The truth is that the name Fossil Falls is a bit of a misnomer. After all, there are neither fossils nor a waterfall here. But a walk through these polished lava formations about 36 miles/58 kilometers northwest of the desert city of Ridgecrest is a highlight of any drive along Highway 395.
This remarkable site was formed by the interaction of rushing water from the Owens River (which in wetter prehistoric times flowed at a much higher rate) with lava that poured from nearby volcanoes as recently as 20,000 years ago.
The result is this surreal, convoluted chasm of shiny, sculpted black lava. A short trail leads to the falls, which you can observe from above or, for a closer look, follow a trail to carefully descend the falls (hold onto children’s hands as footing can be tricky).
Night skies in this remote high desert locale are spectacular. You can check out the nightly celestial show from the Fossil Falls campground with 11 sites (potable water and restrooms on site), plus picnic tables and fire rings.