6 Things I Learned On My Rainbow Falls Hike in Mammoth Lakes

Rainbow Falls in Mammoth Lakes, California
Rainbow Falls in Mammoth Lakes, California

I’ll start off my story by letting you know that I am a novice hiker. I hike a few times yearly, and luckily, I have never had any issues or gotten lost until today. Today, I decided to hike a quick 3 mile round-trip trail to Rainbow Falls in the town of Mammoth Lakes, California.

The hike out to the waterfall was easy, but on the way back I got lazy, made a few mistakes, and got a little lost. I eventually made my way back to the trail head, but the hike was a learning experience.

I learned a lot today about hiking that I will remember for next time. Here are 6 things I learned on my hike to Rainbow Falls.

1: Be prepared for your hike to Rainbow Falls

I wasn’t planning on hiking the Rainbow Falls trail. As I drove by looking for fishing spots, I saw the sign for the trail and said, what the heck, let’s do it. I didn’t prepare, and things could have turned out worse.

Because I rushed everything, I forgot water and my GPS unit, all while hiking alone. Being prepared is the first step.

2: Bring plenty of water

Yes, this is a given. I know to bring water, yet I didn’t this time. Yes, I know, very stupid. I told myself that water wasn’t necessary for such a short hike since I had never had an issue. I was wrong

No matter the distance of the trail, always bring water. You might not need it this time, but when you do, you will be glad you have it.

3: It is best to hike with another (human) buddy

I hit the trail today with my dog. My dog keeps me company and doesn’t complain. But I now realize that if I were to injure myself on the trail or get lost (like I did somewhat), my dog would be of no help.

Always bring another person with you on hikes, especially as the weather can change quickly, and you can get lost easily (or if bears are around).

4: Bring a GPS Unit

I have a GPS receiver with maps and waypoints. I never get lost when I use it. For some strange reason, I decided not to bring my GPS on the trail today—bad idea. If you have access to a GPS unit that logs your tracks and, even better, shows trails, bring it with you.

You will only get lost if the batteries run out or you lose it. If you don’t have a GPS unit, bring a waterproof map.

5: Pay attention to trail makers and signs

There are many trails in the Mammoth Lakes area. Many of these trails intersect each other. On the way back from Rainbow Falls, I ran into more than a few forks in the trail.

I missed one of these forks today and went the wrong way for a few minutes. I was paying more attention to my camera and phone than the trail and signs in front of me.

Luckily, I quickly realized my mistake, turned around, and returned on the right trail. Pay attention to all signs.

6: Enjoy the journey to Rainbow Falls

The hike to Rainbow Falls takes you through some beautiful scenery that will make you want to slow down and take everything in. Remember, it is not always the destination but the journey. But the waterfall is spectacular also, as it drops 101 feet into the San Joaquin River.

The hike is still worth it in autumn when the water flow is low, but so are the crowds. Just remember to enjoy the hiking experience and the destination, as this is the whole point of hiking.


I only hike a little, so much of this information might seem silly to you. But if I can help one person, then that’s alright with me.

Remember the basics whenever you hike. Prepare ahead of time, bring water, bring a map or GPS unit, and hike with a buddy. This is true whether you will be hiking for one hour, one day, or one week.

And enjoy your hike to Rainbow Falls.

Last Updated on January 30, 2024

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My name is Anthony and I am addicted to traveling all around the world experiencing new people, cultures, and foods. These are some of my stories.