Chance to see waterfalls in Tahoe may be short-lived this summer
The Union news service
The waterfalls are exploding, but the window will be brief this year.
Without much snowpack, the chance to catch these alpine streams ripping down Tahoe’s granite face is about to snap shut. It’s been two years since Lake Tahoe has seen enough snow to carry its waterfalls into late summer.
“Two years ago, we were leading teenage backpacking trips, and the kids were actually able to have a snowball fight in early August,” said Tom Rodriguez, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s director of trail use.
That year, the waterfalls were flowing through August.
This year, the waterfalls might not make it through June. Right now, however, they are in their prime.
And if waterfalls are the main attraction, wildflowers will be a nice bonus.
Wildflowers, like lupine and corn lilies, are attracted to damp soil and tend to grow around waterfall sites.
“This year, because it was a pretty dry year, those wildflowers will probably be done by mid to late July,” Rodriguez said.
Be on the lookout for these brightly colored lupine or corn lilies, which look like corn stalks. They enjoy the damp meadows often found around waterfalls.
Rodriguez also reminds waterfall hikers to bring a filter or purification tabs if they plan on drinking from the streams. It may look clean, but there are definitely no guarantees.
Eagle Falls are perhaps the most accessible and well known of the major South Shore falls. They are located in Emerald Bay near the Vikingsholm. Weekend parking at Eagle Falls can be tricky with all the Emerald Bay traffic, but once a spot is secured it’s a quick walk to see the upper and lower falls ripping along on the way into Lake Tahoe.
These falls can usually be seen as drivers make their way up the twisting road to Emerald Bay. The Cascade Falls trailhead can be reached from Bayview, the highest point on the road as it wraps around Emerald Bay.
Glen Alpine Falls
The one-way road into the Glen Alpine Falls, just past the Fallen Leaf Lake Marina, takes some patience, but these lower falls are worth navigating the tight passage. Allow about 30 minutes to get to the falls from the Fallen Leaf entrance and drive with caution. This can be a crowded and tough drive on the weekend, so go in with realistic expectations.
Also a bit of a drive, Horsetail Falls takes commitment. These falls are about a 30-minute drive out of South Lake Tahoe and over Echo Summit, but the waterfall plummeting nearly 800 feet is spectacular. So are the wildflowers that can be found around here at the right time of the year.
The falls are easy enough to spot on highway 50 coming from South Lake Tahoe. There is also a small parking area at the base, but again, be prepared for a small fee.
Becky Regan is a staff writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of The Union.
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