Distance: 4 miles (6.5 km) round-trip (Consider adding a half mile out-and-back spur to Panorama Point for a total of 5 miles/8 km)
Elevation: 1,400 feet (420 m) Note: you start off downhill to Illilouette Creek and then have to climb back out again.
Difficulty: Moderate. This isn’t a long hike, but with more than 1000 feet of climbing on the way back can be deceptively strenuous.
Time: 2-4 hours
Begin at: Panorama Trailhead, Glacier Point
It can take a relatively keen eye to spot this elusive Yosemite waterfall amidst all the other park scenery. At roughly 370 feet tall, it peeks out shyly from around the corner from viewpoints along the Mist Trail, and quickly ducks out of sight from the Panorama Trail.
If it’s hard to get your mind around the name/pronunciation of this waterfall, you’re not alone. Its origin is a mystery. James Hutchings, who was a Yosemite Valley fixture in the mid-1800s, wrote, “This cañon is called by Professor J.D. Whitney the “Illilouette’, a supposed Indian name; but I have never questioned a single Indian that knew anything whatever of such a word; while every one, without exception, knows this cañon either by Too-lool-a-we-ack or Too-lool-we-ack.” Meanwhile, Lafayette Bunnell, who was a member of the first euro-Americans to see Yosemite Valley, puts it more bluntly, “The name of ‘Illeuette’ is no Indian, and is, therefore, meaningless and absurd.”
Absurd or not, it’s a delightful waterfall to add to Yosemite’s already magnificent collection.
For the closest view of Illilouette Fall, start down the aptly named Panorama Trail. There are eye-popping views all along the hike. Keep your eyes open when you cross Illilouette Creek to see if you can spot the waterfall.
The out-and-back hike to Illilouette Creek is roughly 4 miles (6.5 km) round trip, though a bonus side trip to Panorama Point affords more beautiful vistas for an extra 400 feet (122 m) of climbing. One cautionary note: while the initial 2 mile walk down to Illilouette Creek might feel relatively easy, be sure you save some energy for the more-strenuous hike back uphill.