8 Incredible Waterfall Hikes in Lake Tahoe, CA

8 Incredible Waterfall Hikes in Lake Tahoe, CA

One of the great things about big winters, in addition to the extended ski season, is the abundance of waterfalls that develop as the snow melts. There is something special about capping off a great hike with a spectacular waterfall view, and this year there will be plenty to choose from! Here are 8 incredible waterfall hikes in the Lake Tahoe region.

  • Eagle Falls: The iconic Eagle Falls is the perfect place for a photos, with its stunning backdrop of Emerald Bay. There are lower and upper falls, both equally beautiful. Lower Eagle Falls is about a mile walk down with drops in two large cascades of 60 and 90 feet. It's an easy to moderate hike and takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Pack your water bottles and lunch for a quick bite at the picnic area. From the picnic area, continue a quarter of a mile up to see Upper Eagle Falls.
  • Glen Alpine Falls: Nestled above the tranquil Fallen Leaf Lake, this snow-fed stream offers stunning views, and a picturesque stair-step waterfall cascading down in layers for 65 feet.  Accessible from Highway 89 North, just 3 miles from Highway 50, look out for the sign marking the turn onto Fallen Leaf Lake Road. For the most breathtaking views, visit between late April and the end of May.
  • Fontanillis Lake Falls: Embark on a scenic day-long hike and witness the breathtaking 150-foot cascade of Fontanillis Lake Falls. Located between Fontanillis Lake and Upper Velma Lake in Desolation Wilderness, the waterfall is a sight to behold during the spring and early summer months. To access the trail, obtain a wilderness permit at the Eagle Falls trailhead and prepare for a 5-mile journey that requires stamina and endurance.
  • Shirley Canyon: Shirley Canyon is a 1.5- to 5.6-mile hike with an elevation gain of 310 to 1,860 feet, starting behind the Palisades Tahoe resort. To access the trailhead, drive past the parking lot, continuing on the only road available. At the end of the road is the beginning of the trail. The hike starts out mellow and relatively flat as you pass creek pools, cascades, boulders, alders, pines and fir trees. It's common for most hikers to not linger long at the many waterfalls that you pass in the beginning. Most hikers are on their way up to Shirley Lake and the tram that accesses High Camp, but taking the time to enjoy the falls is well worth it. In fact, this is a great hike to do with little ones, as many waterfalls are experienced right off the bat. The hike finishes with jaw-dropping views, unusual granite formations, sheer cliffs and views of Lake Tahoe as well as the ability to ride down the tram if you hike the full 5.6 miles.
  • Galena Falls: Galena Falls is a moderate hike of 4.7 to 5.2 miles, depending on the trail you take, with a 490-foot elevation gain. The hike starts above Incline Village, Nevada, and is a worthy outing for kids, dogs and those not accustomed to hiking. The hike starts with stunning wildflowers and views of Mount Rose Meadows. After a half-mile ascent, you'll arrive at a stunning viewpoint of Lake Tahoe. The trail then passes through a forest of lodgepole and white pines, eventually leading to the falls, which are about 70 feet in height.
  • Van Sickle Falls: Embark on a scenic 2.5-mile trek from the Van Sickle Bi-State Park Trailhead. As an offshoot of the Tahoe Rim Trail, this hike boasts picturesque views of the lake and is open to bikers as well. Along the way, you'll encounter a newly constructed bridge that spans the stream just below the majestic waterfall.
  • Upper Truckee Falls: A leisurely 20-minute hike along the scenic Hawley Grade climbing path will bring you to Upper Truckee Falls. As you make your way, listen for the soothing sound of rushing water that will guide you to the falls. The trail may be unmarked, but the reward is worth the effort, especially during the spring months when the falls are at their most impressive.
  • Hot Springs Creek Falls: Nestled within the scenic Grover Hot Springs State Park down the back side of the Sierra range, Hot Springs Creek Falls is a stunning 50-foot waterfall accessible via a dog-friendly 1.7-mile hike. As water flows more swiftly in the warmer months, it's crucial to keep your canine companion on a leash and exercise caution. But the breathtaking views and refreshing mist from the falls are well worth the effort.

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