The Nevada Traveler: A visit to Lake Tahoe’s spectacular Eagle Falls

Impressive Eagle Falls spills down the mountainside into Lake Tahoe. Richard Moreno

Impressive Eagle Falls spills down the mountainside into Lake Tahoe. Richard Moreno

Every view at Lake Tahoe’s Eagle Falls is breathtaking.

The falls, which overlook Emerald Bay, are one of those special scenic places that make you understand why Tahoe is such a beloved destination.

Best of all, Eagle Falls is easy to visit, located adjacent to Highway 89. To get to them, you basically park in one of the nearby lots, then walk toward the sound of rushing water.

Eagle Creek pours out of the trees on the west side of the highway and flows under the road. The creek feeds into several small pools before spilling over a steep, granite bench to Lake Tahoe below.

The creek’s waters are cold and fresh, even in the warmer months, making the shallow pools inviting but chilly. From the top, you can look over the edge and see the creek waters rolling down the hillside. In the spring, there is usually enough snowmelt water that the falls form a three-tiered cascade.

If you walk down the trail leading to nearby Vikingsholm (one mile from the main parking lot), you can reach the falls from below, which offers an equally satisfying experience.

Just beyond the ranger office (a brown log cabin), there is a short trail, about two-tenths of a mile, which leads to the bottom of the falls. The trail passes through firs and cedars, then ascends through aspen and alder, adjacent to the creek.

Stairs lead you along the creek to a clearing at the base of Eagle Falls, which is a popular picnicking spot.

If you park in the smaller lot on the opposite side of Highway 89 from Eagle Falls, you can find several trails leading to other, equally scenic locations that are best traveled during the spring, summer and fall (too much snow at this time of year).

For instance, there’s an extremely short walk (half-mile from the parking lot) that leads to Upper Eagle Falls. This hike crosses Eagle Creek and includes a brief climb to a rock bench that offers a marvelous view of Tahoe from a slightly higher elevation.

The trail is well used and easy. It passes through a grove of aspens, which are particularly colorful in the fall when the leaves turn gold.

The hike requires an easy climb on rock steps, which leads to a large, metal bridge that spans Eagle Creek.
After crossing, the trail leads to a smooth, rock clearing that offers yet another great view of the lake.

Additional good views can be found above this spot on the granite perches located along the trail.

From here, the trail continues for another mile to picturesque Eagle Lake, located within the Desolation Wilderness. The latter is a unique, undeveloped expanse, located west of Lake Tahoe, that is a popular hiking region in the warmer months.

If you plan to enter the Desolation Wilderness area, you must obtain a permit at the trailhead at the parking lot. Because of its popularity, there is a limit on the number of people allowed to spend the night in the wilderness, so it’s a good idea to contact the Forest Service in advance if you’re planning an overnight stay.

The Desolation Wilderness earned its rather ominous name because of its vast stretches of exposed granite and barren, windswept peaks. Despite the name, however, the wilderness area is actually a very beautiful and scenic region.

For more information about the Desolation Wilderness, go to www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ltbmu/recarea/?recid=11786. To obtain a permit, go to www.recreation.gov/permits/233261.

Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.

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