The hike to Cascade Falls is a favorite by both Tahoe locals and visitors to Lake Tahoe. The trail is short and mostly flat, but offers up-close seating to Cascade Falls, as well as a beautifully layered view of Cascade Lake, Lake Tahoe, and the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. The ideal time to see Cascade Falls is at sunrise.
Trail Data (approximations):
- Location: South Tahoe – Emerald Bay
- Category of Route: Family Fun Hike, Day Hike
- Total Mileage: 2 miles
- Total Elevation Gain: 350 feet
- Highest Point: 6,932 feet
- Trail: Hard-packed sand and rocky
- The trail to Cascade Falls is rocky and wet in sections, so wear proper footwear and be mindful of where you step
- Avoid getting too close to the falls as the rocks can be slick from the spray of water
- Parking on the side of SR 89 near that Bayview Campground is ok (except when snow removal operations are in progress), but don’t block the gate or highway traffic
- Adhere to all Leave No Trace principles
- There are few trail signs and markers on public lands in the Tahoe region, so unless there are tracks to follow, the correct route may be difficult to identify–when in doubt, turn back
- Be prepared for inclement weather and carry plenty of warm clothes, food, and water
- Leave an itinerary of your plans with someone who will call emergency services if you do not return by your prescribed time
From SR 89, on the south side of Emerald Bay and directly across from Inspiration Point is the Bayview Campground. Pull into the campground and drive to the back to find the day-use trailhead parking. Parking is free but limited, so arrive early. If the day-use area is filled or you want to access this trailhead in the off-season (i.e. the gate to the campground is locked), you can park on the side of SR 89. However, don’t block the gate or highway traffic, and be sensible about how you park so that other hikers can find a parking spot.
Below is a Google Map to assist you in finding the parking area for accessing Cascade Falls which, on this map, is at the Bayview Trailhead.
At the back of the day-use trailhead parking lot you will find a message board. Just beyond that message board is a sign directing you to go left for Cascade Falls or right to travel into Desolation Wilderness. If you plan to hike into Desolation Wilderness, you’ll need to fill out a day pass (provided at the message board). However, if you are only hiking to Cascade Falls, you don’t need a day pass. Take a left at the trailhead sign and follow the path to the falls. The trail is rocky and wet in sections, so pay attention to where you walk. And, especially keep a watchful eye on your younger children as there are multiple tripping hazards along this route. The trail primarily traverses the side of a mountain, so it’s pretty obvious as to which to direction to hike. Once you get within a few hundred meters of the actual falls, the trail opens up and can be a little confusing. There is no one right place in which to see the falls, just head toward the sound of rushing water and you’ll be there. Thanks to the eastern facing views when you reach Cascade Falls, the ideal time to hike is early in the morning so that you can catch the sunrise. Keep in mind that the falls will be spectacular after a good winter and can flow strong well into summer, whereas following a drought year Cascade Falls can be reduced to barely a trickle. Either way, the views are great and the hike is fun.