. California hiking trails - Horsetail Falls photos : Budget Travel Adventures

California hiking trails – Horsetail Falls photos

Horsetail Falls California hiking photosOne of the best northern California hiking trails is located just a few miles from South Lake Tahoe, California.  Horsetail Falls is a great day hike for anyone searching for one of the best waterfalls in northern California.

Mountains, streams, valleys, and a towering waterfall – Horsetail Falls is one of the best, short day hikes in northern California.

Check out my Horsetail Falls hiking guide video for more photos and videos of the waterfall in action.

California hiking trails – Horsetail Falls photos

Located in Twin Bridges, Horsetail Falls cascades over the rocks as it zigzags its way over rocks turning gracefully as it thunders down nearly 800 feet to the creek below.

Horsetail Falls trail head

As you head towards Lake Tahoe on Highway 50, the turnoff for the trail head is on your left in Twin Bridges.

Horsetail Falls Pyramid Creek trailhead sign Eldorado National Forest

Pyramid Creek sign leading to Horsetail Falls

Hiking trails Pyramid Creek trail Horsetail Falls Wilderness Boundary

Horsetail Falls – this way

Pyramid Creek trail head and entrance

Bathrooms and information before your hike

Pyramid Creek trail entrance

Begin your hike at the trailhead and walk over the rocks.  Pyramid Creek welcomes your arrival with a small waterfall.  The trail entertains you with the sounds of rushing water as your hike follows the creek.

Pyramid Creek trail entrance

Pyramid Creek entrance welcomes you!

Pyramid Creek waterfall

A small waterfall welcomes you to the trail

Wilderness Boundary and Pyramid Creek trail sign

As you pass the small waterfall and stream, you come to a fork in the trail.  To your left is Wilderness Boundary and to your right is the Pyramid Creek Loop trail.  Stay to the right and follow the creek to get a view of the valley, trees, and Horsetail Falls from the trail.

Wilderness Boundary Pyramid Creek trail sign

I came to a fork in the trail – take the one more traveled

Pyramid Creek Loop trail

This popular California hiking trail will lead you over large granite rocks as the mountains watch from above.

Pyramid Creek Loop trail mountains

Looking up to the mountains

Pyramid Creek Loop trail mountains and rocks

Hiking over the rocks

Cascade Vista

After walking along the granite rocks, you are surprised by a torrent of rushing water.  However, turn around to get a valley view that many compare to Yosemite.  Welcome to Cascade Vista.

Pyramid Creek Loop trail rushing water

This torrent of water gets your attention but only to point you to…

Cascade Vista Pyramid Creek Loop trail

the views of the valley from Cascade Vista

First view of Horsetail Falls

Looking up, you get a view of the mountains that surround you.  Looking ahead, you get your first peak of Horsetail Falls.

Pyramid Creek Loop trail mountains rocks

A view of the mountains

Pyramid Creek trail first view of Horsetail Falls

first view of Horsetail Falls

Pyramid Creek trail – from rocks to trees

As you leave Cascade Vista, the trail changes.  Instead of walking over granite, you are now walking among the trees.  Enjoy more views of the water and mountains around you with peek-a-boo views of Horsetail Falls.

Pyramid Creek water reflection

Reflections

Pyramid Creek Horsetail Falls distance

Horsetail Falls in the distance

northern California hiking Pyramid Creek mountains and trees

mountains and trees

Desolation Wilderness Eldorado National Forest

The second part of the hike leads you into Desolation Wilderness.  Fill out the form, place your permit in the box, and carry your registration with you.  Like many of the northern California hiking trails, the permit in this part of Desolation Wilderness is free.

As you head into the forest, following the trail can be difficult as it crosses over water and winds through the woods.  Stay close to Pyramid Creek and enjoy the twists, turns, and cascades of water as they flow over rocks and branches.

California hiking trails Desolation Wilderness Eldorado National Forest sign

Welcome to Desolation Wilderness!

Desolation Wilderness permit Horsetail Falls

Fill out the forms as a permit is required (free)

California hiking trails Pyramid Creek Horsetail Falls stream

Enjoy your hike!

Pyramid Creek – streams, waterfalls, and mountains

While this part of the hike provides you with refreshing views of Pyramid Creek, don’t forget to look at the mountains above.

