use the Day use area (i.e., picnic there) but there is not a fee if you park at the trailhead to simply hike.
From the start of the trail, you will follow along the creek and go through what is mostly pine forests (with some intermixed oaks) until reaching the falls, which is the terminus of this trail. Along the creek, you might notice potholes (also referred to as “swirlholes” or many other names) which are created in the river bedrock by the grinding action of stones or coarse sediment swirled around by stream currents.
While the trailhead is located off a major highway leading to Yosemite National Park, seasonal snow conditions can impact the safe access and use of this trail. The best time of year to visit the trail is April through October and is a very popular trail for hiking and running during those months.
The National Park Service identified the 28-mile South Fork from its source in Yosemite National Park to its confluence with the Tuolumne River in the 1981 Nationwide Rivers Inventory, with potential outstanding scenery, recreation, historic, cultural, and archeological values. In 1991, the Forest Service found the lower two miles of the South Fork to be eligible for Wild and Scenic River protection due to its outstanding scenery value.
From the Manteca area (either I-5 or HWY-99): Take Highway 120 East, heading towards Yosemite National Park. Travel past the town of Groveland and watch the signs for Evergreen Road/Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials