The Top Waterfall Hikes In Tahoe

View from Eagle Falls, Lake Tahoe (sun rise)

If you are visiting Lake Tahoe this spring you’re in luck! As the snow starts to melt, miles of hiking trails free themselves from their icy hibernation and are once again open for you to enjoy. The best part is how all this melted snow fills the Tahoe streams and drainages, creating a rush of cascading waterfalls that are easily viewable from a number of trails. It’s for this reason that we’ve compiled our list of the top waterfall hikes in Tahoe – give it a read below!

Why Are There So Many Waterfall Hikes In Tahoe?

You might be wondering why there are so many waterfall hikes in Lake Tahoe? The short answer is that Tahoe is a natural basin surrounded by steep and high alpine peaks. The region’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean means the area gets tons of wet and snowy storms in the winter months, leaving a very deep snowpack that slowly melts out as the weather starts to warm. This combination of steep terrain and snow leads to a large number of waterfalls that are often rushing well into the summer and fall months. Keep reading to check out our list of the top waterfall hikes in Tahoe!

Shirley Canyon – Olympic Valley, CA

Shirley Canyon is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in Tahoe. The trail starts right in the base area of the Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort, and takes you high up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

While this trail can be fairly steep, waterfalls can be seen almost as soon as you start hiking along the trail. One of the best parts of the Shirley Canyon trail is that you can absolutely make it a long or a short hike depending on your ability.

For the full experience, you can even hike the full 5 miles to High Camp at Palisades Tahoe and ride the Aerial Tram back to the bottom! In short, the Shirley Canyon hike lets you experience all the wonders of the Tahoe alpine as Shirley Creek cascades over large and majestic granite boulders. This is surely a waterfall hike in Tahoe you don’t want to miss!

Eagle Falls – Emerald Bay, CA

This is another extremely popular waterfall hike in Tahoe that’s also great for any level of hiker. One of the best parts of the Eagle Falls hike is that there’s actually two different hikes to choose from, Upper and Lower Eagle Falls.

The Upper Eagle Falls trail is a quick half mile round trip that’s easily accessible from the highway. While the upper waterfall is not as big as the lower falls, it’s a scenic hike nonetheless that’s completely surrounded by vast granite walls and peaks.

For a slightly harder but more scenic option, give Lower Eagle Falls a try. This 2.1 mile trail takes you within view of the incredible Lower Eagle Falls as it plummets down the granite boulders towards Emerald Bay. You may have guessed it and yes, this trail does take you directly to the shores of the world famous Emerald Bay as well!

When planning to hike Eagle Falls, it’s best to arrive early as parking is limited and this area is extremely popular. If hiking Lower Eagle Falls, be sure to save energy and water for the steeper 2.1 mile climb back to the car!

Horsetail Falls – Twin Bridges, CA

While Horsetail Falls may be a bit of a drive, we can absolutely guarantee that this is one of the top waterfall hikes in Tahoe! This incredible and iconic waterfall plummets a total of 800 feet as it crashes down towards highway 50.

While this is a fairly difficult hike at 4 miles, those willing to lace up their hiking boots surely won’t be disappointed. Plus, there’s even a number of swimming holes and pools to cool off in as you hike! Horsetail Falls is best treated as a full day adventure, but the drive itself will take you along some of the best scenery in Tahoe, and even gives you the opportunity to stop off in South Lake Tahoe for lunch or dinner!

Horsetail falls in desolation wilderness of California

Get Ready To Experience The Top Waterfall Hikes In Tahoe!

If you’re ready to experience the top waterfall hikes in Tahoe, we don’t blame you! As always, it’s best to plan your hike accordingly and be sure to prepare for changing weather, summer sun, and to bring adequate footwear and water. Tahoe is a true paradise in the spring and summer months  and a fun-filled waterfall hike is sure to make any vacation worthwhile. If you are thinking about visiting Tahoe this year, browse our accomodations page and get your mountain retreat on the books today!

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