California hiking trails Desolation Wilderness Pyramid Creek stream

The views along the water get better

northern California hiking Desolation wilderness rushing water Pyramid Creek

rushing water

northern California hiking Desolation Wilderness Pyramid Creek waterfall mountains

The water rages on with a view of the mountains

northern California hiking streams Pyramid Creek

The calmer side of Pyramid Creek

Off the Pyramid Creek trail – views from above

When hiking this part of the trail, stay close to the water.  If you begin climbing up the rocks, you are getting off the trail.  The views of Horsetail Falls and the valley below are exhilarating.  However, climbing down from the rocks and getting back on the trail isn’t easy.

northern California hiking Desolation WIlderness Horsetail Falls view of the valley

A view from above

northern California hiking snow on the mountains

Snow on the mountains

California hiking trails Desolation Wilderness Horsetail Falls view above the trees

Horsetail Falls – a view from above the trees

Horsetail Falls trail

On the final part of the hike, climb over rocks and around bushes as make your way to Horsetail Falls.  As you get closer, Horsetail Falls is clearly seen and heard.

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls trail rocks

Don’t worry – the hike isn’t this steep

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls hike

Almost there!

Horsetail Falls

As you reach the Falls, stop and enjoy the views.  Horsetail Falls will amaze you with its power and size.  However, views of the mountains and valley will take your breath away as the cool mist of the water refreshes your spirit and skin.

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls bottom

A view of Horsetail Falls from the bottom

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls bottom

Another view from the bottom

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls view of the valley

A view of the valley from Horsetail Falls

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls up close

Horsetail Falls – up close

Hiking to the top of Horsetail Falls

Continue to hike up the rocks alongside Horsetail Falls.  Be careful as this area can be difficult to navigate so proceed at your own risk.  Your reward is more amazing views of Horsetail Falls and the valley below.

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls hike to the top

The hike to the top begins!

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls looking down

Looking down from high up on Horsetail Falls

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls hiking up the trail

The hike up the trail can be scary

California hiking trails Horsetail Falls Jeremy Branham

Capturing the moment

Wilderness Boundary

As you hike down, take the Wilderness Boundary trail for a different view of the surrounding area.

California hiking trails Wilderness Boundary

hiking down the Wilderness Boundary trail

California hiking trails Wilderness Boundary trail

A different view on the way down

A California hiking trail getaway

For day hikers or family hikers, Horsetail Falls is one of the best California hiking trails for short hikes.  Many people may not be aware that this waterfall exists.  While there are many northern California hiking trails near Lake Tahoe, Horsetail Falls is one of the easiest and most beautiful hikes in the area (Discover more places to hike with my northern California hiking guide or check out another Horsetail Falls hiking guide).

While Yosemite may have some of the best views of any park in the country, spending a day hiking Horsetail Falls is a great getaway in northern California.

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RSSComments (11)

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  1. Beautiful vistas and great hike – but what really fascinates me are the names: They are so suggestive.

    • When you look at Horsetail Falls from a distance, it’s easy to to see why it gets its name! :)

      Unlike many waterfalls you see, this one just doesn’t dump water over the edge. It flows in a zig zag pattern and xreates the illusion of a long tail. It really is fascinating to see it up close.

  2. Michael says:

    These trails sound very interesting, particularly that it’s a great family hiking destination. Although, looking at the pictures and that rock climbing part, it does look a wee bit challenging. An adventure for beginners.

    • The great thing about this trail is that it isn’t long and there is not a lot of elevation. However, there is a little bit of a climb and climbing up and over rocks and bushes makes this a moderate hike. It is not difficult at all. I wouldn’t recommend small children doing it but I met a guy taking his sons all the way to the top and they were ages 8 and 10. I also saw people in varying degrees of fitness and they didn’t have any problems doing the hike.

  3. Doesn’t get much more beautiful than that!

  4. Looks like a beautiful trail and waterfall. Reminds me of Utah.

    • Not exactly a view I expected in California. I know there are some great hikes in this area and of course I know about Yosemite. However, this waterfall was pretty impressive.

      What place does this look like in Utah? I haven’t visited Utah yet but I’ve heard there are a lot of great places to hike there.

  5. Amanda says:

    Looks and sounds like a nice hike. And you seem to have had great weather for it!

  6. Wow, beautiful. It’s so lovely to hike this beautiful trail. Like the name, by the way.

  7. Ann says:

    Hi there,
    The pictures are beautiful, you can almost hear the water and smell the trees. I grew up in Cali and miss all that it has to offer. Wonderful hiking scenery.

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