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Cascade Falls 2006

South Lake Tahoe

June 3rd, 2006

2.0 miles
405 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:10

Rating: 8/10

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, drive north on Highway 89 toward Emerald Bay. When you reach the parking lot for Inspiration Point (on your right), turn left into Bay View campground. Follow the road to the top, where there is trailhead parking.   View Driving Map

If you don't know where Cascade Lake is: If you're driving south on Highway 89 toward South Lake Tahoe, there's an amazing stretch of road just past Inspiration Point -- you're on top of a ridge heading straight toward Lake Tahoe, with Emerald Bay on the left, and Cascade Lake on your right. I'd visited Cascade Falls several years earlier, back in 1999. But that was in late November, when snow covered the ground, and icicles formed in the creek. Today was a warm day in June, and while snow still clung to the higher reaches of the surrounding mountains, there was none to be found on the trail today.

When I had come last time, the trailhead parking was closed because of the onset of winter. I made the mistake of parking at Inspiration Point today, even though the trailhead parking was open. To be honest, we had planned to hike to Eagle Falls/Eagle Lake, but the parking lot for that hike was completely full. So we went for Cascade Falls instead.

The Bay View campground was nearly empty, a far cry from D.L. Bliss, where we were staying. At the trailhead, there's a place to register for permits for those heading into the Desolation Wilderness (to the right). But if you're just going to Cascade Falls, you don't need to register.

Cascade Lake

The trail winds its way slightly uphill for a short time before reaching a ridge above Cascade Lake. To the left looms Lake Tahoe itself. The trail heads right, up and down rocky terrain, with the lake below and mountains above. Soon we could see Cascade Falls in the distance, flowing briskly into the west end of Cascade Lake. The trail then continues around the edge of Cascade Lake, toward the top of the falls.

Cascade Lake

The trail pretty much disintegrates into a patchwork of use trails and rocks at the top of the falls. Basically, just wander around, marveling at the fast-flowing Cascade Creek. As you might guess, you can't really see the falls from the top very well. But it is a nice place to watch the creek rushing by, and take in the views of the mountains and Cascade Lake and Lake Tahoe. We sat down on the rocks for a little snack and watched several groups of hikers come and go, some of them dousing themselves in the water.

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls

After our break, we headed back the way we came. As the afternoon wore on, shadow started to overtake the falls. This is a hike probably best done in the morning, since the falls face east.

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