Cascade Falls – A Great Easy Day Hike!
By TMS Ambassador Coral Rose Taylor
Distance – 1.4 miles roundtrip
Type – Out and back
Parking – Bayview Trailhead Campground, along Highway 89
Living in a beautiful place, I’m fortunate to have many family members and friends visit throughout the year. However, I have learned from past poor hosting mistakes that not all my guests are used to the 5,800 – 6,200 feet of elevation where many Truckee Tahoe hikes start. To that end, I’ve tried to be more mindful and curate a list of go-to hikes better suited for those who may need to acclimate or don’t have the time for an extended excursion. It’s also been a great way for me to see and experience many of the iconic places in this area.
Cascade Falls is one of my new favorite hikes to take out of town visitors. It’s a short 1.4 mile out and back hike, located just south of Emerald Bay, accessed via the Bayview Trailhead. This hike is relatively flat (< 250 ft of elevation gain), and you are privy to stunning views of Cascade Lake, Emerald Bay, and Lake Tahoe to the north and east, as well as the Sierra Nevada and Desolation Wilderness to the west. This easy hike is mostly decomposed granite trail, with a few rocky sections that require paying attention to your footing (easier said than done when every view is breathtaking).
Parking for this hike is either at the Bayview Trailhead Campground, along Highway 89, or across the Highway at Inspiration Point. During the peak summer season, all parking is likely to fill up quickly, so an earlier start and carpooling are recommended. This trail is very popular and full of families and dogs, so if you’re needing some introverted nature time, I would pick another locale. The Bayview Trailhead has pit toilets and water faucets, but no other amenities. From the Bayview Trailhead, the trail splits into two forks with clearly marked signs – take the fork to the left marked Cascade Falls. (The fork to the right goes to Desolation Wilderness and is awesome, but a different type of adventure).
Once you’ve hiked the short 0.7 miles to Cascade Falls, be prepared to discover little pockets of solitude, where shallow streams deepen into clear pools, shaded by ancient trees and populated by hungry chipmunks eager to steal your food. Enjoy your time at Cascade Falls – bring a picnic, a towel and a bathing suit, a book, and a water filter. Sun yourself on the granite boulders, dipping into the ice-cold snow melt if you get too hot. Although July and August are extremely busy, the heat of the summer is the best time to enjoy the invigorating waters of Cascade Falls. After you’ve spent your time enjoying the view and lowering your core temperature, an easy amble down the trail will take you back to your vehicle. Take 10 deep breaths and when you’re sitting in traffic by Camp Richardson, remember how grateful you are for the peaceful moments at Cascade Falls.
Necessary Hiking Gear
Hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
Water, water filter (I love my Sawyer Mini Water Filter)
Hiking shoes/running/tennis shoes (Salomon trail running shoes work great as a hiking shoe for this trail)
Bathing suit, towel
Equanimity and good will towards humanity