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Thursday, August 2, 2007

El Dorado National Forest: Pyramid Creek Loop & Horsetail Falls

20060617 Horsetail Falls

If you've ever driven from South Lake Tahoe to Sacramento via US 50 in the daytime, chances are you have seen Horsetail Falls. As you come down the mountain pass to Twin Bridges and Strawberry, enormous Horsetail Falls appears on the mountainside in the distance.

It appears so close that apparently many people in the past decided to pull off the road and hike up to it, without knowing anything about hiking and what they were getting into. And this is a problem, because the last part of the approach to the falls is steep and dangerous if you don't know what you are doing.

So the Forest Service created an easy loop trail right up to the edge of the Desolation Wilderness. To cross over into the designated wilderness area you have to have a permit. Unlike other trailheads, they don't provide permits at the trailhead for this hike. You have to be planning on going.

They also put in a nice parking lot with a pit toilet, and they charge $3 for parking. I was just a beginning hiker when I went to hike this the first time, and had not seen the waterfall from the highway. I had driven up to South Lake Tahoe once via US 50, but then I had returned via I-80 from Truckee. You don't see the waterfall going east on 50 unless you turn around to look after taking a curve.

20060617 Horsetail Falls

In addition to a viewpoint for the falls, this hike took me by cascades on Pyramid Creek. The other highlight for me was running into a western rattler on the trail. I've encountered snakes on several occasions since, but so far the only time I've encountered a rattlesnake. I was making enough noise as I came along that I didn't take it by surprise, and it slithered right off.

20060617 Pyramid Creek Cascades
Pyramid Creek Cascades

I had a bit of trouble finding the trail when I got up into open terrain near the Desolation Wilderness boundary, but I was inexperienced then, so it might not be all that difficult.

20060617 Wildflowers

In the future I'll bring the wilderness permit and hike farther up to the falls.

Date: 17 June, 2006

2 comments:

basuraman said...

great shots..looks like a nice hike.

amkhezjhek said...

Hi. I climbed to the top of Horsetail falls about 11 years ago. I am planning on doing it again for my 44th birthday this weekend with my oldest son.
Back then you didn't need a permit. Where do I go or how do I get one of those, or two if my son needs one as well. He is 12 yrs. old. Thanks! Happy Trails!!!

About Me

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I love to learn about, visit, photograph, research, and write about everything that is interesting, unique, and historical about Northern California, and wherever else I should be fortunate enough to find myself.  I've spent many years scouring the roadside in my little car for interesting subjects and walking down hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada and along the coast to get to know the wonder that is Northern California.  I share most of this via photos on Flickr, and as much as time permits me to on my blog, the NorCal Explorer.  Fine art prints of my photos are for sale on Imagekind.