Updated: Aug 1, 2022
Despite living in Tahoe for nearly a decade, we had yet to go on either of these two "local" short hikes down by Emerald Bay. We figured since it's waterfall season, now would be a great time to go. The area around Emerald Bay can be insanely busy, especially on the weekends, so (legal) parking can be hard to come by. Knowing this, we waited until later in the day on Sunday to head down to that end of the lake, assuming that the bulk of the weekend crowds would have dissipated by then.
Our assumption was mostly accurate. We got lucky and even though the main parking lot for Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake was still closed for the season, we found a parking space along the highway and headed to the trail. This trail is not difficult, but parts of it are rocky, parts of it are a little steep, and it requires some level of agility and care. We finished a 6-mile rocky trail yesterday, so conquering yet another rocky trail the following day was a little daunting.
The trail was quite busy. Most people hike up the short distance to the foot bridge to see Eagle Falls and then turn around. We've done that ourselves a few times.
The one time we actually tried to continue hiking up to Eagle Lake we were thwarted by deep snow still covering the trail just beyond the foot bridge, so we had to turn around.
This time, however, no snow on the trail. Some sloppy mud patches and running water to contend with, but nothing too major. The tributary that flows between Eagle Lake, Eagle Falls, and Lake Tahoe was gushing.
From here, you can see a sliver of blue in the background that is Lake Tahoe.
Here is Emerald Bay leading out to Lake Tahoe with Eagle Falls winding through the trees below.
After the foot bridge, the trail steadily climbs the rest of the way to Eagle Lake. As you approach the lake, multiple legs of the trail appear amongst the manzanita floor covering, making it a "choose your own adventure" to find an open perch along the shoreline. We picked a route and headed down to a large boulder to sit for a few minutes and take in the beauty in front of us.
On our way back down the trail, the perspective was slightly different and a couple of views caught my eye.
The descent required being held up and dodging numerous other hikers. I told my husband I felt like a train of mountain goats, all coming 'round the mountain. We made it back to the Jeep and headed off to the next trailhead for Cascade Falls.
My favorite part of Emerald Bay Road is the south end of the bay where the road is super narrow with no guardrails, and you can see Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe on one side of the road and Cascade Lake on the other side. Granted, both sides of the road are sheer drop-offs, but if you don't allow that thought into your head, it's an amazing view and unusual stretch of road.
We meandered through the campground and arrived at the trailhead and paid our $10 day-use fee.
The parking lot had two other cars in it. We wondered why it wasn't busier. I joked maybe the falls weren't flowing and we'd end up making the trip for nothing.
Well, we started out, nonetheless. Oh, another rocky trail. Sweet. We began descending, carefully choosing our steps on top of and around boulders and rocks. Very shortly, we could hear a rushing falls in the distance. We chuckled at my earlier joke and decided to keep moving.
A few other hikers were coming the opposite direction as us, but otherwise, the trail was empty. After climbing more rocky terrain, we crested a boulder pile and got a lovely view of Cascade Lake.
Then we reached the falls. It was incredible!
Check out this raging water and massive drop-off!
I could have spent an hour here, sitting on the rock shelves directly adjacent to the rushing falls. It was just awesome and hard to believe this is all coming from snowpack melt. Amazing.
But, the sun was getting low and I was getting hungry for dinner, so we started making our way back up over the boulder piles and then up the rocky trail to the parking lot. I actually was not looking forward to climbing back out, because the terrain seemed so challenging on the descent to the falls, but it turned out to not be as difficult as I expected, so I was glad for that.
On the way up, I told my husband, "Well, that was definitely worth the price of admission."
Another weekend of hiking on the books with more waterfalls and incredible Sierra scenery.