Cascade Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the South Lake Tahoe area when it is flowing. You can see it in the distance when you make the drive to South Lake Tahoe from Emerald Bay, and it is surprisingly quick to hike there as well. The trail is only 1.5 miles round trip, but don’t let the mileage make you think it is easy as there is a good amount of both uphill and downhill on your way to the waterfall. Here is all the information so you can check it out.
- 1.5 miles
- 150 feet of elevation
- Not much shade
- Location: Bayview Trailhead on Emerald Bay Road
- This information is from my visit in 2017
- Read more about South Lake Tahoe here
The trailhead for Cascade Falls is located right across the street from Inspiration Point, the viewpoint for Emerald Lake, and it is called the Bayview Trailhead. It can get pretty busy during the weekends, so go early. During the weekdays, there is usually parking in the small lot about a quarter mile from the road though, and the turnaround is relatively fast since the hike is short. There is no charge to park.
Leaving from the parking lot, the trail starts a gradual uphill through one of the most shaded areas of the hike.
After about a tenth of a mile, you will be out in the open again on the roughly hewn rock stairs that you will be cursing by the end of this hike.
This hike is short, but it has a lot of up and down on a series of rough stairs all the way to the waterfall. Most people can do it, but it is harder than you would think.
After about a quarter of a mile, you will reach a small leveled off area that provides your first view of the falls. This is also where people turn around if they are not feeling motivated to go down to the falls.
From here, you continue downhill for the next quarter mile as you get excellent views of Cascade Lake to your left.
The trail eventually flattens out before making the last uphill push.
When you get past this uphill section, you will be looking down on the waterfall and can make your way along one of the many different spurs to get down close to it.
Unfortunately, there is no real front view of the falls, so you just have to take it in from this angle, but it is still impressive.
My wife and I walked around, trying to find different views, and the best was on the left side near the cliff, where you could see the flow better.
After hanging out for 20 minutes in the shade, we made the uphill hike back on the rock steps. If you have a chance, check out this waterfall soon. 2017 was a fantastic year for waterfalls with all of the snowmelt, and this is no exception. Let me know what you think in the comments and check out more activities in Tahoe here.