I might have talked about being a couch potato in my Film Friday article last week on seven binge-worthy TV shows on Netflix during quarantine, but when I do get off the couch it's to go on a hike. I love laying on the beaches of beautiful Lake Tahoe, but you can't beat a good hike with a beautiful view. While there are a lot of hikes in the area, one of my favorites is Cascade Falls Trail. Located near Emerald Lake State Park on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, this is a short, moderate/easy hike to a beautiful waterfall. The hike is about 1.4 miles long with many vantage points with stunning views of Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake and Lake Tahoe. It's dog friendly and kid friendly, but keep in mind there are steep drop-offs without railings.
Getting there and where to park
If you're a frequent hiker, the easiest way to find the trailhead is to search “Cascade Falls Trail” on All Trails' website or app. If not, the trail shows up on Google Maps and Apple Maps as well. The trailhead is located off Highway 89 north of South Lake across from a popular tourist lookout, Inspiration Point.
The most difficult part of the trip by far is finding somewhere to park. You have three options: Inspiration Point's parking area, along the highway or inside the camping ground in front of the trailhead. Friendly tip: If you see parking on the side of the road across from Inspiration Point, take it. You can risk checking out the other two areas, but the spots are extremely limited. The walk from Inspiration Point and the highway to the trailhead is not far.
If you haven't been to Inspiration Point, I recommend checking it out before you head on your hike. Emerald Bay is one of the most beautiful areas on Lake Tahoe, and the view point gives you the opportunity to take it all in. After realizing how lucky you are to live and visit such a beautiful place, head across the street into the Bayview Campground and follow the signs to the Cascade Falls Trailhead.
Near the end of the campground, you will see a sign that gives you the option to head to Cascade Falls or Desolation. I've never tried the Desolation trail, in part because it isn't a very appealing name for a trail. So make sure you go left and not right unless you want to enter a state of complete emptiness and destruction. Once you choose the happier trail that leads to a waterfall, the trail opens to a bunch of trees and open area where you can enjoy nature at its finest.
After a while the path gets more narrow, and although there is not a lot of elevation change, there are challenging spots along the trail with large rocks and small boulders to navigate. The path is not big enough for people to pass each other at the proper social distancing standard, so be prepared to stop on the side and let others pass coming in the opposite direction. I would also recommend bringing a mask with you for these situations.
We went around 4:20 p.m. last Thursday, which seemed like the perfect time as there was not a lot of people on the trail and we only crossed paths with groups of two or three people. One of those people we crossed had an Atlanta Braves hat on. I mean, what are the odds I would get to yell "Go Bravos!" to a stranger on a hike in Tahoe in the middle of a pandemic? Talk about the universe telling me I'm in the right place at the right time, amirite?
There isn’t a clear trail near the end. It just opens up to a bunch of places to sit and relax, eat lunch, read a good book and take in the views. Keep walking toward the sound of water and you will find Cascade Creek that eventually leads to Cascade Falls. There are plenty of places to hangout and dip your feet in!
The area near the creek and falls is pretty large and filled with a lot of different activities. For those more adventurous, you can climb on massive boulders that overlook the falls and skip across the ones in the creek. I recommend following the falls towards Cascade Lake and sitting near where it drops off for a good view and a little bit of a thrill.
I've hiked a lot of trails in the Tahoe region, but there is something special about this one. No matter how busy the trail might be, there are plenty of places at the top for you to be by yourself and take in the beauty that surrounds you.
I mentioned earlier this is a dog-friendly, kid-friendly hike. During our adventure, we proved this and met two dogs named Allie and Sasha and saw a couple families with their kids. I didn't get the names of their kids, but anyways the point is this trail is great for everyone. But do keep in mind that it is extremely rocky. So make sure your pup or little human is up for the challenge! Grab some lunch and make this trail a part of your weekend activities. I promise the view at the top is worth it!